Image Comics has been the home of plenty of offbeat books, from The Walking Dead to Saga to Pretty Deadly. But now it’s about to launch a new series that’s…Oddly Normal.
Yes, that pun is terrible. We acknowledge this.
The new (well, almost-new) series from animation artist Otis Frampton premieres this week, and it promises to take readers into a world with all manner of strange and wonderful twists around every corner. We talked to Frampton about his book, how this telling of the story differs from an earlier run of the book, and the epic tale he plans to tell.
Nrama: Otis, tell us about Oddly Normal – the book, and the girl.
Otis Frampton: Oddly Normal is the name of the main character in the series. Oddly is a ten year old girl with pointed ears and green hair and she's a bit of an outcast at her school. She is the daughter of a human from the real world and a witch from a magical land called Fignation. On her tenth birthday she makes a terrible wish over the candles of her birthday cake and her life is changed forever. Dun dun DUNNNN!
Nrama: How did you come up with the idea for the character and the story? I noted there was a version of this from 2006 on Amazon – how is this different/updated from that version?
Frampton: Yeah, this is “Oddly Normal 2.0.” Or, if you count the webcomic that appeared online very briefly in 2003, “Oddly Normal 3.0.” Soon after hitting the web, it was picked up by Viper Comics. They published a 4-issue mini-series in 2005, which was then collected into a trade.
After that I brought on an artist named Sergio Quijada to draw a second book (no mini-series this time), which was published in 2007. A third book was created, but never published due to Viper having some financial issues.
After that, I spent a couple of years with a literary agent who pitched a reboot of the series to book publishers. I was never very happy with the Viper series. I was unhappy with the artwork (mine, not Sergio's, I wasn't very good back then) and had to compress the story due to the mini-series format. I always thought the series could be better and wanted a second bite at the apple.
So this is a reboot that expands the story and has completely new artwork. A lot of people ask me if I'm pulling a Lucas with this reboot, but I prefer to think of it more like what Jeff Smith did when he adapted his college comic strip “Thorn” in to the comic book series Bone. Same story and characters, but expanded and with better looking artwork. Yes, readers can still find copies of the old version on Amazon.
But I really hope they give this new series a chance. I've worked hard for years to see this new version come to life, so I'm thrilled to finally have a chance to tell the story the way it was always meant to be told.
Nrama: Explain a bit more about the land of Fignation – how this place works, and some of its rules/features/etc.
Frampton: Fignation is like an Oz or Wonderland or Narnia. I've always loved stories with magical lands. But Fignation is different in that it is the collective repository of human imagination. It is essentially the world of fiction made literal.
As a storyteller, that kind of world is wonderful to play around in because of the unlimited possibilities. But for Oddly, it's going to provide her with some challenges. She grew up in the real world and she's used to dealing with middle school drama and being bullied, but her experiences with school and bullies will be quite different in Fignation.
Nrama: Who all are some of the beings Oddly will encounter at her new school in Fignation?
Frampton: Since Fignation is the world of imagination in literal form, Oddly Normal gets to play around with all kinds of genres and introduce characters from many different types of stories. The book will have monsters, super-heroes and fantasy creatures. Her new classmates come in all shapes and sizes. One of my favorite characters in the series is her English teacher, Mr. Gooseberry. He becomes an important and influential figure in her life.
Nrama: Hey! You're writing AND drawing an ongoing series! And it's all-ages and monthly and has a female protagonist! What the stink? Is this legally allowed in the comic book industry?
Frampton: I know, right? (laughs) I don't really focus on that kind of thing, though. The story is what it is and Oddly came into my life fairly fully formed. One day I drew a sad little girl in my sketchbook and wrote the words “oddly normal” next to it. The story just grew from there.
But I'm proud to have one of the few all-ages books at Image Comics. That's a rare thing. I hope that kids love the series, but I also hope that adults give it a try, as well. “Oddly Normal” is truly an all-ages book, not a comic just for kids. I'm creating the kind of comic that I would like to read. So I'm not really aiming for a demographic here. I'm just trying to tell a good story.
