Webcomic Trivia: Emily "Semaphore" Barnes

Webcomic Trivia: Emily

So, depending on which corners of DeviantArt you lurk, you may or may not have heard of Semaphore by now. At the very least, you probably know her as Emily Barnes. Dig the wig, or are you still confused?

For those who don't know, this article will try to de-mystify her as best as it can. This is a follow-up to my previous take on Lemon Witch, as promised in my take on the Gray Champion. I'm doing this series more or less in the style of @LadyTerror 's Comic Book Trivia takes.

If these catch on, I may do one for Xira and Suncore from Cagegirl as well. Without further adieu: Semaphore!

12. She is based on several real-life Emilys known by both creators

Myself and Chad "Prodigal-Gamer" Patterson can be said to be the co-creators of Emily; but her appearance has been inspired by numerous sources - not the least of which is the artwork of Romanian glazier Irina Anghel. (AnirBrokenear on DeviantArt).

A waitress named Emily once worked at the Lizzie B's Cafe in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. It was here that Chad, a surgeon in the general area, first met and befriended the real-life Emily. Her hair was naturally a brunette.

However, my high school senior prom date in 2002 (who passed away from a drug overdose in 2013) was also named Emily, and was a blonde. Thus, Emily Barnes in the Dromedeverse is naturally a blonde.

No single artist, however, could agree on her hair color. Most went with brunette, but Hungarian artist Karina MacGill also depicted Emily as a blonde. (More on the hair color issue later.)

In addition, I knew an Emily Rose (she's on YouTube) back when she went by "Lyme," and worked at a grocery store in Farmington back in 2010. She also looks like the Emily that Chad knew from the Lizzie B's.

As if this weren't confusing enough, there is another, similar-looking Emily whose name really is Emily Barnes! She's a folk singer in the south, who also looks a bit like the Emily Chad knew!


Chad's Emily had a mild problem with marijuana. The Emily that I knew in high school became a case of defense of the "gateway drug" argument, as she went from marijuana to heroin (what ultimately killed her.) To my knowledge, the pianist Emily didn't have any drug problems. (I can't speak for the folk singer.)

Chad isn't real specific about any trouble the Emily he knew got into, but the fictional version (both his original and the Camelorum one) are involved in a car crash in which alcohol was also involved. Whether it was Emily driving, Jenny Jane, or Jenny Kay, it's not really made clear. (And different tellings contradict, more on that later.) What matters is, the dream that became the basis of Chad's original vision focused more on his wife Jen than on Emily.

Yet, it was Emily that became the big favorite of DeviantArt commission artists.

The Emily I knew in high school, much like the fictional one, also had quite a few legal problems. (Robbery, as opposed to DUI. But still. Substance abuse leading to crime.)

To my knowledge, the folk singer and pianist have clean records. The high school Emily was in a juvie for 9 months, though she did get slapped with a few minor probation violations from time to time. (Drugs will do that to you!)

Exactly how long each Emily has been in jail (if at all) varies quite a bit. The only reason the one in Camelorum Adventures gets 3 years is because of her fleeing the scene to evade arrest; and being Xomified (given alien powers.)

Chad's initial take on the character only got 1 year - plus chain gang duty.

The Camelorum version gets 3 years, community service, mercenary work (kinda like Suicide Squad, but no stupid neck bombs), martial arts training, and is frequently being abducted and rescued. (Camelorum security is no match for the Percolation Wave!)

11. She gets her middle name from Anastasia

Chad has admitted that he could not for the life of him, think up a good middle name for Emily. For the Dromedeverse version in Camelorum Adventures, I got inspired by re-watching clips of Anastasia, and thought: "How about calling her Anya?"

In Emily's debut episode "Fountain of Enlightenment," she quits her job at the Grillitan Diner and goes out venturing into the world, excited to finally get her chance to explore the world outside of Floyd. She revels in the sudden lack of responsibilities saddling her down, and sings a "princess"-style song about the joys of "wanting less" (stress.)

This is to parody the 90s Disney princesses always singing about how they want "more" of something - a topic that the Channel Awesome team once commented on.

Chad liked the idea of Emily's middle name being Anya, and it stuck. In fact, it became retroactively true to the original version of his character!

To be fair, her and the Jens now know too much about Xiboruty - which is why he stalks them down and captures them at one point, with intent to kill them. Granted, it takes more than a misplaced plot device to take Xiboruty down (and Carly is the closer Anastasia analog in "Camelry, Conjoin" anyway.) But that's about where the ties to that film end.

10. She is also a Lego

Or more accurately, the concept of her as one exists. For those of you who remember the above image from the Lemon Witch take, it is doubtful this will enter mass production by Lego any time soon.

9. Her hair color is based on an inside joke

As mentioned above, no single artist could agree what her hair looked like. So her Xomification power in Camelorum Adventures is to have precognitive color-changing hair that acts like a fiber optic lamp. That way, her hair can be any number of colors or patterns at any given time, or a solid color for a day. Whatever it feels like! Therefore, every artist has the right answer at the same time!

Her colors and patterns are mostly useless at first. Her hair would turn solid red if there were imminent danger, and any other color based on what was funny. Or randomly for the heck of it. It didn't form a lot of meaningful patterns, or telepathically communicate what those meant to teammates, until after she gets her red gloves in "Rampage of Utkitroll." Before that, her hair was basically just a joke.

8. She inspired the creation of many other characters

As I've mentioned elsewhere, she became the inspiration behind many other characters in Camelorum Adventures. To sum up the most notable:

- Candace Mason / Lemon Witch

- Carly Rancine / Maddening Rod

- Annie Tudinous

- Gwen Indot / Ferretslayer

It's not hard to understand how a new character could be forged based on a confusion with someone else. Some of these were identified better than others, but all of them were supposed to be Emily at one point:

This one, by AnirBrokenear, eventually became Gwen.

And this version was by inColor. Also was repurposed for Gwen Indot.

This helped inspire the goofy demeanor in Camelorum. This image was by S0S2.

7. She has two different (but similar) origin stories

In The Tale of Emily Barnes and the Two Jens, Emily was the driver. The two Jens were merely along for the ride. Emily and the Jens spend a year in Floyd County Jail, and repair the fountain they destroyed - while enduring a ton of other bizarre things that happen around town.

In Camelorum Adventures, it was Jenny Jane that was the drunk driver. The girls smash into the fountain, but then notice Xiboruty's hidden lair entrance nearby. They decide to investigate - and are hit with a Xomification security beam. Much to Xiboruty's dismay, the ray gives the girls powers rather than killing them!

The Jens become super-intelligent and insightful about Xomian culture, enough to invent just about whatever the plot requires. Emily gains her color-changing hair. The Jens stay around and pontificate while the police arrive and apprehend the two - assuming their insights on the universe are nothing but drunken babble!

Emily, the least drunk, flees the scene and goes on the run. However, Jenny Kay carelessly gives up Emily's name and power identification to authorities upon her arrest, making Emily a fugitive!

She tries to hide in a bank; but the TV (and her hair) betray her secret to the cops inside!

SWAT: "How does that work, exactly?"

Emily: "I'd tell you if I knew!"

Thus began her magical adventures in the weirdest prison in the state of Delaware!

6. She spoofs Spider-Man in "Lightning Hobo: Friendly Competition"

A street hobo with lightning powers. A circus clown. And several 2nd floor convicts from Camelorum. When Xiboruty was about to destroy Dromedary Heights, the city got desperate and fought Xomian crazy with Xomian crazy! The Camelry was born - like a G-rated Suicide Squad. (Most of them really aren't hardened felons at all, just superpowered klutzes that had brief bouts of extremely bad luck!) Some would argue that the mayor and judges in town are the real villains! (But that's another topic for another time.)

When Xironooti - Xiboruty's less-comical evil cousin - decides to avenge him; he sends a robot-duck-troll monster to terrorize the city, dubbing it "Utkitroll." Utkitroll is annoyed he was not created with webbed feet, even making creepy Pinnochio-like songs to comment on it!

The season 2 finale is "Rampage of Utkitroll," where Emily gains enough control of her hair to make a meaningful superpower out of it. Because her wig changes color with her hair, she is able to make herself be spotted easily. This would normally be bad thing; but she's pretty good at precognition and dodging. And knows when to avoid walking right into a line of fire!

She proves instrumental in taking Utkitroll down - leading to Xironooti sending sillier and sillier monsters to attack Dromedary Heights even as he tries to find a way to make the Camelorum Correctional prisoners into his mind slaves!

All this city-saving, and successful mercenary trips across the multiverse, leads to the Camelry becoming popular enough that much of the town begins lobbying for them to receive pardons and be set free.

Alas, the mayor won't have it. When he is infected with a disease and Xironooti hides the cure in the Swiss Alps, the Camelry must retrieve it. But Tobey the Toilet Monster teams up with the Spatula to wreak havoc as well.

The mayor uses this to divide the team. Stan can only fund one project at a time: helping build a new homeless shelter, or a zoo. Both need to get built, but which one first? Team Hobo wants the shelter first; Team Ion Boy the zoo. Rather than fight each other, they decide that they will fight their respective villains. Ion Boy will take his team to stop Tobey once and for all. Hobo and his team will storm the Alps fortress to find the cure - and save some friends. Whoever completes all their objectives and returns to Camelorum sooner, wins.

Thus, it becomes "Lightning Hobo: Friendly Competition." The mayor is not the least bit amused. Stan, wishing for both teams to win and for both teams to be right, secretly sends Emily out to convince her super-rich father to finance the homeless shelter - so that Stan can focus on the zoo, but both can be built at the same time! He agrees to this, allowing a fund raiser to push for it.

Both teams arrive to find Emily greeting them, in her Semaphore outfit, stating:

Hi, everyone!

"Well, that was anti-climactic!" comments Ion Boy. The two teams wind up shaking hands, happy to be one team again.

The mayor just about pulls his hair out that his plan didn't work! He only made them closer friends!

Gummibabe was also sent out to study what Team Ion Boy was doing and report back - without joining them in the fight if need be. So like Black Panther, she had her own agenda.

5. Emily has been drawn by more artists than any other character

This should be evident by the sheer number of ones shared in this take. There are many, many more! Before I began doing art of Candace, pretty much the only other artist depicting her was Shases. Irina was the first to depict Emily, followed by Karina MacGill. From there, the list of Emily Barnes-drawing artists grew and grew.

However, few have been willing to depict her as Semaphore. This is because most of those artists were more interested in depicting Emily as a prisoner, rather than the hero she later becomes.

4. She wasn't always athletic

Image by: Denzel A. Jackson

Before she got the muscle - and insight / control over her hair to become the heroine Semaphore, Emily was just a weak civilian who got cursed with a silly power she couldn't control, after a night of drinking. She was suddenly a "criminal" before she even realized it! In "Camelry, Conjoin," Xiboruty was able to capture her with little effort. She vows after this to train and build up her athleticism. It is because of Carly borrowing some gloves that Carly is able to gain just enough control of her power as the Maddening Rod to save Candace from a mortal wound!

It becomes obvious that, in spite how cool the Lemon Witch is, she cannot do everything herself! Emily doesn't want to see any more of her teammates fall prey to easily-avoided sucker-stabs like that one!

Candace had survived almost a year in prison, and was not about to die from getting shanked outside of prison by Xiboruty! And Emily was determined her new friend would not get so easily blindsided again! The warden, Stan Woudean, actually allows Emily to strength train, convinced her power would make her a valuable asset to his team of mercenaries. (Stan thinks he can turn the 2nd floor convicts into his own personal X-Men.)

3. Whatever touches her scalp, changes color too!

In this BitStrip above, Candace is visibly concerned that things will not end well. (Candace is the one forced to wear yellow gloves.) Rita "Twisted Noodle" Rigatoni has snuck up on Emily in the shower, and glued a rubber duck to Emily's scalp! The most notorious prankster has struck again, and the cafeteria is not happy about it!

Gwen Indot (she blew up a ferret and accidentally set a garage on fire) stands in the background, horrified and convinced a brawl might happen. Carly is fading invisible (again), and not happy about it. Meanwhile, she's causing it to rain parking meters!

The Cheshire Pig, as usual, finds Rita's antics amusing.

The duck is starting to change colors, in keeping with Emily's hair. Because anything touching her scalp takes on the same properties as her hair for the duration, Emily's hairbrush will also change color periodically. Her hands will too! This allows her Semaphore fro wig to work the way it does.

2. She has a similar name to another Dozerfleet heroine

The wig was part of making her hair color inconsistency into a superpower, to continue playing off the original running gag. Giving her the name Semaphore, however, came from the fact that there was another Dozerfleet character created in 2015, called Semaphry.

This picture is from artwork for Volkonir: Rise of Semaphry. Semaphry II, also known as Kayla Tarington, is the Crystal Swan Knight of Cortascius depicted on the right. On the left is her fiance, Prince Volkonir, the Golden Lion Knight.

It seemed funny and logical at the same time that if the henshin heroine were Semaphry, then naming the more comical character Semaphore was the way to go!

Kayla has also been to jail - for breaking the nose of a Gwirdon spy posing as a CPS agent! (That, and also the fact that she destroyed a helicopter, trespassed inside a federal building, and left kaiju guts all over Pennsylvania Ave. But hey, who said saving the world wasn't messy?)

Kayla is able to get out of jail a lot sooner than Emily though, given she makes some pretty powerful friends. (Emily's are also cool, but not that powerful!)

It all balances out though: Emily has a more serious sentence for a much lesser set of crimes; but lives in a universe where few things are ever taken seriously. Kayla lives in a much more serious universe, but gets out a lot sooner. And the two see their worlds collide in "A Ferret in the Hand," and again in "Percolation Warriors."

1. Semaphore is the third-most-popular Dozerfleet heroine

She can't match Adam-00's Xira and Suncore - not by a long shot! But apart from that, one version or another of her is popular somewhere. She even holds her own in popularity against Lemon Witch, who has more Mod The Sims downloads in spite being less popular on DeviantArt.

Speaking of Xira, Emily has actually met her...in the "Cagegiggles" crossover. Their encounter was very brief, but it happened. (This was so Emily could not affect the main plot of Cagegirl.)

And to think...it all started because a surgeon in Kentucky had a dream one night about his wife repairing a fountain with the help of a waitress he once knew. And from there, bored artists looking for inspiration embellished it into its present form.


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What Girls Said 2

  • 1mo

    I've actually heard of her before but I didn't know these facts. Interesting

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  • 1d

    good,

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What Guys Said 1

  • 1mo

    Didn't know that a character could have that much story behind it :o

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