Comic Crush: Walter Scott's "Wendy"
If you are or were ever a 20-something art school party girl, this comic will stare directly into your soul.
A few months ago I went over to a friend's house the morning after another terrible night out drinking, feeling like literal shit, ready to lie face down on her couch and watch Netflix undisturbed for 7 consecutive hours. While she was off talking to her parents or ordering weed or food, I noticed this goth-looking comic sitting on her desk with a drawing of a blonde girl in platforms and a tube top flailing on the cover. I picked it up and collapsed onto the bed and started flipping through it and before long I realized it was the funniest, most touching, most relatable comic I have read in a really long time. This flailing blonde is Wendy, the heroine of Montrealer Walter Scott's comic of the same name and the art-school party girl who is perhaps the real voice of our generation (sorry Lena Dunham). If you are or were ever a 20-something art school party girl, this comic will stare directly into your soul. If you aren't and never have been, that’s okay too because Wendy’s art show-littered search for happiness, questionable life choices and totally human tendency for failure are just a great read anyway. I contacted Walter to talk about art, Kathy Acker, and who he’d get to play Wendy in a live-action version.
VICE: Hi Walter! What or who is Wendy?
Walter Scott: Wendy is a post-art school 20-something girl who has dreams of art stardom. She lives in a city similar to Montreal. Despite her intelligence and ambitions to become a super famous artist, she makes a lot of dumb decisions, is wasted all the time, makes out with dumb guys in dumb bands, and is generally an emotional wreck. She is also trendy and has nice hair.
Wendy hits devastatingly close to home for me and probably so many other 20-something alt art-school party-people trying to feel good about themselves. What motivated you to bring Wendy to life?
During art school, I was spoiled into thinking everything I did was great, and I believed that anything was possible in the future, because I was super talented and the world would be stupid to not give me everything I asked for. After art school, I had to take a job I didn't like, I broke up with a super cool guy, I moved into a tiny room in the sketchy part of town, and spent a lot of time by the train-tracks wasted and surrounded by punks and other art school refuse. The first Wendy comic I ever made was on a placemat in a diner, the hungover morning after another dumb night. In the comic she is barfing. I was basically drawing myself, if I was a girl. And so Wendy was born. Eventually, it grew from a superficial way to get cheap laughs out of my friends (and myself), and a complex character began to take shape. She became more complex as I drew the story, and next thing you know, she had artistic ambition, a BFF, a crush, and lived in an exciting Wendiverse.
The comic opens with a Kathy Acker quote about sensuality vs. logical thinking. Are Kathy and Wendy soul sisters?
Kathy Acker is a really great, surreal feminist author and art critic. I was reading her book Don Quixote while I was making Wendy. She has this really no-brow way about talking about femininity that is both visceral, campy, and unsettling. Wendy's look is very conventionally attractive (slim, blonde, fashionable, with-it) , and I was really interested in subverting this example of idealized femininity by imbuing her with extreme dread, self-destructive habits and ill-formed sexual desire. I liked how in Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon's character Elle Woods is perceived by others as benign, because of her physical beauty and positive attitude - when deep down she is actually extremely complex and emotionally intelligent. I wanted Wendy to be a similar type of heroic character, but extremely drunk all the time and falling down and knocking shit over.
It's kind of heartbreaking! Wendy sort of makes me want to stop drinking and doing drugs recreationally and move to a small boring town and get married and find a boring steady job and just be the most normal person ever. Is Wendy intended to be celebration or satire of this lifestyle?
I wasn't really content with the life I was living while making Wendy, and so a way to cope was to poke fun at myself for being a broke artist at the after-party with all the other broke artists on MDMA. Eventually though, I think I developed Stockholm Syndrome against myself. I suddenly saw all the chaos happening around me as great inspiration. I enjoyed the visceral, life-affirming revelations I had from chaotic situations. I was just so punk. But if you're not careful, it can suck you under. For instance, I began putting myself in risky situations on purpose, to create content for Wendy. Once, I hid from police by crawling under a trailer, and when they dragged me out by my feet and had me handcuffed against the car, my first thought was "This would make a great Wendy comic." Hence, "Wendy Gets Cuffed" on page 20.
There are a lot of good jokes about art-school rhetoric and pretentious artists and dudes in dumb bands. It seems like you maybe hate art a bit? Or at least, really want to make fun of it?
Maybe always, but I feel especially today in the art world, a large part of success is personal branding, where your personality and lifestyle choices are a part of your creative product. It's not something that a lot of people like to admit, and I think it's really funny to know that many, many artists are involuntarily projecting these avatars of Just Bein' My Conceptual Self, At You. It's an extremely stressful and hilarious way to live and I was curious to know what would happen to look into the emotional landscape of our generation of young, beautiful cultural workers and see what kind of sick, vile shit is actually there - and then relating to it and being happier because I realize everyone is just as vulnerable as me.
If Wendy was ever made into an animated movie or a live-action HBO show like Girls but a lot edgier and with better costume design, who would you want to be cast as Wendy?
It's really weird, but when my friends and I talk about 'Who would play which character", Wendy is always a mystery. I can't even imagine her voice in my head, I guess because her voice is my inner voice, which just sounds like thinking. I feel like someone like Chloe Sevigny might take the role too seriously and suck the fun out of it. Dakota Fanning would just try to imagine being a messed up party girl and mime it really flatly, like she did in The Runaways. So my answer is Kristen Wiig. Also, If anyone reading this wants to give me tons of money to make Wendy into a TV show, please contact me.
And who would play Screamo (my favourite)?
My insane gay friend Jonas.
I've laughed and cried my way through all 60 pages of this comic so many times! I want more! What's next for Wendy?
The comic book out now is mostly about Wendy's boozy adventures, surrounded by punk bands, boys and evil girls. I'm currently working on a second one which is more satirical of the art world, where she begins to take steps towards a successful career and engages with actual art institutions. But of course she fucks up constantly and is still a total mess. Just like you and me!
Wendy is available for order here.