As for writing and drawing a monthly title... that's a new thing for me. So wish me luck! But it's exciting to be doing an ongoing series after working on the Viper series which had huge limitations in terms of issues and pages. I feel like I can finally tell the more expanded story that I've had in my head for years. It's liberating. Hopefully the book does well enough for me to tell the whole story!
Nrama: Tell us about your process for creating the book -- the story and art.
Frampton: I work entirely digitally, although I've drawn some material traditionally to give out as rewards to my Kickstarter backers. I draw the book in Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq tablet. I recently added a Modbook tablet to my toolset, so now I sometimes venture out to a coffee shop to work on pages.
I share a lot of work-in-progess material for the book on Twitter and Instagram, so if anyone wants to see my process they can follw me there! The writing of the book was done years ago, so working on this new version is basically re-shaping the material to fit into the format of a monthly comic series.
But it's been fun to expand the material even more and add new things to the story when I can. Those additions are usually in the form of character moments or world building that add to the story but not necessarily the plot.
I recently added a character to an existing scene from the original series that was a lot of fun because even I didn't know he would appear. I was laying out the pages and suddenly this character just insisted himself upon the scene. I love those kinds of moments as a writer, when you surprise yourself.
Nrama: And who/what have been some of your biggest creative influences, inside and outside of comics?
Frampton: The biggest crative influence on me has always been film. I love movies and try to make my comics feel like movies on the page. Film has always had a bigger influence on me as a visual storyteller than comics.
But in comics, I'd say my biggest influences have been writer/artists, creators who take on the entire storytelling responsibility. Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, John Byrne, Darwyn Cooke, Jim Starlin, and more recently my Viper Comics alums Kazu Kibuishi and Josh Howard... they've all been hugely influential.
But mostly I just love visual storytelling, so anything I see that I like can and will influence me to some degree.
Nrama: As an ongoing series, how long would you like to see this story run?
Frampton: I'd like to see the series run until the end of Oddly's story in Fignation, which would be about 75 issues (I think). I have material written for about 40 or 50 issues and outlines for the rest of it done. But those are just estimates.
The original Viper mini-series was 4 issues and about 100 pages in length. That same story material is now a 15 issue arc totaling about 300 pages. So in the end, I may be underestimating how many issue it would take to finish! That being said, it is a finite story. And I know the ending.
Nrama: Hard sell us on Oddly and Fignation!
Frampton: Oddly Normalis The Wizard of Oz meets Harry Potter and Monsters Inc. You should get it so that I can buy my dog treats!
Nrama: What are some other comics/creators you're currently reading/enjoying?
Frampton: I currently read Chew, Ghostbusters,Lumberjanes,Samurai Jack,The Powerpuff Girls, theAmulet graphic novel series, and anything drawn by Frank Miller, Skottie Young or Darwyn Cooke. I also love the graphic novels of Doug TenNapel, Raina Telgemeier and Jake Parker. Online, I adore Dani Jones's My Sister The Freak and Katie Cook's Gronk.
I'll pick up random titles here and there if the artwork appeals to me. I'm drawn to toony comics, so whenever I see a comic in that style, I'll try it out. That's how I discovered Chew a couple of years ago, the artwork just stood out and I had to buy it. I love Rob Guillory's work on Chew. He's actually doing a variant cover for Oddly Normal issue #2!
Nrama: What's next for you?
Frampton: Working on Oddly Normal takes up most of my time. I've been working on the series for a while now and I should be five issues ahead when #1 hits comic shops on September 17th.
I was actually working on the project thinking it would be a long graphic novel before I pitched it to Image, so I have some material done that won't come out for a while. For example, there's a big action sequence in what will now be issue #12 and it's basically all done. So I'll have a bit of a break when I get to issue #12!
But as for non-Oddly Normal work... I'm currently writing and drawing a 28-page comic for Capstone Books called “Red Riding Hood, Superhero”. I've also worked in animation for a few years now. I'm one of the two artists on the popular animated web series “How It Should Have Ended” and I'm doing my own series of shorts on the HISHE YouTube channel called “ABCDEFGeek”.
So, yeah... I'm busy. Please hurry up with the cloning technology, science community.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Frampton: No, but feel free to ask my clone.
Meet a girl who’s Oddly Normal this week from Image Comics!