Throughout his decade-plus career, Bryan Lee O’Malley has proven himself an anthropologist as much as a cartoonist. The creator behind Scott Pilgrim has lined his comics with a cultural wit that borders on genius. O’Malley dissected millennial ennui in all six volumes of the Pilgrim saga, mixing a cacophony of indie-rock elitism, thrift-store ingenuity and all manner of highlighted hair throughout its pages. That pop culture obsessiveness tackled the foodie world in 2014’s Seconds, and this week O’Malley shifts his target to the fashion-blogging world in Snotgirl, his new Image title illustrated by Leslie Hung.
The titular Snotgirl is Lottie Person, a 25-year-old fashionista who attracts thousands of unique viewers to her blog where she doles out advice on maxi-dresses. Lottie also hides a harrowing secret: allergies force a constant stream of mucous and water from her face at any given time. In addition to her body rejecting pollen and dander, she also finds her obnoxious circle of friends and superficial lifestyle slowly repelling away. And then…things take a turn for the dark in a massive cliffhanger.
With its first issue hitting comic stores on Wednesday, Paste emailed with O’Malley to discuss allergies, “hotness” and empathizing with horrible characters.
Paste: This is the third project in which you’ve written about a 20-something undergoing something of a quarter-life crisis. What draws you back to characters in that phase of life?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: Fashion blogging is a relatively recent phenomenon; the earliest fashion-blogging pioneers are probably just in their early 30s. Most are in their teens and early 20s. So for this, it’s the subject matter that drew me back. Fortunately, I’ve been a 20-something, and my co-creator, Leslie Hung, is 27, so she’s got firsthand experience.
Paste: The backmatter of the first issue reveals that you’ve had personal trials with allergies. Was this the first step for the project? If not, what was its inception?
O’Malley: One day we started tossing character ideas around, and one of us said fashion blogger and the other said allergies. Leslie nicknamed her Snotgirl and it stuck. We both have terrible allergies and we both find fashion bloggers fascinating. It’s not a high-concept story, it’s very character-driven, so we spent a long time figuring out our main character and the kind of themes we wanted to explore, but we had the broad strokes on day one.
Paste: Your characters who have focused on fashion and style (Scott Pilgrim villains Envy Adams, Lucas Lee) tended to be jerks who use clothing aesthetic to compensate for insecurities. In this first issue, Lottie seems to take a similar path. Has your view toward the field changed at all? On a scale from jeans-and-t-shirt fashion agnostic to fashionista, where would you rank yourself?
O’Malley: Actually, Envy Adams is almost like a precursor to Snotgirl. It’s just my continued exploration of that all-important question: “What does it mean to be a hot person?”
I basically got into fashion because of Envy Adams. Her wardrobe was beyond anything in my imagination, so I started piling up reference material of outfits and ideas, and I really started to love fashion. Since then, I’ve always kept folders of inspiration for the characters i’m developing, browsing fashion sites once a month or whatever, just keeping up with trends. And that’s how I ended up reading a bunch of fashion blogs, which leads us back to Snotgirl.
I personally am more of a jeans and t-shirt guy, but at this point in my life they’re very nice jeans and very nice t-shirts.
Paste: Lottie’s a bit different from your previous characters Raleigh, Scott or Katie in that she seems intentionally awful, flaunting a number of millennial red flags (haters brunch—nice) and you’ve described her as a “weasel.” Are you veering deep into black humor, or should we expect a character arc for Lottie? Is there a point where we might find ourselves empathizing more?
O’Malley: It’s certainly the darkest comedy I’ve ever written, but Leslie and I both empathize so much with Lottie. We put a lot of ourselves into this character. We can relate to her horribleness and also to her pain, so I guess we’re hoping that she rings true to some of our readers, too. And the rest of them can just laugh at her suffering. Everybody wins.
Paste: And that last panel… Without spoiling anything, how dark do you plan to go with Snotgirl?
O’Malley: Dark comedy. It’s a comedy first, but the kind of comedy where it can flip over into tension and drama in hopefully an organic way. I want to keep it fun and frothy, but never predictable.
Story is everywhere now. It’s like air. You get a whole season of TV in one night. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of story. By comparison, a comic book is like a little bite-sized colorful candy bar of story. I think comics can still give people something different and new and refreshingly weird.
Paste: Snotgirl is the first project you’ve written for another artist, in this case Leslie Hung. Does that dynamic alter your scripting style? If so, what changes have you made to play to Leslie’s strengths?
O’Malley: I’m new to this, but I feel like the point of a comics script is to get the artist excited about what’s happening, but also to stay out of their way. I know as a cartoonist I have so many of my best ideas only when I start drawing the thing. Drawing the thing is where the magic happens. So, I write scripts that Leslie is free to interpret, and we’re always in contact if she wants more details.
Paste: It’s hard for me to not associate your comics with music. Are there any styles or bands that have complemented Snotgirl’s creative process? Do you have a playlist yet?
O’Malley: Carly Rae Jepsen has been our obsession, and lots of girl stuff—La Roux, Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, Robyn.
[By: Sean Edgar] [Paste Magazine] [Read More]