'Ground Zero' Artist O'Malley Now 'Lost at Sea'

Fri, August 29th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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"Lost At Sea"
On the road with a girl without a soul sounds like the high concept for the

next David Lynch

film, but instead it's the premise for "Lost at Sea," the introspective new

graphic novel coming this October from Bryan Lee O'Malley and Oni Press.

"It's generally about dealing with alienation and life itself," O'Malley told CBR News

on Thursday. "There's a bit of teen angst and heartbreak in there, too.

It's about this girl named Raleigh who just graduated from high school in

Vancouver, Canada, and she's in this car with some other kids from her

school, and they're driving back home from California, and we don't

entirely know why. By the end of the story, hopefully we will know why. It

involves cats and the past and secret love and the Internet, and it's all

told to us by Raleigh. At the same time, she's gradually acclimatizing to

being around these kids she hardly knows, who are already a tight-knit trio of

friends."

(Note: Oni Press has provided a "rough edit" preview of the graphic novel, and O'Malley stresses that some parts of the final book will be slightly different in the final version, including more pages being added. Scroll to the bottom of this article for the full preview.)

For readers who only know O'Malley from his work as the artist of "Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero," he says it'll be an easy transition to make when picking up this new work.

"I hadn't even thought of it, but I think people who clicked with

'Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero' (which was about teenaged girl Zero's

romantic foibles) could just as easily click with 'Lost at Sea.' It's a lot

less action-oriented, but it's got teenaged girls and the same guy drew it,

right?"

While trade paperbacks are the apple of comic critics' and columnists'

eyes these days, a miniseries is generally perceived as the safer route to go financially. "Lost at Sea" is taking the former route, although O'Malley doesn't recall exactly why that choice was made.

"I don't entirely remember. We were doing a miniseries at first, but

switched, early this year when I was just getting started. I definitely prefer the single-volume trade paperback. I get to do more pages, with no worries about fitting in a 22-page-per-issue rhythm or anything like that. It suits the story better -- it kind of meanders, and hopefully it'll come together best when read as a whole. Plus, it goes straight to Amazon, so it's easier to get new readers to buy it."

Road stories like "Lost at Sea" are part of a grand literary tradition

including such high school English highlights as "Huckleberry Finn" and

"The Odyssey." While O'Malley could be using this vehicle the same way Mark

Twain and Homer used it, as a vehicle for telling other stories, he had

another motivation in mind when creating the book.

"I don't think I really had that grand literary tradition in mind while

writing the story, tragically. As a kid, my family went on a lot of road

trips, and I kept it up with my friends in high school and beyond. That's

what I drew on for 'Lost at Sea,' I think. There's a kind of rhythm of

roadside rest stops and diners and fast food and motels that I tried to

recreate in the book, and not much else. No kooky roadside attractions or

anything like that. It's more about the flow of driving for several days."

If you've read the preview -- go on, we'll wait -- you've seen Steph

freaking out, apparently enraged when Elvis comes on the radio. O'Malley

explains her rage against the King:

"It's not really rage against Elvis; it's that she doesn't even know who

he is. I thought it was funny that someone would have no idea who Elvis is.

I'm not what you'd call an Elvis fan or anything, but one time he was on

the radio in the car and my little brother said something similar, totally

incredulous that they could be playing such ancient music. So I stole it."

If you've seen Oni's solicitation on their site or in Diamond

Previews, you've seen a hint as to where "Lost at Sea" is going, and it

sounds like O'Malley might have an issue with cats, or at least buy into

the old folk tale about cats stealing the breath from babies.

"I'd never heard that folk tale, but I just asked my girlfriend and

she's heard it a million times. I think the cat thing came from a couple

years ago when a friend and I used to go on long walks in the middle of the

night and see cats everywhere. In 'Lost at Sea,' Raleigh sees cats

everywhere and she sort of puts together a crazy theory that one of them

has her soul. I don't want to say anything more, because it'd probably ruin

the story. Side note: I used to be badly allergic to cats, but I've lived

with one all summer and I've been totally fine."

So no cat hate in other words, cat lovers.

As for what's coming around the next bend for O'Malley after "Lost at

Sea," he's in the same situation as his characters: He'll find out when he

gets there.

"I really don't know yet. There are things in my head, but nothing

really concrete, although Oni will hopefully continue to publish me. The

other things by me to look for are, as mentioned, 'Hopeless Savages: Ground

Zero' in trade paperback for $11.95, and this year's SPX anthology, which

contains an 8-page story by me, among apparently thousands of other

talented creators. Your readers can also visit my site at http://www.radiomaru.com, which features a bunch of

comics and drawings and some music from various bands I'm in. That's where

you'll find out about my next projects when they start to happen, too."

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