‘Oddly Normal’: Otis Frampton discusses a young half-witch’s bad wish

Oct. 20, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.
oddlynormal issue2 cover Oddly Normal: Otis Frampton discusses a young half witchs bad wish

Otis Frampton's cover for the second issue of his all-ages series "Oddly Normal," named for its star, a half-witch schoolgirl who wasn't careful with what she wished for. (Image Comics)

oddlynormal issue2 variant cover Oddly Normal: Otis Frampton discusses a young half witchs bad wish

"Chew" artist Rob Guillory's variant cover for "Oddly Normal" No. 2. Otis Frampton says Guillory has been a supporter of his work. (Image Comics)

Oddly Normal is as conflicted as her name.

The smart, sullen schoolgirl star of writer-artist Otis Frampton’s emotionally stormy all-ages Image Comics series is the daughter of parents from different worlds: Her father is an average-as-average-gets Earth guy; her mother is a most unusual woman – a witch from the fantastical Fignation. And being a half-witch girl – complete with naturally green hair and pointy ears — in a typical American school isn’t easy.

A social outcast with a sardonic wit for self-defense, she feels like an outsider even in her own family, who live in the sole creepy Victorian manse on a street of cookie-cutter suburban houses.

In an angry moment on her 10th birthday, as seen in last month’s well-reviewed first issue, she isn’t careful what she wishes for.

“Oddly Normal” No. 2, out Wednesday, continues Frampton’s reboot of a story he had experimented with as a Web comic in 2003, followed by a miniseries and book (the last drawn by Sergio Quijada) at Viper Comics in 2005 and 2007, respectively. He’s returned to Oddly’s tale with grander ambitions – and greater confidence in his artistic abilities.

Hero Complex readers can take a look at some of the darkly mysterious magic inside the new issue in the gallery above or via the links below.

“Oddly Normal” No. 2: Cover | Guillory variant | Meet Auntie | Hug | Phenomenon | Danger

In an email interview, Frampton discussed Oddly’s personality, her Auntie’s arrival, his art and stories that he enjoyed as a kid.

HC: Oddly is in an interesting position as the series begins, as the child of two people who are from different worlds and have a fairy tale romance. So often children’s stories end with those kinds of couples living happily ever after, never mind what life is like for the kids. How has Oddly’s situation affected her personality?

OF: Oddly’s parents may have had a fairy tale romance, but kids (especially kids whose parents are from different cultures) often have to blaze their own trail. The Oddly we meet at the start of the story is a sullen, reclusive kid. She’s become somewhat numb to insults and really doesn’t do much to make friends. Like so many kids, she sees herself as an outsider, and that belief defines her existence. She feels powerless to change it. So one of the important themes of the book will be finding a way to take control of one’s own life and make changes.

Otis Frampton's cover for "Oddly Normal" No. 1. (Image Comics)

Otis Frampton’s cover for “Oddly Normal” No. 1. (Image Comics)

HC: Can you talk about Oddly’s sense of humor in dealing with her school and home lives?

OF: Oddly’s outsider status has helped her develop an internal life and personality that is somewhat snarky. She applies this to kids at school as well as her parents. I really wanted to put readers into her head, so the internal monologue was important. As she begins to come out of her shell and interact with others like her, we’ll see less of this. But her personality will remain the same, and that snark is going to get her into trouble.

HC: She has an interesting take on the plot of “The Wizard of Oz,” one that’s true to being the daughter of a witch. Is showing kids that there’s more than one side to stories something you’re conscious of in writing “Oddly Normal”? Do you recall any similar instances from your youth that made you see another side of a story?

OF: One of the biggest creative influences on me has been “Star Wars,” and if you take Luke as an example, you see a character whose perception of his father influenced his life in every way. But he never knew the whole truth and was making life decisions based on half-truths and outright lies. Oddly is in a somewhat similar situation, although she doesn’t know it yet. Another big influence on “Oddly Normal” is [Gregory Maguire’s] novel “Wicked,” which tells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. I love stories that show us other sides of characters. That’s part of life. As we grow up, we learn more and more about our parents and fill in details that make them more grounded in our estimation. Oddly is going to go through that process over the course of the series.

HC: How is Oddly’s state of mind following the big event at the end of Issue 1?

OF: At the end of issue 1 she’s completely lost. And she’s going to feel that way for a while.

