Paul Lai was lucky enough to be at Image Expo last Thursday for Multiversity. Here’s what he learned about one of the announced books, writer Bryan Lee O’Malley and artist Leslie Hung’s “Snotgirl.”
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Canadian chill and Leslie Hung’s SoCal cool (that’s SOuthern CALifornia, ICYDK) were in full effect at their press conference at Image Expo, setting a tone that makes sense of a comic book about a fashion blogger with an impeccable public persona whose offline life is plagued by her intense allergies and the accompanying cascades of mucus that seem endemic to our modern, histamine-medicated lives.
To be colored by Mickey Quinn and lettered/designed by Maré Odomo, “Snotgirl” is a first for the accomplished O’Malley in a few ways. Not only is it his first Image book, it’s his first time fitting ideas into the rhythms of a monthly series instead of the graphic novel format he has elevated in books like “Seconds” and “Scott Pilgrim,” a change he admitted was a new challenge. It’s also his first time limiting himself to writing duties, though he reveled in the fun of getting pages back from artist and co-plotter/co-creator Leslie Hung and seeing their collaboratively developed ideas come to life.
The chemistry of their collaboration is what came across in their Image Expo announcement and press conference, the extent to which “Snotgirl” is a brainchild birthed from their conversations and commonalities, what O’Malley called their “hive mind.” O’Malley and Hung have commiserated over allergy season, the strange phenomenon when your “normal state is ‘Disgusting,'” as O’Malley phrased it in the presser. Yes, the allergy thing is real for both of them; O’Malley recounted an experience I know something about, getting pricked by an allergist to identify which allergens cause a reaction and finding out the answer is “every animal and plant in the outside world.”
Their hero Lottie, shown in promo images both bewitching and boogered, drips that mess of contradictions into the narrative, one that finds her sartorially exquisite (in garb and also in online gab) but blemished with friendship woes and insecurity. And mucus. Another catalyst in the O’Malley/Hung admixture is their shared interest in fashion, or more precisely, shared fascination with the world of fashion bloggers, an intense community of visually-obsessed devotees who will camp out overnight to snatch up the first glimpses of the latest new release. (Sound familiar?)
But the craziness and consequences of our social-media-saturated lifestyles are also O’Malley and Hung’s dark-comedic targets, and from all signs, they’ll handle these targets with the same wit and underspoken profundity O’Malley’s work always pulls off. Another piece of the rootedness in the creative team’s shared energy, Lottie’s experiences as a 20-something in downtown LA are sometimes plucked right from Hung’s own life, occasionally from the remarks she makes that O’Malley will scribble down as notes to work into the story, she told the press conference.
The pivotal element introduced early in this planned ongoing series is a new friend, Caroline, and the ensemble cast promises a striking look into the drama of the social media-obsessed, image-dominated, but unavoidably snotty, snippy, and self-esteem seeking people of O’Malley and Hung’s story. I’m generally not interested in fashion (not a shocker to anyone who’s seen me), am usually not very interested in reading about the gross secretions I already have to deal with all the time, but I’m pretty sure this book is going to be for me, as what seems to matter most about it is the imaginative partnership of these two creators, acutely sensitive not just to the world’s many allergens, but the habits, horrors, and wonders of this very social animal, whether dressed to kill or drenched in snot.