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Bryan Lee O’Malley Talk at the British Library

It’s rare for Bryan Lee O’Malley to be in the UK and even more rare for him to give a talk, so I was very excited to get tickets for his talk at the British Library, which was part of Comica Comiket.

He did a short tour of the UK, with signings at comic book shops to promote his new graphic novel Seconds.

The talk was in the style of an interview/conversation with Alex Fitch, a radio journalist. Bryan Lee O’Malley is a frequent Tweeter but interviews with him are less common, so I didn’t really know much about him or how he works.

Bryan Lee O’Malley is definitely one of my art idols, so it was great to hear the talk. I really enjoyed the Scott Pilgrim series, and reading them is part of what inspired me to draw my How to Make Sushi comic. I love the style of the artwork and the fun characters – bread makes you fat?!

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work

The conversation focussed on each book in turn – first up was Seconds, which Bryan Lee O’Malley wanted to be a self-contained single book, and had a vision of how he wanted it to be from the very beginning, right down to the red colour scheme. At one point he worked in the kitchen of a restaurant, just like the main character in Seconds. I tried not to look at the screen too much when they were showing panels from the new book – no spoilers!

The Scott Pilgrim series was drawn at first as a silly comic to make his friends laugh, with characters based on people he knew in real life (some more true to life than others). After drawing Lost at Sea, he wanted something to reflect the more fun side of his personality.

It was interesting to hear about the pace of working on a book and how projects become rushed towards the end as you race to complete them. And putting off drawing complex scenes, like the vision of the new restaurant in Seconds. To help get through the hundreds of pages, he had assistants to help with the colouring and backgrounds, which is why they look more detailed than scenes in previous comics.

Creative process

I felt some of the questions, including questions from the audience, were over-analysing the comics a little – particularly about the artist’s decisions about layout and small details. The overall impression I got was that drawing comics is more about drawing what seems right, and that being creative is more about instinct or intuition than planning everything for a particular reason. This isn’t a criticism, and is certainly something I can relate to. Drawing something because it’s a fun idea, or because it seems like it should be a certain way is integral to being creative. As fans, maybe we’re sometimes guilty of over-analysing. Although on the other hand there’s certainly nothing wrong with drawing your own conclusions from art and taking your own personal meaning from it.

Book signing

After the talk there was a book signing. This would have been the third instalment of the ‘Meet your heroes’ posts on this blog (episode 1, episode 2), but this time it was not to be. With a train to catch, we sadly had to abandon the snake-like queue (which we were somewhere near the end of). But I did get a copy of Seconds, which I would definitely recommend!