ComicBuzz Chats With S.E. Case

With the release of the BackerKit campaign for Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold live this week, we are delighted to be joined by writer and artist S.E. Case.


Hi, S.E.; it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.

Thank you!


Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m SE Case, I’m a writer and artist living in the upper Midwest. I’ve been making webcomics for almost 20 years, and Rigsby WI is the first of my webcomics to make the jump to print. In addition to Rigsby WI, I am also the creator of the webcomic Cheap Thrills, illustrator on Thanks! Romina (written by Giulie Speziani), and was featured in the award-winning ICC anthology You Died.


Can you tell us about the origins of Rigsby WI?

Rigsby WI is based loosely on Cheap Thrills, a webcomic that I originally worked on from 2007-2013, about a boy who experiences a family tragedy right before high school graduation, and the fallout that follows him into his adult years. I left Cheap Thrills unfinished and took a long hiatus until 2018, when I was itching to make webcomics again. I came up with a lot of ideas, but the characters from Cheap Thrills just wouldn’t get out of my head. Cheap Thrills had been created kind of on a whim, and I wanted the chance to do it again but with more forethought and authenticity. I chose Northern Wisconsin as the setting because that’s where I was living at the time, and I changed the time period to the early 2000s, which is when I was a teenager. Ultimately the story that came out ended up being very different from the original Cheap Thrills, but I think it evolved in a much better direction.


How would you describe Rigsby WI?

Rigsby WI is a true-to-life story about misfit teenagers living in rural Wisconsin in 2002. The small city they live in is idyllic and beautiful, but there is a streak of hostility under the surface that can drive the characters towards nihilism. It’s very much a character-driven story, with the cast dealing with a lot of standard teen issues (bullying, relationships, struggles for independence) while also grappling with larger issues (bigotry, poverty, trauma). It’s funny and sad (sometimes at the same time), with naturalistic dialogue and in-depth characterization.


What can you tell us about Anna, Beth, Frank and Jeordie?

Jeordie is an intelligent, sensitive teenager who loves art, music, nature and basketball. Despite living in Rigsby his whole life, Jeordie can’t help but feel like he is an outsider. He is, by nature, a contrarian — however, he often suppresses aspects of his personality in an attempt to gel with the hyper-masculine culture of the rural town he lives in as a mode of survival.

Beth lives with her aunt, Alice, and is Jeordie’s next door neighbor and confidant. She is home schooled after being expelled from two different schools in her hometown of Frighly, MN. Because she has been home schooled since she was 13, she often feels isolated and awkward around other teenagers, but she enjoys expressing herself through music.

Anna is an honor student and lives with her extremely hands-off mother in the home of a family friend. She is a little anti-social and has grown distant from her boy-obsessed friend group, but likes spending time with Bethany and getting away from her high school social circle. She is often uncomfortable at home and is somewhat transient, opting to spend the night at Bethany’s house or on her half-sister Kierie’s couch.

Frank appears in the second book. He’s a “super senior” at Rigsby High School. He is close to aging out of the school system, and has no prospects of graduating, but still comes to school regularly to take advantage of the “amenities”. He lives with and cares for his mentally ill mother, and sells weed to make extra money. He and Anna become unlikely buddies in the second book.


You created all of the art for the Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold. What part of that process did you enjoy the most?

I loved drawing all of the environments, particularly the scenes in the woods. The trails the characters hike on and the rural roads they drive/bike on are all based on real places near where I lived at the time. In some ways, Rigsby WI came out of my feelings about living in a rural, conservative area — while the writing in the series can be very critical and reflect the parts that made me angry or uncomfortable, the environmental illustrations often reflect the parts I loved the most.


How did Iron Circus Comics get involved with Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold?

I knew when I started making Rigsby I wanted to have it printed at some point, and after completing 3 volumes of the series, it felt like it was time. ICC felt like a natural fit; they have a lot of experience in publishing print editions of webcomics and I’ve followed the work of both Spike (owner) and Kel (managing editor) for a long time. I’m a little bit precious about this story and they felt like people I could trust.


What has it been like working with Iron Circus Comics?

It’s been great; everyone who works there seems really dedicated to their craft and I’m positive the final printed book will be fantastic. When I was considering publishers, I worried that some pubs would want to make big changes to the work, to sanitize it or make it more YA-friendly. Like I said, I’m a little bit precious about this story and I think that sanitizing it would make it less impactful, and everyone at ICC seems to have a good understanding of why this story works and why it’s important that it remain mostly unchanged for print.


What can you tell us about Rigsby?

Rigsby is a (fictional) small city in Northern Wisconsin, with a population of about 7,000 people. The main industries are tourism and hospitality, so there is a pretty big socioeconomic division within the city. The city is split into two sides; the north end of the town has a lot of lakefront property, condos and resorts and is considered the “rich” part of town; the south end contains the paper mill, marshy land and lower income housing. Both ends have their own k-8 schools, but merge when they get into high school, along with kids from the Bear Lake Reservation to the south (which also has it’s own K-8 school). Despite merging in high school, many social divisions remain amongst students from the north side, south side, and Bear Lake. The residents of the town are not entirely homogenous, but the overwhelmingly conservative majority does mean that a lot of people feel the need to hide or downplay parts of themselves out of self-preservation.


How much of your own real-life experiences are seen in the pages of Rigsby WI?

Almost none of it is a 1:1 retelling of my life, but I did draw a lot from my own experiences, real-life observations, and things remembered from my teenage years. All of the main characters contain a little bit of myself, and they all have bits and pieces of people I have known over the years, but I can’t point to any one character and say “that’s (so-and-so)”. Like I said earlier, though, a lot of the setting is directly based on real places — the wooded trails, the gated hunter access, the deer blind, the picket signs and rural roads featured in the comic are all real places, near the house I lived in when I first started working on Rigsby.


As you are crowdfunding Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold and dealing directly with consumers, does that make Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold more special for you?

Yeah, I think so! It’s exciting to see, in real time, the interest in the piece. I’ve done more traditional publishing in the past and it feels like there can be so much mystery about how many people are preordering, who is interested, how the book is doing. I think readers like it as well; it feels like you are actively contributing to the success of a project and a lot more personal than just preordering through Barnes and Noble or whatever.


Do you have a favourite BackerKit reward?

We tried to keep it pretty simple with the rewards — you can buy a pdf or a physical book. There is also the option of getting custom artwork by me. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of those options. While the full comic is available to read online, getting the book (even if it’s just the pdf) is totally worth it. The art has been touched up from the web version and there are also about 20 pages of bonus comics at the end for you to enjoy.


Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

If you haven’t yet, check out Rigsby WI at Rigsbywi.com. It’s totally free to read! And if you already have…thank you so much for reading!

We wanted to say thank you to S.E. for chatting with us and wish her the best of luck with Rigsby WI – Volume 1: Foothold.

Feel free to check out the campaign on BackerKit

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