HC: It seems clear that Oddly will be heading to her mother’s home reality, Fignation. Can you give new readers a taste of what that world is like? And, for readers who have seen the earlier versions of “Oddly Normal,” how this re-imagined trip to Fignation might look?

OF: Fignation is basically the collective imagination of humanity. It’s the world of fiction, made real. I’ve always loved stories about magical lands and I wanted to create a world where I could play with any genre and incorporate them into the story being told about a 10-year-old girl. Readers of the original version of “Oddly Normal” will find a much more fully realized Fignation in the new Image series. One of the reasons I wanted to reboot the series was to make Fignation feel more thought out, to get another chance at the world-building aspect of the series. I think that readers of the original series will agree that Fignation looks and feels more lived-in this time around.

A look inside "Oddly Normal" No. 2. (Otis Frampton / Image Comics)

Auntie embraces Oddly in “Oddly Normal” No. 2. (Otis Frampton / Image Comics)

HC: Oddly’s Auntie is mentioned as being late to the birthday party in Issue 1, and is presumably the little woman seen on the left in all the family portraits on the wall along the Normal home’s staircase. Can you give readers a clue about this person they might be meeting soon?

OF: Auntie is one of my favorite characters in the series. She’s like a combination of Doc Brown and Yoda. She’s going to be the only family that Oddly has in her life for a while, and that’s a good thing. Auntie sees her job, in light of Oddly’s parents disappearing, as protecting Oddly. This will play out in some interesting ways going forward.

HC: You said in a previous interview that you were unhappy with your art in the earlier “Oddly Normal” incarnations. How has your art changed over the years? Were there particular things you wanted to get better at that you did? And why is now the right time to launch this new imagining of “Oddly Normal”?

OF: Yeah, I was never happy with the artwork in the original series. I wasn’t ready to have my own comic series — my skills weren’t up to the task and it was rushed. As an artist, I was sort of skating on natural talent back then and never really did the work that is needed to get better. In the intervening years I’ve worked hard to become a better artist. I spent two years just living off of commission work, mostly digital commissions. So I really put myself through the wringer for a while and forced myself to improve and find my true style. And I think that a comparison of the old and new versions will attest to the work I put into improving my artistic skills. That being said, I’m still a work in progress. And I suppose I’ll never be fully satisfied with my artwork. I always want to get better at what I do.

HC: In the letters in the back of the first issue, one young reader wrote that “Oddly Normal” had inspired her to like reading. What stories inspired you to like reading that you’d recommend young readers check out?

OF: I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember, so I can’t think of specific stories that made me want to read more. But some of the stories that I loved as a kid were “The Phantom Tollbooth” [by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer], the “Dune” series [by Frank Herbert], the “Oz” books by L. Frank Baum and Marvel comics of the mid ’80s. These were the stories that first caught my attention. But I read everything when I was a kid. I just loved stories.

HC: You responded to that young reader that some of Oddly’s experiences are based on some experiences you had. Is there one you can share that particularly informed your storytelling in “Oddly Normal”?

OF: There’s a scene at the end of Issue 5 that comes straight out of my life. I won’t say what it is here, but it involves a new school and three bullies. It actually ended worse for me than it does for Oddly!

"Chew" artist Rob Guillory's variant cover for "Oddly Normal" No. 2. Otis Frampton says Guillory has been a supporter of his work. (Image Comics)

(Rob Guillory /Image Comics)

HC: Rob Guillory of “Chew” has created a variant cover for the second issue. What made you want to see his take on “Oddly Normal,” and can you talk about how the cover has turned out?

OF: I’m a big fan of Rob’s work on “Chew.” Rob has been really supportive of my work over the last couple of years and has been kind enough to give me advice here and there. When “Oddly Normal” was picked up by Image, he offered to do a variant cover for me and I didn’t need any convincing to accept his offer. I’m thrilled that his cover is the very first variant for the series. Rob is an amazing talent and an all-around good guy. The cover turned out great! I’ve been meaning to pick up a page of original artwork from Rob for a while and he was gracious enough to let me buy the cover art from him, so I now have it in my office next to a page of “Oz” by Skottie Young.

HC: Anything you’d like readers to know about what they have to look forward to in Issue 2?

OF: The end of Issue 2 will be as life-changing for Oddly as the end of Issue 1 was. It will start her on an adventure that will have enormous repercussions on her life. I’m excited to get the chance to tell her story. I hope that readers enjoy it!

Blake Hennon | Google+ | @LATHeroComplex

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