Welcome to “My First Time,” a recurring section on the blog where we query fellow X-Philes about how they came to the show, and then later on how their fandom developed and evolved over the years.
Case File: SG010515
Subject: Shaenon K. Garrity
For our last edition of this feature, I reached out to someone who I have had no prior interactions with. Wonderfully, she accepted my invitation to be “interrogated” about her Philedom. Tonight’s interview is with award winning cartoonist and writer Shaenon Garrity, creator of the comics Narbonic and co-creator of Smithson. Her skills with pen and paper led her to make Monster of the Week, an online strip devoted to playfully ribbing our beloved show.
Max: We here at Apt. 42 Revisited usually have basic interview questions, things we would like to know. Naturally if there is something you want to elaborate on feel free.
Shaenon: All right! Let me give it a go…
Max: What was your first X-Files episode?
Shaenon: I can’t remember, but back in the ’90s I started watching around the second season. “Blood” is an early episode I remember making a big impression on me.
Max: Tell me more about your early experiences with The X-Files.
Shaenon: To be honest, I was only mildly into the show the first time around. I liked the weird, paranoid episodes like “Blood” and “Jose Chung” (and really anything scripted by Darin Morgan), but the more typical episodes didn’t grab me. I was more of a Babylon 5 fan at the time. As ridiculous as it sounds, The X-Files wasn’t quite nerdy enough for my college self.
Max: How did your discovery of the show bloom into full-blown fandom? What made you a Phile?
Shaenon: I didn’t get into it hardcore until I started drawing Monster of the Week. Now I’m fairly obsessed with it, although I still haven’t seen every episode because I’m trying to watch them in order. I like to go into each episode fresh and draw the accompanying strip within a couple of days afterwards.
Max: How have you expressed your Philedom?
Shaenon: Back in the ’90s, I only taped one episode, “Small Potatoes.” I’ve still got that tape. More recently, I’ve felt the need to follow other, more official X-Files comics. I’ve collected the original Topps X-Files comic book, with art by future Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard. The new comics series is really fun too.
Max: Lets go back to Monster of the Week. How did you get the idea for it? Was it a natural outgrowth of your career as a cartoonist?
Shaenon: A couple of years ago, I started watching The X-Files while I drew my comics. I really got into it and started itching to draw the characters. It occurred to me that if I drew a comic about The X-Files while also watching The X-Files, I could double my productivity. So I started drawing a comic for each episode. In retrospect, I probably should’ve picked a TV show that was shorter than nine years long. But it was the show that seemed the most fun to draw.
Max: How have Philes responded to Monster of the Week?
Shaenon: I’ve had so many great interactions with X-Files fans; it’s the funnest thing about doing this comic. Right now, though, people are kind of annoyed at me for having it on hiatus for so long. I had a baby this year, and it’s slowed down my comics output. But I promise to get back to it in 2015! I’ve got five seasons to go!
Max: Nice segue into my next question! Fans have known about your maternity hiatus, but do you have any news about your future plans for the strip?
Shaenon: My plan right now is to launch a Patreon for myself and my sometime writing partner Jeff Wells. If we hit a certain donation level, I’ll start posting new MotW strips. Also, at another donation level, I’ll start a second TV recap strip. There’s another show from the ’90s I’ve been itching to draw. I don’t want to spoil which one it is, but my working title is either “Cherry Stem Knots” or “I’ll Test My Log.” So now you know.
Max: Have you met any of the cast and crew of the show? If so, what was that like.
Shaenon: The Darin Morgan episodes are my favorites, and I was very happy with the way the strip for “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” turned out. When I posted the strip, I added a note saying, “Unless you’re Darin Morgan, this strip is not for sale.” Glen Morgan called my bluff by asking to buy the strip for his brother. I had such a massive fangirl freakout. He sent me a script signed by himself, Darin, and James Wong, all with little sketches of themselves. They were all incredibly nice about it.
Max: Lastly, what does The X-Files mean to you? What keeps you coming back to the show after all these years?
Shaenon: Looking back on the show after watching it in the ’90s, I’m impressed by everything it has to say about its characters, the political/social setting, the science-fiction elements, basically everything. Mulder and Scully are fantastic characters, and I love the way the show breaks the mold by pairing a rational female scientist with an emotional, empathetic man. It was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, but at the same time I don’t see a lot of sci-fi dramas today that hold up to it. Some, like Fringe, come close, but the central characters in The X-Files are so strongly drawn that they carry a lot more weight for me. There are weak episodes, but the best ones are brilliantly written and fun to watch. (Actually, a lot of the bad episodes are fun to watch too.) I find a lot more to admire now than I did the first time around.
Max: Thank you so much Shaenon for talking to me. I just wanted to add that I loved your short story riffing on Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel,” it was quite stellar.
Shaenon: Aw, man, thank you so much. It was based on a dream I had. I have postmodern dreams sometimes.