Benadryl is a hell of a drug, but as someone with chronic allergies and lifelong trouble sleeping I’ve conscripted allergy medicine into fight against my body. Benadryl is the Duke Nukem of allergy medicine, its here to clear sinuses and chew bubblegum, and he’s all out of gum. Recalling exactly when I fall asleep with this stuff in my system is not really possible anymore, somewhere between my bathroom sink and my bed is a hypnogagic life I really have no real connection to, I doubt I’m spending that time learning to juggle but the usual slurry of late night thoughts that act as the mental finale the day is not in my recollection. If on the off chance I’m not already tired though I get to experience the slow but steadily accelerating pace of falling under the lullaby of diphenhydramine, and there is a space between the onset of the drugs effects and its inevitable triumph over my conscious will to desire rest where the drug challenges me to sleep and I feel foolish enough to fight, to stay awake in spite of my earlier decision to be forced into sleep. This brief moment of hubris is what I associate with the late night internal turmoil of Lottie Person in Snotgirl, the most recent comic book series from Bryan Lee O’Malley this time with art by Leslie Hung.
Bryan Lee O’Malley has always been in conversation with manga, visually as well as with his judicious use of elevating contemporary settings with exaggerated paranormal or fantasy elements. His biggest hit has been the Scott Pilgrim series which wound up as an underappreciated movie in 2010. If you are familiar with that series or movie there is a lot to enjoy and find familiar in Snotgirl but expect no video game references or quasi-diagetic shounen manga style fight scenes, Snotgirl is as much of a character driven story as his previous work but the heightened mysterious world of the story is mostly off panel. Lottie Person is an LA area fashion blogger and critic who is well known enough to have an unpaid intern but its unclear just how much her online presence is crowded out by others in her field. While in the midst of a relationship rough patch her new doctor prescribes a new allergy medicine that effects her behavior and her memory of what happens on the evenings she takes them is hazy at best.
That premise and story line are not what has kept me buying the book through its so far infrequent publication, I’m in it for the slow motion emotional car wreck that is Lottie life. O’Malley and Hung have created a character who is revealed to us at first only in extremes, we see perfect, smart, pretty, successful Lottie, an entirely fictional character within this fictional story and in between those panels is the snot covered insecure, angry, and isolated Lottie which is not really the “real” face of the character either. We are not what we create on the outside or the sum of what we hold in and show only to our selves when we decompress. I think the most real Lottie we see is the Lottie the narrator, the Lottie who is hovering over the drama, the consciousness who is actively experiencing the aftermath of the new allergy drug.
The first person narration by Lottie is narration done by a character who is accustomed to talking about her self, and is probably too accustomed to it, because Lottie is a character who at 25 (and 3/4!) hasn’t had an adult identity that wasn’t tied to the online persona of Lottie Person fashion blogger. O’Malley employs the familiar creative use of narration boxes and funny character trivia. Its a shame then that fashion plays so small of a role in the dialogue, and because I’m not from this world I don’t know how much of the representation of this subculture is parody and how much is all too real, which brings me to what has been disappointing in this series so far (as of writing six issues are out) which is that the interpersonal drama around Lottie is not very interesting, even by relationship drama standards, I wish the ex boyfriend had more character and its only in the latest issue that an interesting character moment has happened with her supporting cast of friends. The book could make up for this by leaning into the mystery and the cop who has weird dreams about her but as of issue six its still a slow burn. I’d like to recommend that someone read this as it comes out but with a new schedule of being released every other month for the rest of the year it might help most readers to just wait for the trade paperback editions, which Image Comics is great at putting out very soon after the story arc is over. I’d expect volume two to be out next spring.
Here is an awesome deep dive into a progressive metal portrait of the mind. Great album.