An Interview With The Masterminds Behind ‘Virtually Yours’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Eva couldn’t care less about dating, but when an opportunity to make her mom stop asking about her love life arises, Eva decides to give it a shot. The app is called Virtually Yours, and so is the title of writer, Jeremy Holt, and artist, Elizabeth Beals’, new graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics. Featuring fake boyfriends, job hunts, and (maybe) true love, find out about the New York Holt and Beals tried to capture in this email interview with the two creators.

Rachel Bellwoar: This could just be me not being on top of things, but while I feel like you see more slice of life graphic novels geared towards kids, adult comics tend to require a twist. Like maybe family is at the core of the story but they’re also action heroes or have something supernatural going on. What made you want to do a story about everyday life, where the trials of dating and looking for work are all the drama you need?

Jeremy Holt: I have loved slice-of-life comics ever since reading Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage. He captured the authenticity of living in New York City in a way that I had never seen done before in comics. From there, I discovered Adrian Tomine’s entire catalog and was inspired to try and write my own.

Let’s be honest, real life is drama. And in many ways, it’s more compelling than the fantasy of superhero comics. More importantly, it’s instantly relatable. For Virtually Yours, I wanted to write my love letter to the NYC rom-com, and a slice-of-life comic was the perfect genre to do so.

Words: Jeremy Holt / Art: Elizabeth Beals / Letters: Adam Wollet

Bellwoar: At the same time, Virtually Yours does have fun with romcom conventions, like two people destined to be together who keep passing each other like ships in the night. Did you always want to dip into romcom territory with this story?

Holt: Absolutely. This book is a rom-com in comic book form. I am a massive fan of the film genre, so it was a lot of fun to deconstruct some of my favorites in order to construct my own original take.

Bellwoar: What made you decide on New York for the setting, and are there any details you’re especially proud of, in terms of capturing the city (for instance, I love all of the random passersby or when Max leaves to go to the comic shop and there are packages on his neighbor’s stoop)?

Holt: I’ve lived in NYC on and off for seven years. There was no other location I wanted to base VY in. It also enabled me to revisit a version of Brooklyn that I dearly miss. I specific[ally] resurrected specific locations that no longer exist. In a very direct way, I was able to time travel to a familiar but also alternate timeline of Brooklyn, circa 2009. As for the copious amounts of details, that credit belongs solely to my co-creator Elizabeth Beals. She pulled out all the stops and crafted a gorgeous visual feast for the reader.

Elizabeth Beals: This may be an easy out but I’m pretty jazzed with how the environment/city came together overall. Prior to this book my work generally centered around figures/pin-ups/cover work/illustrations/etc., so this being my first big project in addition to taking on the daunting visuals of New York City was quite the challenge for me.

However, If I was to single out something I was particularly proud of it’d probably be the store fronts, specifically those surrounding Bergen Street Comics. Since we were looking to depict an establishment that didn’t exist anymore it was important for me to do proper research to figure out how the surrounding shops/area should look. Those little details helped flesh out our story, in addition to creating a special nod/ throwback to those who actually frequented the area.

Words: Jeremy Holt / Art: Elizabeth Beals / Letters: Adam Wollet

Bellwoar: One of the many things I found impressive about Virtually Yours is how you handle showing what characters are thinking when there’s nobody else around, like being able to convey that it’s been days but Eva is still thinking about the same thing. They don’t call comics a visual medium for nothing, but how challenging was that to pull off?

Holt: I’ll have to defer to Elizabeth on that one. I just gave her the narrative direction.

Beals: Thank you so much for the kind words! ♡

And they may be a bit challenging but since I’m a sucker for details, these kind of scenes are always going to be fun for me.

By focusing on a repetitive expression of the individual (in this case, Eva) I’m able to stress the point that she’s lost in thought, while her environmental/contextual details (time of day, venue, outfit, hair style, accessories, all those juicy details) are all rapidly shifting to express that progression of time we’re after.

Bellwoar: Until recently, Max was in an abusive marriage with his wife, Sarah. Why was it important to you to show that both men and women can be in abusive relationships?

Holt: It was important to show this because it was a lived experience for me. I was in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage that took me years to acknowledge and finally leave. The development and crafting of this story happened to coincide with my coming out as non-binary. This emboldened me to not only live more authentically, but to also write more authentically. I decided to weave in my own trauma as a means of catharsis, while also providing visibility for everyone else that has gone through something similar.

Words: Jeremy Holt / Art: Elizabeth Beals / Letters: Adam Wollet

Bellwoar: Directors make cameos in their films all the time. Where did the idea to make a cameo appearance in Virtually Yours come from, Jeremy?

Holt: It was pure happenstance. I knew I wanted to feature an author event at Bergen Street Comics, which the owners Tom and Amy were known for. They built a strong community for comic readers and creators to join in our shared love for the medium. I never had the chance to do a signing there, so I figured that in this alternate reality of Brooklyn, I would get to with my co-creator Alex Diotto.

Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Jeremy and Elizabeth!

Virtually Yours is available in print starting October 4th from Dark Horse Comics. It’s also available digitally from Comixology.

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