On July 16, 2014, about four years after Bryan Lee O'Malley's hugely popular Scott Pilgrim series reached its conclusion, the indy comics superstar's long awaited follow-up, "Seconds," officially hit comic book shops.
In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, O'Malley himself noted that much like his previous works, "Seconds" explores friendships and romantic relationships. Moreover, his new book's main character's world is much like a fairy tale with elements that allowed O'Malley to play around with the numerous relationships in varying ways.
To promote the debut of "Seconds," O'Malley has embarked on a tour to select comic shops and bookstores. Among the cities on the list are Los Angeles, Portland, New York, London, and San Diego, for Comic-Con International, of course. But it was San Francisco's Isotope Comic Lounge that booked O'Malley on release day.
O'Malley and Isotope proprietor James Sime have had multiple discussions over the years about doing an in-store event, and though it took longer than fans might have liked, the perfect opportunity arose this latest project. "My publisher for this book, Random House, has this relationship with James," O'Malley said. "They reached out right away, and I'm glad I finally got to come here. I mean, I've never even been to the store until today."
Sime has an innate sense of comic books, and when paired with his unique panache and flair for presentation, you get in-store events as intimate and interesting as the "Seconds" release day event. The festivities were a daylong event in every sense. Sime and his very accommodating staff broke down the day into two parts: A traditional autograph signing in the mid-afternoon, meant for readers of all ages, and the other being a ticketed after party with complimentary cocktails and beer, specifically geared for fans 21 years of age or older. Ticketing the event limited the number of people attending the party, which helped to ensure the Isotope staff's ability to effectively manage the crowd. And make no mistake, the Isotope was packed throughout the afternoon signing all the way to the end of the after party. The admission price to the after party was about the same amount as the cover price of "Seconds," and as it happened, entry included a copy of the book itself.
"We wanted to do two different things while we had Bryan in town," Sime said, describing the distinct tones of both of the day's events. "If you went to a regular creator signing, then after they closed it down, you might go to a bar and hang out for a drink with the creator afterwards. Well, we just like to facilitate that hangout vibe for everybody."
Bridging the accessibility between fans and creators is one of the store's hallmarks. "The Isotope is probably the only comic shop that I've regularly shopped at ever," said one of the Isotope's regular customers, Ryan Kennedy, a native of New Jersey. "I don't know how many other places could pull off things like this."
The traditional autograph signing was meant to begin at 3 p.m., and last until 6 p.m. However, O'Malley started more than half an hour early, and remained an extra half hour beyond the intended finish. Among the many who patiently waited to meet the Scott Pilgrim creator was Isamar and Lupita, a pair of teenagers who traveled an hour and a half from nearby Santa Rosa with their father. "I actually read ['Seconds'] in a bookstore yesterday," Isamar told CBR. "I didn't know that it had just come out." Their timing turned even more serendipitous when Isamar, whose favorite O'Malley work is "Lost At Sea," found out about the cartoonist's appearance at Isotope. "I got really excited," she said with a grin.
After a break for dinner to refuel, and once the after party got underway, O'Malley picked up where he left off earlier in the day. All told, the number of hours O'Malley spent meeting fans, and signing and sketching for them neared the equivalent to one of his characters in "Seconds" working a full shift at the restaurant.
"I feel like this was the longest I've ever signed," an astonished O'Malley said, with a smile on his face. "That's ridiculous! But the second half was a little more relaxed, which was the idea."
For Sime, having a fun, relaxing time is just part of his goal when throwing an event. "I always want my parties to have a different feel, and tonight definitely had it's own unique flavor and own unique feel."
One of the ways Sime ensured the one-of-a-kind aspect of the day was the special cocktail glasses the Isotope made available for attendees to purchase and take home. Previously, Sime and company had special cocktail glasses made for events thrown in honor of Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III respectively, but it had been quite some time since the Isotope last made those particular party favors available. "Eventually, we felt like we filled everyone's cabinets with our glassware," Sime joked. "We thought we needed to put stuff like that on hold, and save for a real special event."
At the end of the day, addressing the arrival of "Seconds" in readers' hands, O'Malley said he felt great, but he was also intrigued by a particular observation he made about how readers might spend their time in a long line waiting for him to sign their books. "This is the second day that the book is out, and the first day that it's been in comic stores. It's interesting, because some kids will come up and say, 'I read it in line,' or 'I've read it twice already.' Others have said, 'I can't wait to read it.'
"Either way," O'Malley continued, "I'm glad that people are reading it."