Gina Wynbrandt hasn't made comics for very long, but the majority of her work is slated for collection in the new book from 2d Cloud, "Someone Please Have Sex with Me," currently being crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign.
Wynbrandt's comics star "herself" in the way that Larry David played himself in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And though Wynbrandt has a very different sense of humor from David, she's also interested in crafting funny and outrageous adventures. Of the five stories in her new book, one was created specifically for the collection. It tells the story of what happens when someone creates a sex-based video game for women rather than men.
CBR News:Â I first discovered your work when one of your stories appeared in the 2015 volume of "Best American Comics."
Gina Wynbrandt: I think that's how many people discovered my work. When I submitted "Someone Please Have Sex With Me" for consideration to Best American Comics, I was just self-publishing, and a majority of my readers were fellow Chicagoans. It was a great honor to be recognized by Jonathan Letham and Bill Kartalopoulos when I was relatively unknown.
Your new book, "Someone Please Have Sex with Me" collects five stories. The last one is new -- were the other four all self-published comics?
I self-published the first three, and they're all out of print now. 2dcloud published "Big Pussy," which is still available as a risographed mini.
Have you made a lot of comics besides these?
No. I've made one minicomic a year for five years, and now they're in a book. I've only really made about 140 pages of work. [Laughs] I really need to work more!
Did you start making comics in school?
Yes, I started in college. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study fashion design, but after over two years in the program, I was really struggling. I felt like I was the worst student in my class, and I cried after critiques.
After quitting the program, I was filled with shame for not completing it as I intended. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I signed up for comics courses, assuming they would just be blow off classes. I ended up really liking all the classes and teachers, and stuck with it. My first two minicomics in the book, "One Less Lonely Girl" and "Tiger Beat Exclusive," were made for classes at SAIC.
Each story in the book features "you," but these are obviously not autobiographical stories. When did you decide to make this "you" character?
When I started doing "One Less Lonely Girl," I really was in love with Justin Bieber. I thought about him all the time, and figured it would be a good topic for a comic. I had started writing about fictional Justin Bieber fan, who was similar to me, but a much older woman, and I made up all this history and background for her. I was working with my teacher Jeremy Tinder and he said, why don't you just make it about yourself?
I had avoided that because, one, it was embarrassing to be 21 years old and in love with a 17-year-old pop star, and two, there's so many uninteresting autobio comics out there, and I was afraid of doing something like that. In choosing to go more autobiographical, I wanted to make sure I wasn't creating a protagonist who was just the best, most likable version of me. That's why I like to exaggerate certain characteristics about myself, and insert fictional scenarios. I'd rather it be entertaining instead of 100% truthful.
The first story, "One Less Lonely Girl," is a fairly realistic comic, but the stories after that, starting with "Tiger Beat Exclusive," you take this parody version of yourself and take the story into some other place entirely.
Again, I think it has to do with me being afraid of writing boring autobio. While writing "Tiger Beat Exclusive," I was really depressed, hated myself, and fantasized about dying. I didn't want to make a comic so explicitly about that, because that's not funny! Instead, I use a failed suicide attempt as a catalyst for Kim Kardashian to enter my life as a fairy godmother and take me on a wild retelling of Cinderella.
You wanted something that started with being depressed, but went to a different place -- a happier, wackier place.
Using the pain for art. Like all artists do. [Laughs]
What I love in your comics is that they start realistically, but then they become increasingly outrageous in stages.
[Laughs] Thank you. I don't want to just be outrageous for no reason, without earning it, to some degree.
The comic depends so much on how we react to and relate to this character, who is sort of you. Do you think a lot about how real to make her, how much of yourself to include?
I try to present the worst, most unlikeable version of myself. I know I'm not a total garbage human, but I don't need to prove what I good person I am with my comics. I'd rather people laugh at me and think I'm funny. Also, the fact that readers like this awful version of myself is somewhat validating.
I've dealt with depression, so I understand. You think that you're the worst, and then when you put out this horrible version of yourself, people responding well to it makes you think, okay, I'm not that bad.
Exactly. Every time I finish a minicomic, it feels like I can separate a new different part of me that I'm uncomfortable with. It makes it okay. That that part of me doesn't define me.
And in comics, you do horrible things, or are responsible for horrible things.
Yeah, just 'cause I think that's funny.
The book is printed in two color, but all your minicomics were printed in one color.
All my self-published comics were grayscale. "Big Pussy" was one color. I could never afford to print in color, myself. This book was an opportunity to branch out slightly with coloring.
Why did you decide on pink?
Those are just colors that I like. They're cute and pretty. I think it contrasts well with the content of my stories, which are usually gross or depressing.
Talk a little about "Manhunt," the book's new story, which is about a fictional video game. Why did you decide on that approach?
I've always been really interested in sex and technology. My uncle actually created some erotic video games and comics in the '80s and '90s. In seventh grade, I saw him on an episode of HBO's "Real Sex" promoting one of his titles, "Virtual Valerie."
Taking some inspiration from my uncle, I wanted to make my own sexy video game. It probably exists somewhere, but I'd never seen one of those games aimed at women. "Manhunt" is the comic version of a video game that I wish existed, where your goals are just based around doing sexy stuff with men. As the game's protagonist, you have access to all these really hot men, and, of course, they want you to win the game, and they want to penetrate you. [Laughs]
"Manhunt" is your comic for year, essentially. Have you started thinking about your next comic? Or your next series of comics?
I did a four-page comic recently for "Okey-Panky" about how binge eating makes me really horny. Hedonism is a theme I'm interested in. I'm starting to think of other topics to write about. I don't know. I'm figuring things out, filling the well.