Family of Oddities

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Everyone’s favorite human/witch half blood teenage girl returns in May when Viper Comics releases Oddly Normal: Family Reunion. The second Oddly Normal volume is a follow-up to the 2005 mini-series by Otis Frampton, who this time around has brought in the help of artistic collaborator Sergio Quijada.

Oddly, Oopie and the rest of the bunch are back in Fignation, still the home of all things imaginary. So, what has changed? Otis Frampton has all the answers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Where do we find Oddly at the start of Volume 2? As the title suggests, she’s no longer looking for her disappeared parents?

OTIS FRAMPTON: The story of Oddly Normal: Family Reunion starts off about one month after the events of Book One.  Oddly's Great Aunt is still scouring the mystical ether searching for her parents while Oddly has settled into a somewhat normal life in Fignation.  She's going to school, spending time with her new friends and finally starting to feel like a regular kid. 

That was my goal in book 1—to take her from this isolated outcast to a place where she finally feels like she belongs, despite the terrible things that happen to her.  Now that she's finally comfortable in her own skin and has some acceptance from other kids, I get to turn the screws in different ways and put her in situations that test that new comfort zone.

BF: Are there any other returning cast members?

OF: The main characters from Book One are back, in one form or another.  Except for Misty.  Anyone who read the first book and thought that Misty would return are out of luck.  Sorry folks… Misty The Ghost is GONE.  I got rid of that character because it was integral to the plot, but I also wanted readers to know that the story had consequences and no one was completely safe.

There are also a bunch of new characters that are unique to this book.  This is not the same story as book 1 or even a new take on the same story, so some of the minor characters from the first volume do not make an appearance.  But hopefully, readers will find the new characters just as interesting.   

BF: Was doing a second mini-series at some point already in the cards while you were working on Volume 1?

OF: Absolutely!  That's why I put "Not The End" on the last page of Book One. I didn't know if Viper would let me keep that in, but it never seemed to be an issue. I knew I had more story to tell and I also knew that the "non-ending" I was providing to readers might be frustrating, so I added that text to give some clue about the future of the series.

When I started plotting out the story, when "Oddly Normal" was still just a webcomic, I ended up with enough material for what has become Books One and Two of the series.  In some ways, one could read the two books back to back and get a sense of having read one story.  I also wrote the very end of the lager story, which I currently have planned as 5 books, but there may be one or two more.  No matter how many books I end up putting out, the ending is written and waiting for me to arrive at someday.

BF: With Oddly Normal being a fun story aimed at readers young and old, I'm sure people won't really need to know a lot of what happened before?

OF: If you haven't read Book One, you'll most likely be lost reading Book Two without prior knowledge of what has happened to these characters.  Like I said, Family Reunion is basically a continuation of the story that began with the original mini-series.  So go buy Oddly Normal Volume 1!

BF: Speaking of all-ages material, since the first Oddly Normal volume launched, the comics industry has seen a steady increase of the genre. Where do you see Oddly Normal fitting in amongst the crowd?

OF: I think Oddly is rare in that is really IS for all ages and not just for kids. 

I write primarily for myself, and the material that I gravitate toward as a reader and as a creator just happens to fit the "all ages" category.  I don't sit down and shape the material in Oddly Normal toward a single audience or water it down so that it fits a certain demographic.  I write the stories that I want to write and hope for the best, hope that it finds an audience. 

And I think that this approach has worked, because I know of kids and adults who have read the work and found something that resonates with them.

BF: How do you look back on the first series and what it did for your artistic career?

OF: Since I see myself more as a "writer who draws" than an "artist who can write", I tend to judge the first series more in terms of how I fared as a writer than as an artist.  In that regard, I'm fairly content with the reception it has gotten from readers and reviewers.  The American Library Association recently named Oddly Normal Volume 1 as one of the Top Ten Graphic Novels For Youth in 2006, so I couldn't be more pleased that people are finding value in the reading experience.

Artistically, I think the strongest element of Book One is the coloring.  I enjoyed the writing and coloring much more than the drawing when doing Book One, which is why for the next three books in the series, I'm collaborating with other illustrators. 

I'm still writing, coloring, lettering and creating the chapter illustrations, so my handiwork is still all over the books, but I've brought in new illustrators to bring a fresh look on each new book.  Each new artist was selected because their work complements the story being told in each new story.  Sergio Quijada is my collaborator on Oddly Normal: Family Reunion and he's done a wonderful job of bringing his own style and energy to the characters and world that I created.

I'm immensely proud of the work that we've done together and I can't wait to have the same kind of experience on subsequent books.

BF: I seem to remember the first volume was produced 100% digitally. Naturally, I assume that's the case this time around then as well?

OF: It was more like 80-90% digital. The characters were mostly hand-drawn on paper and scanned into the computer, then composited and arranged into the pages. But some of them were drawn using a Wacom tablet and pen.  Everything else (backgrounds, coloring, lettering) was done in Photoshop using the tablet and pen.

The same percentage of traditional/digital applies to Book Two, for the most part.  Sergio has drawn all of the characters and backgrounds in ink and then scanned them.  But since I'm doing fully painted backgrounds on this book, I end up using his background line work as templates that I eventually paint over in Photoshop.  The end result is a book that looks more like key frames of animation than traditional comics with line art on the characters AND backgrounds.

Sergio pushed me to do the book this way and it was a challenge at first, because I've never done that kind of style before.  But I'm glad he did, because the books looks better for having gone in that direction and I've managed to push myself as a colorist into new areas that I wouldn't have otherwise explored.  That's been the most rewarding aspect of collaborating with another artist, as well as the most surprising aspect of working on this book.  I can only hope that Sergio feels the same.

Oddly Normal: Family Reunion is a 112-page graphic novel with a $11.95 price tag. It goes on sale next month through Viper Comics. Click here for a 22-page preview.

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