Preview: Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley


Bryan Lee O’Malley, the writer and illustrator of the cult-favourite Scott Pilgrim series, will be releasing his latest original graphic novel ‘Seconds’, this coming August. The book was originally intended to be unleashed onto the world sooner, but it had to be delayed following a shoulder injury O’Malley sustained back in 2012.

After spending six years of his life working on Scott Pilgrim, the Canadian artist decided that it was time to move onto pastures new and create a fresh world for his imagination to run wild in. Despite being announced in 2011, the idea for Seconds was actually born just after the first Scott Pilgrim book (Precious Little Life) came out in 2004. The author describes that Seconds is based in a small-town restaurant called (surprise, surprise) Seconds, and that around 90% of the story takes place within it. He added, “Beyond that it’s really hard for me to explain and I’m going to have to work on that so I can talk about it properly when it comes out. But it’s funny and weird and kind of big and crazy despite the mundane setting.”

Whilst Pilgrim was focused on a hyper-fantastical version of Toronto, with super powered rock bands and fighting robots present and accounted for, Seconds’ version of the city’s outskirts is a “kinder, gentler fairy tale version of reality”. The story will then reportedly veer off into a very strange and crazed direction, giving the restricted environment a shot of adrenaline. This puts the book slightly more in line with O’Malley’s debut outing, Lost at Sea, which was centred more on the characters with a tinge of dreaminess to the grounded setting. It will be interesting to see if the Harvey Award winning scribe will return to some of Lost at Sea’s introspective contemplativeness, and whether this more personal element could possibly be combined with Scott Pilgrim’s kinetic and dynamic pacing.


The cast of Seconds

The lead protagonist of this forthcoming comic is Katie, a short girl with large red hair (resembling many anime characters from the 70’s and 80’s), who spends most of her time hanging around the restaurant. O’Malley affectionately refers to her as a “loveable spaz”, and in the artwork that has been revealed thus far, she is one of the most expressionate characters that he has ever put to paper. Another character that has been frequently shown off in concept artwork, Hazel, is a close friend of Katie’s, and her appearance in the book is significant to more than just the plot, as portraying her racial identity had become quite important to O’Malley.

After he saw the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim, it finally hit the 35 year old that his creation was very whitewashed. As a mixed-race individual himself (his father being white and his mother being Korean), he was appalled to see how little diversity there was in the Universal Pictures production – he hadn’t even represented himself. Growing up in a mostly white suburban area, O’Malley said that he was often told by his “wishful thinking” parents that race didn’t matter and was not an issue in the modern world anymore, “I had an unexamined non-attitude towards race and I didn’t think about it until years later.”


An unfinished early draft of a page from the book, featuring Katie and Hazel

As a result of this, O’Malley chose to make Seconds his first book intended for colour print, “One of the main reasons I wanted to do Seconds in colour (seriously) is because I wanted characters to have different skin colours… I think about these things way way more nowadays.” Nathan Fairbain was subsequently hired to give the drawings a vibrant pop. He previously worked on the coloured hardback re-releases of the Scott Pilgrim series, where he proved his worth at matching O’Malley’s vision. The shades that he has chosen for Seconds are all mostly warm and relatively subdued, with a few brighter hues drawing the reader’s eye to certain characters or objects. This endeavour has proved to be worthwhile, as the art now has a different, more absorbing feel to it than previous works, but is still recognisable as O’Malley’s efforts. Rounding off the team are Jason Fischer (ink assists) and Dustin Harbin (lettering).

So far, the snippets of pages that have been circulating around the web have looked promising. There is clearly going to be a lot of humour and heart to the story, and the art is the best we’ve seen from the cartoonist yet. The 328-page hardcover graphic novel will be published this August by SelfMadeHero, just 2 months after Random House offers it up to our American cousins in July. To keep up with all the latest on Seconds, be sure to follow Bryan Lee O’Malley’s highly entertaining twitter page, @radiomaru.

Lewis Parker


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