A Snapshot of Snotgirl: Considering Linework and Coloring – by Tyler Crissman
For those who aren’t aware, Snotgirl is a comic book series featuring Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung as co-plotters, O’Malley as the scriptwriter, Hung as the artist, Mickey Quinn as the colorist (for the existing issues, that is—a new colorist will be on board next issue), and Maré Odomo as the letterer. Yes, that’s the Bryan Lee O’Malley behind the Scott Pilgrim series, plus Lost at Sea a little before that, and Seconds a bit afterwards.
Oh, and I love his work. All of the above are recommended (with Scott Pilgrim and Seconds ranking above Lost at Sea, but that’s to be expected since Lost at Sea is the earliest of the bunch). But I’m not talking about O’Malley here—I mean, I sit down and reread Scott Pilgrim books front to back by accident, only intending to enjoy a few pages—but he’s not the only one who deserves gallons and gallons of praise (or however you measure praise). You know how I mentioned not just Snotgirl’s artist, but the colorist, and even the letterer? That wasn’t just for the sake of thoroughness (although I wouldn’t put that past me). No, that was to introduce the topic that was already introduced in the title. Well, okay, I’m not talking about lettering, so yeah, I only mentioned the letterer because letterers don’t seem to get enough love. Respect your letterers.
Anyway…here’s a brief rundown of Snotgirl: Lottie is a fashion blogger who thrives off of being glamorous on social media and in social situations. She has friend drama, post-breakup drama, and work drama (i.e., fashion drama) going on in her life. But still, she’s Lottie Person (no, really, that’s her last name), the dazzling fashion blogger. What she isn’t, is the imperfect, angsty young woman with (gasp) severe, snot-secreting allergies…except that she is. But as long as no one knows, the blog-perfect Lottie is the real one. And then thins get weird. Weird, how? Well, I’m not giving any spoilers—and besides, Snotgirl is only five issues in, and there’s a lot of mystery swirling about.
Speaking of Snotgirl only being five issues in, if you’re interested, now is a perfect time to catch up. The series is on hiatus until some time this spring, and five issues is a quick read. It’s also an excellent read. Seriously. Why do you think I’m writing this? But hey, let’s get to it.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Snotgirl is the beautiful artwork. The linework and the coloring are both excellent, and a really good pairing. Let’s start with the former, why don’t we? What stands out most here is that Leslie Hung brings her characters to life. That’s partly through communicative and vivacious posturing and facial expressions. But it’s also thanks to the very lines she draws: they’re full of life themselves. Maybe that sounds a bit out-there, but look at some of Hung’s lines. The variations in thickness, the caesuras, and the tapers make the linework dynamic, even though the images are still.
Maybe that impression comes partly from knowing the kinetic experience of drawing lines like that, in which case the dynamism might not be as tangible to some people. All the same, Hung’s line variations aren’t just made all willy-nilly; fluctuating lines with no rhyme or reason doesn’t make a drawing better. What really makes the difference is that Hung’s lines cooperate with the composition of the figure or the panel in question (and heck, maybe even the whole page). Hung uses line variations to emphasize the thrust of a gesture, distinguish depth and importance, and strengthen the flow of a panel. And last but not least about Hung’s art, pretty much anything luxuriantly flowing is just gorgeous. When you’ve got plenty of elaborate outfits and fabulous hair in a comic, that is an invaluable quality.
Ah, there’s a paragraph break, so that must mean…We’re talking about the coloring now! (My smoothest transition yet.) I have to admit, I’m not super well-trained in thinking about the separate work of the colorist when reading comics; I tend to think of linework and color together as simply “the art”. But reading Snotgirl made me think, “Man, I need to see what other work this colorist has done!”
Of course, you can’t consider the coloring entirely without the linework since the latter is the foundation for the former, but using my best un-professional judgment, the comic really wouldn’t be as good without such great and fitting coloring. Mickey Quinn hits a wide range of literal and figurative tones with her coloring, and consistently makes it feel right.
When the story veers from one tone to another, the coloring doesn’t miss a beat. When a conversation gets a bit too touchy, for example, more abstract use of color can fade in to depict emotional disturbances. Or when a lighter scene takes a weird, dark turn, candy-bright colors die, leaving their washed-out, bleak ghosts. (I would love to provide an example of the latter, but I don’t want to spoil too much.)
Plus, throughout all of the tonal shifts, whether the colors pack a bright punch, effervesce a soft glow, simmer with social stings, or drain the sanguinity right out of the page, the color choices make up a cohesive world. I have no knowledge of color theory, but somehow, the colors seem to always make sense for Snotgirl. It’s, perhaps, a visual representation of the way that, in spite of Lottie’s best attempts, the world interferes with her eye-candy ideal of herself—the surface-level colors she wants to show inevitably get warped and faded, or outright torn away, showing more depth than she would like anyone to know.
I could go on and do some in-depth case study analysis, but let’s be honest, I don’t have time for that—this is a student magazine, you know! This isn’t my job; I’ve got studying to do! But seriously, hop on the Snotgirl train this spring. Stay beautiful and snot-free!