Snotgirl, the latest graphic novel by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Malley, is a modern spin on a comedic staple, the real person behind a glamorous façade. Created in collaboration with artist Leslie Hung, Snotgirl follows fashion blogger Lottie Person, who is polished in public but a mess behind the scenes. Pining for her ex, and plagued by allergies, Lottie tries to cope with a disconcerting turn of events when a new friendship goes awry.
Published by Image Comics in the form of a series, the first volume of the trade paperback edition is due out on February 28. We talked to O'Malley and Hung about working together, social media, and why on earth they picked that title.
Why did you call your comic Snotgirl?
Bryan Lee O'Malley: Let's see, I was trying to convince Leslie to start a comic and I offered to help her develop something. She had an idea for a fashion blogger character. We talked about it a bit and decided she'd have terrible allergies. We started calling her Snotgirl as a placeholder, before we even named her. Then we couldn't come up with a title, so it stuck. I had no idea the name would be a turnoff. We were really surprised at the visceral reactions people had! I mean, snot is part of everyone's life, whether they like it or not.
Leslie Hung: I think the both of us had been talking about it with friends while we were developing it, so it came as a surprise to us when we announced the title and people were shocked or disgusted by it.
Bryan, what interested you about a 25-year-old fashion blogger as a lead character?
O'Malley: I'm writing a story for Leslie to draw, so it has to be about things we both find interesting. I think we both had a strong urge to create an introvert protagonist. Lottie and her friends evolved out of our shared fascination with, and anxiety about, this increasingly superficial culture we live in. Of course, we love fashion and hot people—we're shallow too. We're all in the shallow end together.
Leslie, is this your first comic from a major publisher. How did you come to the medium, and what are your influences?
Hung: It's my first long form comic. Before Snotgirl I would often do short stories and sometimes participate in anthologies. Comics had always been a childhood dream of mine, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I really started to write and draw seriously. I've always been a fan of manga, but the artists who really inspired me to make my own comics were Jaime Hernandez and Jane Mai.
What inspired the look of the comic?
Hung: I draw the comic in the way that comes most naturally to me. The influence of other artists, whether they are old masters or modern comic artists, is there, but I'm not looking at any particular artists for any influence. The comic also gets a lot of its character from Mickey Quinn, our colorist for the first arc.
The fashion comes from my observation of what influencers wear, what retailers sell, what fashion houses send down the runway, but I'll never put Lottie in an outfit straight off the rack.
Social media is a big part of this story. How does this reflect your experiences?
O'Malley: I've been socializing online for literally 20 years of my life. It's my natural way of being. The difference between 1997 and 2017 is that now everybody is doing it, not just the weirdos. Now it's something you have to tackle in a story, I think. At the same time, even though this is a story about online influencers, it's not like the story takes place online.
It's a comedic soap opera set among people who spend a lot of time online. I feel like the times Lottie goes out in the comic are the only times she ever leaves her apartment. We're showing all the interesting parts of her life! The rest of the time she'd just be staring at her computer screen and crying. In that sense, she's just like us.
How did you start working together, and how do you collaborate?
O'Malley: I kind of knew Leslie's stuff via mutual friends, but I think my introduction to her was when she did an awesome Ramona Flowers [a character from Scott Pilgrim] drawing for something. We met at TCAF in 2013, so I guess we've known each other for four years now.
We decided to work together in summer 2014. We spent a year or so working up the basic concepts and getting solid on our characters and themes. Then I think I wrote four or five completely different versions of the first issue, until we started to find the voice and the tone.
Generally, I pitch Leslie an outline for the next issue, then we break it down together; her ideas always provide a lot of insight. I go away for a while and turn it into a functioning script, we talk it over again, I do a second draft, Leslie draws it, and then Maré and I frantically letter it while I change every single line of dialogue at the last second.
The first volume ends on a cliffhanger. Will there be a single story arc or do you plan more adventures for Lottie and her friends?
O'Malley: The first volume sets up most of our main characters, all of whom we're planning to explore in depth over the next few years. There's an overarching plot on our minds, but we also just want to put out an entertaining comic every time. As far as the book, we just wanted to make the coolest book possible, so it's got French flaps, sparkly letters, all the bells and whistles. I love books—when I put out a book, I want it to be loved.