The Tale of Emily Barnes and the Two Jens is a short story premise developed by Chad Patterson of Prestonburg, Kentucky in late 2013. It became the basis for the adaptation Camelorum Adventures, part of the Dromedeverse in Dozerfleet Comics, and contains early versions of several major characters.
In an alternate universe where chain gangs are still very common, an aspiring warden seeks to recruit the finest laborers from amongst the prison population in Virginia. A young woman named Emily Barnes sets out into the world to explore it, after having worked at a cafeteria for most of her youth and wishing to expand her horizons. However, she, a young woman named Jenny Jane, and another named Jenny Kay, had too much to drink at a bar one evening.
Emily decided to drive them all to the hotel, where they would continue on their road trip the next morning. Alas, she crashed the car into a fountain in the heart of town. The fountain bore in its center a statue of the town's founder, an ancestor of the judge that eventually was assigned Emily's case. Emily and the Jens were sentenced to a year of hard labor at the Floyd County Jail. The girls found themselves frequently placing sand bags along the river, fixing the rail lines, and doing repairs on the fountain, while dealing with the nearby town having constant negative opinions of them and frequently taking advantage of them.
During their various adventures, Emily and the two Jens would often encounter various other quirky prisoners in their chain gang, each with a unique backstory of their own. This included a pink-haired tall woman, an Asian, and a few others. After a complicated mix-up, a news reporter covering the chain gang winds up being forced to join them. A young woman named Kisha frequently plots to escape, but is always recaptured.
Chad first envisioned this world in a dream he had once, involving a much-younger version of his wife Jen. He based the entire plot of his prime universe storyline on events he saw in the dream. Jenny Jane was based on Jen Patterson, with Jenny Kay being based on other women Chad knew. Emily herself was supposed to be a minor character in the beginning, with Jenny Jane being the main focus. However, the focus shifted to Emily when she quickly became the most popular of the gals amongst DeviantArt fans.
Emily was based on a former nurse that had worked at a hospital near Prestonburg, Kentucky. She was also based on a former waitress that Chad used to know, who worked at the Lizzie B's Cafe in Prestonburg. Oddly enough, she was not based on real-life folk singer Emily Barnes (who actually looks like an older version of the character.)
Artists vary, though the most prominent to work on the original Prodigalverse rather than on Camelorum were hired commission artists. Most of them kept the focus on Emily, with only a few bothering to develop the other prisoners to a great degree. A tiny handful of them also depicted scenes from the life of Sam Gardner, a redheaded woman who found herself in a similar situation as Emily for different reasons.
Differences from Camelorum Adventures
There are several key differences between the original Prodigalverse and the Dromedeverse regarding the characters inside it.
- The original Emily wears a suit with orange and white stripes, and has brunette hair (except when an artist like Karina draws it as blonde.) Her default hair is blonde in Camelorum Adventures. She is given the power to have color-changing hair as a way to make it that "all artists are right," though this later gets exploited to let her join the Camelry and become Semaphore. She was originally the driver of the car that hit the fountain. In Camelorum, she was a passenger - but was wanted because she fled the scene on foot.
- Jenny Jane was made the driver. She and the other Jen were blasted by a Xomian ray and gained super intelligence - something never shown in the original Prodigalverse.
- While the original Prodigalverse is focused mainly around Emily's story, Camelorum shifts the focus to two new characters: Carly Rancine and Candace Mason. In spite the demotion, Emily still proves to play a major role quite often. She is assigned the same cell as Carly, and quickly has to adjust to how Carly's powers affect the fabric of reality inside the cell.
- Kisha's constant escape attempts in Camelorum are given a justification: she's afraid of Carly turning her into something unnatural, and can't tolerate the guards' stupidity.
- Stan Woudean is given a name. He was originally just an unnamed warden. Likewise, Barry Navoz was given a name and a backstory, something he lacked in the original.
- The Asian prisoner is Luin Kim in Camelorum, whereas she originally didn't have a name. She is given the same personality as Brain from Pinky and the Brain. While she works with the Jens on Stan's science team, she and Jenny Jane view each other as rivals. Her pink-haired associate is named Beatrice Index, and is given the same personality as Pinky (and the nigh invulnerability of the Tick.)
- The Prodigalverse as a whole contains a lot fewer characters, and is meant to be a drama. Camelorum is written as a sit-com / adventure series that satirizes women-in-prison fiction while also spoofing conventions from children's shows. The latter contains characters that would be much more lethal (or impossible) in the former, such as Tobey the Toilet Monster.
- The majority of the original Emily's adventures take place while she is serving at the Floyd County Jail, presumably in Virginia. The Camelorum counterpart is sent to a moderate-security facility in the fictional city of Dromedary Heights in Delaware. This places her very close to the Grillitan Diner, as well as in the same world as Cad and Krumple and the Trapezoid Kids.