Lottie Person is not your everyday human. She’s a celebrity. A fashion blogger. A personality. Her beauty comes off as effortless. When she wakes up in the morning, she’s perfect–or so she wants you to think. In Bryan Lee O’Malley’s and Leslie Hung’s Snotgirl #1, Lottie’s pristine veneer is peeled back to reveal endless layers of insecurity and anguish. Through Lottie, O’Malley and Hung begin to criticize female beauty standards and fame culture in a way that will leave readers breathless and wanting for more.
O’Malley is no stranger to writing strong character driven stories. From his Scott Pilgrim books to 2014’s Seconds, O’Malley has always infused his leads with a sense of tenacity that is in turns built up and torn down by the exaggerated archetypical supporting characters that surround them. Snotgirl #1 continues this trend. At the start of the issue, we quickly learn who characters are through the helpful character description captions O’Malley has become known for. Lottie is described as “effortlessly chic” while her friends, who are mostly other fashion bloggers, are described by nicknames like “Normgirl” and “Cutegirl” depending on their sense of style. It’s a shorthand that effectively establishes this varied cast of characters in the reader’s mind while also showing how self-centered Lottie is. People are defined in her mind by their relationship to fashion– “Normgirl” Megan Foster’s age is “23? 27? don’t care.” This callous attitude is challenged when Lottie is forced to deal with the fact that “all her friends are horrible people” and her outer beauty is a manufactured cover for the allergy-ridden self-centered person she actually is.
The plot of Snotgirl #1 is primarily internal, but Leslie Hung brings an immense amount to the story all the same. This is her first work on an ongoing title, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her polished linework and bold character designs. Her panels look like they were ripped out of a fashion designer’s sketchbook as we watch Lottie and her friends change outfits on what seems like every single page. Watching Hung play so freely with characters’ clothing choices is a joy because it helps us get a further sense of who these characters are as people. For example, you can learn a lot about “Cutegirl” Misty Sutton just by looking at her sailor outfit or her demon-bear phone case. it also helps separate this already singular book further from the pack, as very few other comics feature characters who actually change outfits at all!
Colorist Mickey Quinn plays a huge role in Snotgirl #1 as well. On a basic level, it is entertaining to get to watch her add color to Hung’s character designs and outfits. The first thing you’re likely to notice about Lottie is the bright green of her hair, which helps her stand out from everyone else in the story in a way that both captivates people and alienates her from them. Even better, Quinn has a strong eye for using lighting to enhance the mood of a scene. When Lottie sits on her bed, hair-colored snot coming out of her nose, she bathed in ambient purples and haunting pinks which help the reader recognize her distraught state of mind. Contrast that with the next page where she’s sitting pretty in a coffee shop, interacting with the world and ignoring the self-doubt that pounds at her head. It’s masterful work that further pushes Snotgirl #1 into the realm of great comics.
In some ways, Snotgirl #1 is a major departure for O’Malley’s career. It’s both his first serialized comic and the first thing he has written that he is not also drawing. However, if you are a fan of Scott Pilgrim or Seconds, you will not be disappointed. This is quintessential O’Malley. The humor bites. The characters are lovable yet despicable caricatures of real people we all know. At the core of the story, there is a real attempt to grasp at major questions that affect us all in various ways.
However, Snotgirl #1 is not just O’Malley. It’s Leslie Hung and Mickey Quinn too. Their artwork and colors render O’Malley’s words in a way we’ve never seen before, bringing a sense of stylized and realistic beauty that we rarely see from O’Malley’s chibi-influenced art. Quinn brings gradients and heavy shading into play while O’Malley’s own art has mostly been colored in flats. The words belong to Bryan, but the world of Snotgirl #1 belongs to Leslie and Mickey. Indeed, what a sublime world it is. I hope we get to revel in it for years to come.
Snotgirl #1‘s final order cut-off date for stores is Monday, June 27th, so if you want a copy, tell your local retailer now! The first issue will hit stands on July 20th. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with O’Malley coming later this afternoon!