On the road with a girl without a soul sounds like the high concept for thenext David Lynchfilm, but instead it's the premise for "Lost at Sea," the introspective newgraphic 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 Newson 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 inVancouver, Canada, and she's in this car with some other kids from herschool, and they're driving back home from California, and we don'tentirely know why. By the end of the story, hopefully we will know why. Itinvolves cats and the past and secret love and the Internet, and it's alltold to us by Raleigh. At the same time, she's gradually acclimatizing tobeing around these kids she hardly knows, who are already a tight-knit trio offriends."
(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'sromantic foibles) could just as easily click with 'Lost at Sea.' It's a lotless 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, butswitched, 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 traditionincluding such high school English highlights as "Huckleberry Finn" and"The Odyssey." While O'Malley could be using this vehicle the same way MarkTwain and Homer used it, as a vehicle for telling other stories, he hadanother motivation in mind when creating the book.
"I don't think I really had that grand literary tradition in mind whilewriting the story, tragically. As a kid, my family went on a lot of roadtrips, and I kept it up with my friends in high school and beyond. That'swhat I drew on for 'Lost at Sea,' I think. There's a kind of rhythm ofroadside rest stops and diners and fast food and motels that I tried torecreate in the book, and not much else. No kooky roadside attractions oranything 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 Stephfreaking out, apparently enraged when Elvis comes on the radio. O'Malleyexplains her rage against the King:
"It's not really rage against Elvis; it's that she doesn't even know whohe 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 onthe radio in the car and my little brother said something similar, totallyincredulous that they could be playing such ancient music. So I stole it."
If you've seen Oni's solicitation on their site or in DiamondPreviews, you've seen a hint as to where "Lost at Sea" is going, and itsounds like O'Malley might have an issue with cats, or at least buy intothe old folk tale about cats stealing the breath from babies.
"I'd never heard that folk tale, but I just asked my girlfriend andshe's heard it a million times. I think the cat thing came from a coupleyears ago when a friend and I used to go on long walks in the middle of thenight and see cats everywhere. In 'Lost at Sea,' Raleigh sees catseverywhere and she sort of puts together a crazy theory that one of themhas her soul. I don't want to say anything more, because it'd probably ruinthe story. Side note: I used to be badly allergic to cats, but I've livedwith 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 atSea," he's in the same situation as his characters: He'll find out when hegets there.
"I really don't know yet. There are things in my head, but nothingreally concrete, although Oni will hopefully continue to publish me. Theother things by me to look for are, as mentioned, 'Hopeless Savages: GroundZero' in trade paperback for $11.95, and this year's SPX anthology, whichcontains an 8-page story by me, among apparently thousands of othertalented creators. Your readers can also visit my site at http://www.radiomaru.com, which features a bunch ofcomics and drawings and some music from various bands I'm in. That's whereyou'll find out about my next projects when they start to happen, too."