Bryan Lee O’Malley @ Lakes Comic Art Festival

By Evelyn Sweeney

“We would like to introduce Bryan Lee O’Malley (@radiomaru). The author of Snotgirl, Seconds, Lost at Sea and… What was the other one again?”

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival returned to the small town of Kendall this month bringing with it the iconic Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim, Seconds and most recently, Snotgirl.

Interviewed by Christopher Butcher (@comic212), ex-roommate and current friend of the popular artist, the friendly atmosphere between the two created a refreshing and relaxed atmosphere for the audience to enjoy. It allowed O’Malley to open up about his work in depth and explaining how he got interested in the work that he’s now so renowned for, starting with a simple interest in Manga and Anime, that progressed to moving to California for 6 months to work on the Hopeless Savages comics with friends he had met online.

He described the experience of working on the Hopeless Savages as a “training wheels exercise”, even going as far to say that ‘every page felt like torture as it’s hard to know your own milestones’. However, he continued by stating that “as I got more experience, it got easier to find my own voice.”

He used this voice to create his first graphic novel, Lost at Sea. What was only meant to be two issues became the kick starter he needed to launch his career. “I did totally evolve over the course of creating it” he responded when asked how he had changed as an artist over his time with the project.

Which brought us to the height of O’Malley’s career, Scott Pilgrim, which he describes as “Blue Monday meets Dragon Ball”. Although the comics received positive reviews, the series truly gained popularity when it was brought to the big screen by acclaimed director, Edgar Wright, creator of British cult classics Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the TV series Spaced.

O’Malley took the opportunity to relate his own experiences at the time of creating Scott Pilgrim, to the way he created the series. Having moved away from Toronto in 2005 and never returning, he imagined the world as “frozen in time”. When questioned if this meant he felt his characters were also frozen in time he replied with “I don’t think about them growing up. If I thought about it, I probably could picture where they are. In my heart I still know them and I’m sure I could make a good guess. But if someone asked me where Scott is when he’s 35, I couldn’t tell you straight away… I feel it would probably be somewhere depressing though.”

As the interview moved onto the film adaption, discussions were held about whether sequels were ever considered. O’Malley stated “I think it was a miracle to even have been made at the time as I feel like it pushed boundaries, it was definitely the geekiest thing I’d ever seen in movie form at the time. And other people still love and relate to the film which is a great feeling.”

As O’Malley’s career progressed he created his next graphic novel, Seconds, which he visualised being his biggest project, taking him 8 months to write and a further 6 months to draw. He described drawing from the novel an easier experience than writing as “The older I get the more I feel paralysed by all the good writing out there. I get caught up thinking “Is what I’m doing really worth a damn?” On those days I just sit down and draw… I think it’s easier when you’re younger, you feel like you’re important and that people care about what you have to say.” When questioned how he felt Seconds differed to his previous creations he replied “I guess I wanted Seconds to be more deliberate and literate than my other projects, which was a loftier goal than I was used to. I don’t know how it does meeting those goals but I hope it did well. Either way, I still feel like it’s really stupid at its core.”

While Seconds may have contrasted Scott Pilgrim, Snotgirl, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung’s recent collaborative project differs even further from his previous work. He explained he was trying to have more fun with his work by experimenting with new formats and trying to create more “cliffhangery” plots.

Just like the rest of O’Malleys work, it’s certainly an interesting reading experience. Playing to O’Malleys strengths featuring striking artwork and unlikeable characters you can’t help but find yourself falling for.

Eve Sweeney

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