It's time for Lottie to take her relationship with Caroline to the next level - she just can't tell her friends.
This August, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Leslie Hung's Snotgirl returns with #11 - the first part of thier third arc. Beset with horrible allergies and a frightening social (media) life, the titular 'Snotgirl' Lottie has a lot to deal with, but she's attempting to make a go of a mature relationship with Caroline - despite all the baggage she carries with her.
Newsarama spoke with O'Malley and Hung about Snotgirl, particularly in exploring how social media can affect your real social life. The duo are prepping for a signing event this Friday at Los Angeles' Skylight Books.
Newsarama: Bryan, for fans of your work on Scott Pilgrim, what do you think those readers would enjoy about Snotgirl?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: For those who liked the emotional nuances and web of relationships in Scott Pilgrim, this series focuses a lot more in that direction. It’s a maybe-murder mystery about a fabulous fashion blogger with nasty allergies, so it’s basically nothing like Scott Pilgrim at all, but I hope it still has a recognizable voice.
Nrama: What is it like collaborating with each other? How did this partnership begin?
O’Malley: We became friends online and on Twitter first and eventually met through mutual friends. We only started talking about working together after about two years of friendship. I never set out to collaborate on a comic before, but I thought Leslie’s art and outlook would lend itself to something really unique, and we have a lot of shared interests and obsessions.
Leslie Hung: It has been smooth sailing for what we agree and disagree on with the story and characters.
Nrama: Leslie, how did you come up with the designs for our main characters?
Hung: The most back-and-forth we had about the characters had to do with Lottie’s design. For the other characters, I had a very specific idea in mind for what each of them would look like, especially with Caroline. I had to fight Bryan a bit not to give her bangs.
I’ve always been interested in character design, but my philosophy on characters has less to do with distinctive silhouettes and looks--although those are important, but more to do with getting to know the characters through drawing them and figuring out their personalities through their body language and fashion choices.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Hung: Lottie was designed to be the one that is easiest for me to draw, and she’s also my favorite for that same reason. I also like drawing Cutegirl, because she has such big and exaggerated features, it’s easy to push her expressions.
Nrama: What type of research did you do for this title?
O’Malley: We had already been following various fashion bloggers separately, so we both had a lot of general knowledge about that world. As the series continues, “research” mostly means keeping up with trends, which is a never-ending job.
Hung: It’s a lot of going to and researching cool places in Los Angeles, which is something that I already liked doing, but now it’s a bit more of a task with an objective. It’s important to keep up with the trends, as well as try to steer them in a direction that makes sense with the book.
Nrama: Lottie’s personality and character is a reflection of her online presence as a social media mogul. What is the overall message you want to spread about social media with your story?
O’Malley: In this volume we see a few darker takes on the effects of social media, like a ghost who misses her phone more than anything else in life. I guess I’ve been feeling pretty negative about the net effect of social media on our culture, although that’s still a developing story. Either way, I’m dying to see what comes next. I’m addicted to it, just like Lottie and everyone else.
Nrama: What have you learned about online culture through your work on this project? Has this changed the way you tackle social media?
O’Malley: I think social media is a work in progress. I just hope it gets better and not worse. I still want to believe in the potential of the internet to bring people together and not pit them against each other.
Nrama: Lottie doesn’t have the best relationship with her friends. Only joining them for haters brunch, and giving them nicknames instead of using their real names. Are Lottie’s interactions with characters like Normgirl and Cutegirl a hyper commentary on how social media has changed our real life interactions with people?
O’Malley: Snotgirl is sort of a comedy of manners about people who are cool online, but not so cool offline. The internet gave introverts a new way to socialize and connect, but if anything we’ve become even more awkward in real life. In Snotgirl everything is awkward and everyone’s trying too hard.
Nrama: Would you call Lottie an unreliable narrator? Do you think this is a story tool not used enough in comic books?
O’Malley: I wouldn’t call Lottie an unreliable narrator in the traditional sense. I don’t think she’s trying to mislead us. I like to say that reality itself is unreliable in Snotgirl. Lottie is having a hard time understanding things because things aren’t making a lot of sense lately.
Nrama: Lottie has a very interesting story that unravels with Coolgirl. In the most recent chapters you seem to reveal a more romantic connection between the two characters. Is Snotgirl a story of Lottie dealing with her sexuality?
O’Malley: Lottie is going through a crisis and has to deal with her whole self. It’s a process. Relationships and sexuality are a big part of that.
Nrama: Lottie’s relationship with Caroline (a.k.a. Coolgirl) is a complicated one to say the least. How do you depict their relationship through your artwork?
Hung: Their relationship is convoluted to say the least, but I’ve always been fascinated by the different layers of relationships between women. So far, a lot has gone unsaid between the two of them, and it’s been fun to frustrate and confuse readers in the same way mixed messages would confuse anyone in a new relationship.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Lottie’s hallucinations?
O’Malley: Leslie does a really good job drawing them!
Nrama: Leslie, when you dig deep Snotgirl is a very dark, psychological story. How do you balance the darkness of the story with the brightness of your art?
Hung: Snotgirl stems from me and Bryan and our similar shared experience of anxiety about public-facing personas, and the idea that almost everyone can feel this way, regardless of actual fame or not. If you look at it that way, the comic also has a very shiny and pretty exterior, perhaps obscuring the more sinister elements of the book and its characters.
I’ve also always liked the juxtaposition of beauty and grotesque, dark elements, so I think that in that sense, while I don’t think that my art is inherently bright, you could say that the dark undercurrent is not divorced from the artwork.
Nrama: Do you know how many issues you want this series to be? Do you have an ending in mind?
O’Malley: We have some thoughts on the ending. The whole series will probably run 30-40 issues, but that’s just a wild guess at this point. Don’t hold me to it.
Hung: We’ve talked about the ending a few times, from the conception of the story, to just a week ago. It changes ever so slightly as we dig deeper into the characters, which is a level of flexibility that I find comforting.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the upcoming story arc coming out in August?
O’Malley: Lottie is trying to get to know Caroline, Meg is planning her wedding, Charlene is entering a whole new world, and nobody knows what Virgil is up to - there’s a lot going on! I’m hoping to dig deeper into the characters and their world, while hopefully getting even dumber on the surface.
Nrama: You have a Snotgirl event coming up this weekend. Anything you would like to share about it?
O’Malley: It’s on Friday June 22 at Skylight Books in Los Angeles! We’re going to discuss Snotgirl with bestselling cartoonist Jen Wang. Jen’s most recent graphic novel is The Prince and the Dressmaker and she also runs the annual festival Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA).
Hung: We're excited to talk to Jen and we hope people show up.