It may have just been pure luck that The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer was on MySpace one day, and discovered the conjoined twin musical act Evelyn Evelyn… Or it may have been fate. Whatever the reason, Palmer – and fellow musical artist Jason Webley – took the duo under their wing, producing albums for them, and touring with them around the country.
Now, for the first time, the story of the twins Eve and Lyn Neville will be told in full, in a new graphic novel being released by Dark Horse. The rather haunting, strange, and at times very darkly funny book is gorgeously illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler, and written by Palmer and Webley – as told to them by the twins. Though it won’t be released until September 21st, we chatted with Palmer about working with the twins on the book, whether there will be a new Evelyn Evelyn album, and what her comic book writing significant other thinks of how frightening it is:
MTV Geek: Let’s talk about Evelyn Evelyn… It’s pretty well known by now, but how did you meet the twins?
Amanda Palmer: We actually found them back in the heyday of MySpace. They friended both of us at the same time and asked if we would listen to their music.
They had a single song up: it was a ukulele cover of a song from Jesus Christ Superstar. We were blown away.
Geek: They’ve had their story told in part, but this graphic novel is really the first time their whole story has come to light… Why was it important to bring it out in the graphic novel format?
AP: It's such an incredibly harrowing story, their childhood, and full of such striking visuals… They performed in a circus and had a very bizarre rotating cast of colorful and unsavory characters filtering in and out of their lives. We thought it would really do the twins' story justice to put it in picture form.
Geek: Do you think there’s a difference in character between Eva and Lyn? Or are they literally one and the same?
AP: Oh, they're VERY different. Eve is a lot grumpier and moodier, she's slightly more pessimistic. Lyn is a lot more neurotic and tends to be a much pickier eater. They're actually more different then you would think, though sometimes I wonder if the differences they've got are more artificial than natural, since they've really needed to manufacture differences to feel like individuals.
Geek: Can you talk about the structure a bit? It’s not traditionally “comic book,” particularly in how the text is treated on the page.
AP: The idea, like any good graphic novel, I suppose, was to make every page a work of art in itself.
Geek: Also, there’s a lot of supporting matter – articles, photos, etc. Why were these important to flesh out the story?
AP: Well, the twins' story has already been told in audio form on the record they released. Adding those details gave it some backdrop and depth.
Also, I always think it's those little details that make a book like this fun to read and re-read. You don't catch everything the first time around. Cynthia's attention to detail on that front was unparalleled, she's a real visual trickster and you'll find a lot of artistic in-jokes if you look closely.
Geek: How about the framing devices… The story has such a fairytale, anytime Americana type feel, and then whenever you present the date, there’s specific pop culture references. It’s jarring, in a very funny way.
AP: That's part of the strangeness of the twins. They feel like they belong to another time, and their music is somewhat anachronistic, but they care about the same things that other girls in their mid-twenties care about… Their social networking sites, and so forth. The future doesn't stop happening, I suppose.
Geek: And it’s broken into two books… Why was the split necessary?
AP: When you're dealing with conjoined twins, there is no other option.
Geek: Ha! Okay… Can you talk more about Cynthia von Buhler’s art? What was the process like working with her? And how did Eve and Lyn feel about how she captured their likenesses?
AP: The girls were very happy about the drawings. They don't like talking about their past, so some parts of the book were, understandably, a bit upsetting, but they had full approval over the content.
They were very happy that Cynthia was a woman - they're distrustful of men in general. They especially take issue with men who have beards. Jason often has to shave before taking meetings with them or they won't talk to him.
Geek: What would you say the moral of the book is?
AP: I think the lightest, boldest moments of hope always spring out of the darkness.
The twins are very, very introverted and timid - but they have a deep need for connection to the world.
In that, I think we can all relate. They've overcome a great deal of personal suffering and have managed to put their story into their art, I think that's the most inspiring thing a person can do.
Geek: What’s it like for you and Jason to have yourselves be part of the story?
AP: Well, Jason and I are very busy with our solo careers. This project was a chance to put ourselves in the background a little, which we were both happy to do, given how much time we spend in the limelight. It's quite a relief, actually, to produce a project like this and not have your name on the marquis.
Geek: There’s an extensive afterword from Neil Gaiman… Given that he’s an old hand at comics, were you at all nervous to show your first comic work to him? Or were you just like, “Now what, guy?” I imagine that’s how you two talk.
AP: Funny, I never thought about being nervous. But that's probably because I didn't do the drawings.
Geek: And when he read the book, did he immediately give up writing, because it’s darker than anything he could ever imagine?
AP: HA. You've no idea the profanity of humanity that lurks within that man's brain.
This book has the darkness of a Where's Waldo book compared to the shit Neil Gaiman is capable of imagining.
Geek: Okay, serious question after the last two: a lot of his stories are about the process of the creation of stories; Evelyn Evelyn is a lot about the creation of music. Is that anything you two discussed, or just happy coincidence?
AP: We never discussed it, but it doesn't surprise me. I'm a musician, and the creation of music interests me, and vice versa for Mr. Man.
Geek: You’re currently over in Edinburgh with the twins… How have the shows been going over?
AP: The whole run is sold out and has garnered high praise, we've very happy with it. They hate to fly, so getting them over here was a pain in the ass, and they claim the British Twix bars aren't as good as the ones in America. Whatever.
Geek: Do you think we’ll ever get another Evelyn Evelyn album?
AP: They've been talking about doing a split 7" for some time now. They've been quietly discussing doing some INXS covers. You never know with these girls.
Geek: Lastly, anything else you want to plug?
AP: Absolutely: Neil and I are going on a tour together in the first week of November up the west coast, starting in LA. Details can be googled or found on either of our sites.
There's also a fantastic new video for the song "Evelyn Evelyn", beautifully created by the Italian stop-motion artist Chiara Ambrisio: