VODKA O’CLOCK 2023-01: EMILY S. WHITTEN (aka The Emily Esse)

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On the show for this episode is an incredibly creative writer, EMILY S. WHITTEN (aka The Emily Esse), one of the creators of The Underfoot volumes one and two. If you love animal adventures with characters who have complexity and unique traits on their own arcs, The Underfoot is for you. While the publisher, Lion Forge/Oni Press, decided to bill it as Middle Grade, the series has plenty of complicated ethical questions, drama, and action sequences great for older readers too.

Emily S. Whitten photograph in mirrorWritten by Ben Fisher and Emily S. Whitten

Illustrated by Michelle Nguyen

Color Flatting/Assists: Adrian Ricker

Lettering and H.A.P. Burrow map: Thom Zahler

World Map: Eric Orchard

The Underfoot YA graphic novel series was nominated for multiple Ringo Awards and the prestigious Black-Eyed Susan Book Award.

To give you an idea of how cool Emily is: she used to be a pop culture journalist; she co-founded the North American Discworld Convention; she spent a few months working at Yellowstone National Park during college (we discuss those highlights); plus, she cosplays and may be seen donning an Only Murders in the Building official hoodie.

white hamster
Lumi the Hamster

Emily has a life-long history of raising rodents: gerbils, mice, and hamsters. She is sadly allergic to cats. Hamsters have won her heart. Currently she lives with her hamster companion, Lumi, a white Roborovski. Doesn’t that sound like a 19th century art movement? Wait until you hear her teddy bear hamster story!

There is a lot of information that perhaps a young reader may gloss over – but not those die-hard child readers – including organization charts, memos between government officials, dossiers on the hamsters, Q&As with the creators, character sketches, and maps! A lot!


Emily’s Official Site:


Ben Fisher: (Ben also writes stories for The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat & Pokey and other books)

Eric Orchard’s Patreon: (Maddy Kettle and Bera The One Headed Troll)

Michelle Nguygen:

Thom Zahler:

Adrian Ricker:

 PDF – The Underfoot Activity Book

Preview Pages are at Oni Press: and

Volume One: The Mighty Deep

It has been untold years since the Giants-That-Were disappeared, leaving behind the animals forever changed by their strange science. Now, granted the gifts of intelligence and self-awareness, the valiant Hamster Aquatic Mercenaries struggle to keep their horde alive in the dangerous new world.

In The Underfoot: The Mighty Deep, H.A.M. has been hired to save their badger allies from dangerous flooding, but first they’ll need new recruits. Only the best of the best can join the ranks of H.A.M., and the colony’s most ambitious young hamster pups compete for their chance at glory and prestige. Those who succeed, however, soon discover that life outside their burrow is not the grand adventure they imagined, but instead find a world of deadly threats and conflicting stories about their species’ origins.

Combining heroic battles, dark mysteries, and heartfelt friendships, The Underfoot: The Mighty Deep is the beginning of an epic sci-fi trilogy chronicling the animal kingdoms left to rise and fall in the absence of the Giants-That-Were. When the hamsters learn the truth about their past, will they find the strength to overcome the forces aligning against them, or will their tiny horde be wiped from the earth?

Volume two: Into the Sun

Into the Sun, the second volume in the epic sci-fi series, The Underfoot, is a fast-paced graphic novel full of daring escapes, heroic rescues, and devious cunning. It presents a world in which the tiniest creatures demonstrate the greatest feats of strength, courage, and friendship, leaving you fully invested in their furry fate…
It has been untold years since the Giants-That-Were disappeared, leaving behind the animals forever changed by their strange science. Now, granted the gifts of intelligence and self-awareness, the valiant Hamster Aquatic Mercenaries and their new allies, the Hamster Airborne Paratroopers, struggle to keep their hordes alive in a dangerous world.

In The Underfoot: Into the Sun, H.A.M. has joined forces with H.A.P., using their differing gifts and combined knowledge to explore new territory and aid “clients” with problems both on land and in the Great Wide above. After priceless Giants-That-Were artifacts vanish from storage and one of their allies is double-crossed by deadly “stingers,” H.A.M. and H.A.P. find themselves at the center of a plot far more sinister than anything they’ve faced before. But it’s not just supplies that have gone missing; hamsters have begun disappearing, too.

The mysterious dots are finally connected when a third hamster colony arrives, bringing clues that reveal an insidious plan of annihilation by Hashak, leader of the “scales” and sworn enemy of the “fur.” Soon, Hashak will use the Giants’ deadly technology and the labor of kidnapped hamsters to complete her secret weapon. Will the three allied hamster hordes succeed in their most dangerous mission yet, or will everything — and everyone — they know succumb to Hashak’s terrible scheme?

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