Sitting in comic artist Gina Wynbrandt’s room and studio, you begin to understand her comics. Two Justin Bieber posters hang on the wall, one hidden away for Wynbrandt’s eyes only. The cabinets next to her bed are filled with zines and comic books. Twitter lays open on her desktop, where she tweets things like, “Actually I like being a piece of shit.” Wynbrandt, who is 26 and an alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) just published her first book, “Please Someone Have Sex with Me,” after several years of self-publishing. The work is a compilation of those previous comics and a new work, published by 2dcloud.
More or less, all of the stories revolve around the protagonist, Gina, sending herself on insane excursions in the pursuit of romance. Justin Bieber is usually involved, whether he’s tweeting her back or they’re running away from the 2013 Teen Choice Awards together. Bieber isn’t the only celebrity that graces the pages; “Please Someone Have Sex with Me” gracefully intertwines pop culture references with cyberculture. The use of illustrated web pages and iPhone screen shots reinforces the importance of technology in Wynbrandt’s actual life and fictional narratives. Because the work is semi-autobiographical, the reader gets a chance to interact with the author as though they are reading her hot pink, vulgar diary.
F Newsmagazine: In these stories, obviously some things could never happen (e.g., feral cats welcoming Gina into their clan). There does seem to be a lot of truth, however. How much of this is autobiographical?
Gina Wynbrandt: Each story is different. “One Less Lonely Girl” is fairly correct. I was having dreams about him [Justin Bieber] that I couldn’t stop. I’ve never had recurring dreams until I started getting into Bieber. It was brought to my attention by my little sister, and it was age-appropriate for her, where I was encroaching on a weird child’s space. That was is pretty much true, except for the ending. I wrote that he tweeted me back, which never happened. In each of my progressive stories, it gets more and more detached and surreal. Like, in “Tiger Beat Exclusive,” Kim Kardashian is my fairy godmother and swoops me away to the Teen Choice Awards. And “Someone Please Have Sex with Me” is half-truth, the first half being accounts of my growing up, and then the rest is speculating what I would be like if I keep getting more desperate and gross.
F: As the years went by, as you said, your content got a bit more explicit. Are you just getting more comfortable publishing what you want or is this just where you content is going?
G: I guess both. The first real mini-comic I did wasn’t autobiographical and I felt like I was really bad at it; oh, and it was for a class at SAIC. I was trying to do a satirical take on “Entourage,” and it just wasn’t funny. My aunt bought a copy at Chicago Comics, and it got to my dad, who called me angrily about it being too explicit. We had an argument (he’s very conservative), and my argument was, “I don’t know how to write comedy, will you pay for me to take classes at Second City?” It made me want to be more careful about using sex or explicit consent.
F: Did those Second City classes help?
G: It did really help! I took two levels of comedy writing, and it helped me learn how to write. I did take a Writing for Comics class at SAIC, but I needed the basics of writing.
F: Were those classes at SAIC helpful for what you’re doing now?
G: Yeah, I think so. I wasn’t doing comics until I took a class at SAIC. I did early college program for fashion and did that for two years, and then had a mental breakdown. I realized I was really bad at it. I figured I’d just take these stupid comic classes and it would be a joke (laughs), but I ended up really liking them.
F: Do you still do fashion at all?
G: Oh no. I think it still inspires my work. The thing I liked most about fashion was illustration and I think that’s still my drawing style.
F: Getting published is hard! How did you get find this publisher?
G: I believe they saw a recording of me doing a Brain Frame performance. There was a comics reading that would happen every other month, and it ran for about three years. I think they came across a recording of me reading and reached out to publish.
F: So it wasn’t you that had the idea of making a book in the end?
G: I didn’t think I would ever collect them [self-published comics]; they had the idea. And I said. “Might as well!”
F: I noticed you were using primarily pink, blue, and white in “Someone Please Have Sex with Me.” What was the reasoning behind that color scheme?
G: Well, pretty much all of my self-published work is grayscale, so I never had a chance to work with color. Then I did the “Big Pussy” mini risograph, but you know, just one color. I wanted to keep it simple; my book is just two colors. It’s two Pantone colors with different tints. It was relatively easy to figure out, and I like the girly-cutesy colors. I think it’s a good contrast to my stories themselves, as they can be a little more adult, or gross.
F: Do you consider your work to be a feminist or political work?
G: I’m just publishing what I want, but as a feminist, how can it not be considered a feminist work? I want my different versions of femininity to be represented, and that’s why I do semi-autobiographical stuff. I guess it’s coming from selfish reasons, but then I hear from other women who are appreciate of the work. Actually, my selfish reasons are affecting the greater good.
F: So, you were nominated for an Ignatz Award, and were in “Best American Comics 2015.” I also saw that Lisa Hanawalt (creator of BoJack Horesman) reviewed “Please Someone Have Sex with Me,” which is insane. Do you feel like you’ve made it?
G: In some capacity, I do. There’s never a point where you need to rest, like, “Oh! I’ve accomplished enough.” Obviously, I’ve adjusted my goals. I’m definitely appreciative and I notice. I never thought I would get an Ignatz or be in “Best American Comics” at this point in my career. I was always like, “Sure if I work hard maybe I can do these things later!” I mean, I just graduated and I’m only 26. I do feel like things are happening fast. Another moment where I felt like I made it was when I was at Small Press Expo and I met Dan Clowes. He told me he read my comics and thought they were funny. I was dead.
This interview has been edited and condensed.