When Snotgirl launched from Image, writer Bryan Lee O’Malley was the “name” coming off of Scott Pilgrim and Seconds, but the book’s co-creator and artist Leslie Hung made it clear from the start that she was an equal partner, whose style and approach have been key to the book’s success. The second collection of Snotgirl, California Screaming, has just been released by Image Comics, and a new story arc launches in August with issue #11.
This collection shifts some of the focus of the book away from Lottie – the titular allergy prone fashion blogger – to the supporting cast and many of the relationships between them. Meanwhile the murder mystery aspect of the story continues, and gets a bit stranger. One of the book’s themes, the way that social media has warped Lottie’s sense of the world, the way that people who appear happy are actually struggling, has become more relevant than ever in 2018. Even though National Allergy Month was May, I reached out to Leslie to talk about the book and how she works.
Snotgirl is about a fashion blogger named Lottie, who has the perfect life online, but in reality she’s a huge mess. Lottie’s trying to find something real in her image obsessed world, and what she encounters instead is a larger than life (maybe) murder mystery. Snotgirl is a story about how our inner worlds can be in conflict with our real lives, and how technology can further complicate the chaos of every day life. Lottie’s story is one that’s always been interesting to me, and something that both Bryan and I can relate to in our every day lives, and why we wanted to tell her story in the first place.
When you’re drawing a new issue are you thinking of each issue in some ways as this snapshot of this moment fashion wise and technology wise?
We definitely have to take the constant changes in technology and the way we interact with it into account in each issue. Snotgirl is a bit of a time capsule in that sense, but the focus of each issue is more on the characters and their relationships.
The prevailing theme of how we navigate the world and how we deal with our own insecurities on top of the added pressure of curating our online presences was something that I grappled with and felt deep frustration about. I feel like that tension is a huge part of exploring Snotgirl and what makes it compelling. My own feelings about the constant presence of social media has changed over the past couple of years, but the loneliness that Lottie feels, coupled with the brand she’s made herself into over the years is something that still resonates with me.
Before you started making the comic, what did you sketchbook look like? What were you drawing? And hat does your sketchbook look like today?
It’s usually a total mess while I’m working on an issue. I tend to sketch characters and outfits even on the scripts when I get them, and then go on to brainstorming what kind of outfits everyone will be wearing throughout the issue. Most of the characters go through at least two costume changes per issue, and the way their outfits come together can take anywhere from a couple of seconds to several days.
How do you work? Can you walk us through your process in drawing an issue?
Bryan and I work closely together on each issue, so we go back and forth on the script and the layouts in the planning stage. Once the roughs are finished, I pencil and ink the pages. It’s pretty straight forward, but it also means that I usually end up redrawing each panel around three to four times.
The color scheme of the book and the style was established in the first volume, but how have you been working with Rachael Cohen on the colors and what kinds of conversations are you having around it?
Rachael flatted the second half of the first arc, and when Mickey left, she also left Rachael notes on the general established style of coloring for the book. The way I work with Rachael is that I will send her a round of notes about what sort of color story I want to convey with each issue, focusing on key dramatic points and the color palettes for those scenes. Rachael really has been indispensable for the series and it’s really been great working with her.
How has the book changed as you’ve been working on it over these ten issues, both in terms of how you work on it and the way the story has unfolded?
I don’t think it’s changed overall, but with each issue, we get to know the characters more, especially outside of Lottie’s perspective, I think that certain plot points that I thought we would reach by now shift to make way for more development between characters. We wanted the book to come together in a way that felt organic to us and in some ways is as mystifying and strange in the way life can be.
So is allergy season in LA ever going to end? (Also isn’t LA supposed to be this desert-y allergy free mecca? Is that a lie?)
The problem with allergies is that for a lot of people who suffer from them, they are ever changing. The weather can be perfect, and nature and our immune systems will somehow ruin a nice day.
The next issue is out in August. Do you want to say anything about issue #11 and this new story arc?
We set a foundation of what it’s like inside of Lottie’s head in the first arc. With the second, we were exploring a lot more of the intricacies of the main cast’s interpersonal relationships, from Lottie’s ongoing insecurity about her friends – especially where she stands with Caroline – to Meg’s doubts about the validity of her relationship, and Cutegirl’s ongoing battle with the flow of time. The new arc digs further into everyone’s past, including Lottie’s fraught relationship with her family, a theme touched upon in the second volume with the introduction of Caroline’s super mysterious brother, Virgil.
Is there anything you’re really excited about getting to draw in the new issues or something you’re covering?
The truth is, I never know what to expect to feel when I’m working on a new issue. The things that end up being the most fun and exciting are what I would least expect. Naturally, I like putting together the outfits in each issue, and it’s always been a highlight for me to decide what lengths the characters will go through for their personal styles. Each issue provides different challenges and in that sense, it’s always a bit of an adventure.
I have to ask, why does Lottie have green hair?
It was something that came up when Bryan and I were developing the characters together. We would talk about how we wanted everyone to be and I would send him sketches of what I was envisioning for every character, and in one of the sketches, Lottie’s hair was green and it kind of stuck and ended up becoming the book’s central visual aspect.
Leslie Hung and Bryan Lee O’Malley are appearing this Friday to discuss Snotgirl Vol.
Friday, June 22
Los Angeles, CA
Skylight Books Discussion & Signing
1818 N Vermont Ave