When I reviewed the first issue of Oddly Normal I expected life to go on like it always does. I didn’t expect to see it tweeted by both Otis Frampton and Image Comics. What surprised me even more was being given the opportunity to interview Frampton about his book.
Lindsey Bass: Obviously from my review of Oddly Normal, it’s a book I enjoyed. One of the things I took away from reading Oddly Normal was the amount of bullying Oddly endures at school. It’s something many of us can relate to from our childhood. Even now it’s a problem, was it your intention to bring light to the subject in this first issue?
Otis Frampton: Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the first issue.
To answer your question… no, not at all. I wasn’t trying to bring light to the subject of bullying. The story of “Oddly Normal” is going on 10 years old now and the bullying aspects are partly drawn from my own experiences, so there’s no messaging intended. It’s just part of the story I’m telling. If I’m trying to get any message about bullying into Oddly’s story it’s that a victim mentality is not a good thing. But again, it’s really only on a story level. Many of Oddly’s troubles are partly of her own making. At the outset she’s a sullen, insular and bitter kid. She sees herself as a victim of outside forces and is extremely inactive in her own life. She has no friends, but she really doesn’t try to make friends, either. And that’s no one’s fault but her own. The story I’m telling is about a kid who breaks that pattern and learns to see herself as someone with the power to shape her own life and make moral choices in the process. But bullying will continue to follow her into the world of Fignation and if she thought she had it bad with all of the name-calling, then she hasn’t seen anything yet.
L: Since the bullying is drawn from your own experiences, was your relationship similar to the one Oddly has with her own parents? Although, I’m sure many can relate to their parents not understanding them. Will Smith managed to write a song about it.
O: No, my family was very different from Oddly’s when I was growing up (although in some ways, the design/look of Oddly’s parents were inspired by my own), that’s all very much part of her story. But there is a scene in issue #5 that comes directly from my own life after having changed school districts in the 2nd grade. I actually let Oddly off the hook a bit in that scene, because it ended much worse for me in real life!
As for Oddy’s parents not understanding… let’s just say that Oddly has a lot to learn about her parents, especially her mother. In many ways, she understands them less than she thinks she does. And since the book’s point of view is very Oddly-centric, the reader is seeing things solely from her perspective. It will take a while, but when Oddly’s story is finished, she and the reader will have a very different view of them.
L: I can see how she would have a lot to learn about her mother, especially since Oddly herself is half witch. Oddly is an interesting character, even in her appearance. It makes the comic stand out when it’s on the shelf sandwiched between other Image titles. What was the inspiration for her appearance?
O: Thanks, you’re not the first person to tell me that the comic stands out on the shelf with other comics. I always felt that I was bad at doing comic book covers, so that gives me hope!
Oddly started out as a drawing of a sad little goth girl holding a teddy bear that was scribbled in my sketchbook. I wrote the words “Oddly Normal” next to her and the story started from there. As I thought more about the story, I took inspiration from “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked” and so her mother became a witch from the fictional world, with green skin and pointed ears. I think Elphaba from the novel “Wicked” was the biggest inspiration, given that she was also born looking different. But I also wanted her to look like an average kid, so if you take away the green hair and pointed ears she would sort of just blend into the background of any school. One other inspiration for her look was Locke from a little known anime called “Locke The Superman”. I first saw it when I was in high school. His green hair was striking and the image of a kid with hair like that definitely stuck with me over the years.
L: The cover is great. I’m sure the people at Image think so too since they used your artwork for it. Speaking of Image, what was the process like for you pitching to them? I have to admit I’d be a little intimidated pitching a story to them myself.
O: Well, Image is pretty hands off. If they pick up your book, you’re in change of creating and preparing all of the pages for your book, including the covers. The only thing they handle, in terms of what is included, is adding the advertisements to the back of each issue. I’ve never received any editorial input from Image and to my knowledge, they don’t do that for any of the books they publish (but I could be wrong).
I followed the same basic guidelines that everyone else does for pitching to them that they post online. But I may have done a bit more than most creators in terms of the amount of material that I pitched. For a long time I was working on “Oddly Normal” thinking it would be a series of long graphic novels, like Kazu Kibuishi’s “Amulet”. So I had and have a lot of material created already. Last year I printed up the first two chapters as “preview issues” to sell at convention appearances. And one day in January of this year I just decided to try pitching it as a series to a number of publishers. Image was one of them and I honestly never thought they’d pick it up since they don’t really do much all-ages stuff. So basically I sent Eric Stephenson the first two issues, complete with covers, bonus material, etc. I think that helped me, because he could see exactly what I would deliver if it became a series and it showed that I knew how to put together a comic on my own, which is required when you’re with Image because, as I said… they’re pretty hands off. Which is great for someone like me, because I like having control over the product, from the storytelling to the design elements.
L: I was surprised myself to see them pick up a book that is all ages. Especially when some of their biggest titles are Saga and Sex Criminals. Given so much freedom, do you plan on having the books collected the same you you laid the story out for graphic novels?
O: I know! I was as surprised as anyone that they even considered putting out a series like this. But I was absolutely thrilled to get that e-mail from Eric. Image was the outlier of the publishers I pitched to, but I wanted to land there more than anywhere else. It’s a dream come true to see that Image “i” on the cover of “Oddly Normal”.
No, I’m going to be putting out trade paperback collections that are like other Image titles, that will consist of 5-issue chunks. The story was always intended to be told in chapters and that made it easy to adapt it into an ongoing series. But I’ve expanded the material even more since finding out that it would be an series. The trade collections would be enormous if I had kept the original story arc breakdowns and I don’t want to do that. Originally the first major story arc was going to be about 200 pages long. Since getting picked up by Image I’ve expanded it to about 300 pages (15 issues). Most of what I’m adding is material that I always wanted to include but couldn’t get into the story even with a 200 page graphic novel. I’m also moving some material from the 2nd major story arc into the 1st one so that the larger story being told flows better and doesn’t read as episodic as it otherwise would. I’m actually loving what the ongoing series format is allowing me to do with the story so I’m glad that Image picked up the book, because I think it will be better for it.
L: Image’s Rat Queens has been optioned as an animated tv show. If Oddly Normal got this treatment and you could choose anyone to play Oddly, who would it be?
O: I’ve actually given this a lot of thought due to things that I can’t talk about yet (sorry!), so I have a quick answer for you…
She’s an actress who has been seen in roles on “Scrubs” and “The Big Bang Theory” and done voice work on “TMNT”, “Stephen Universe” and “Motorcity”. She’s also one half of the music duo, “Garfunkel and Oates”. Kate would be perfect for the voice for Oddly.
L: Kate is amazing! I agree she would be perfect for Oddly. I think I can end this with that fun little teaser. It will keep myself and readers guessing about what you have in store for us.
Thank you for taking the time to discuss Oddly Normal with me. It’s been a pleasure.
O: No, thank YOU. I really appreciate your kind words about Oddly Normal in your review and I hope you enjoy the rest of the series. 🙂