Gina Wynbrandt, Author of Someone Please Have Sex With Me, Talks Alt-Comics, Bad Internet Dates and Stalking Justin BieberComics Features
Chicago-based artist Gina Wynbrandt’s Someone Please Have Sex With Me, released last month by indie comics publisher 2dcloud, is an intense, weird, vulnerable dive into the underbelly of young adulthood.
As the title suggests, the 5-comic collection follows Gina, a horny woman making increasingly desperate, futile attempts to get laid. She smokes weed, stalks Justin Bieber and gets sexually bullied by anthropomorphic feral cats—all illustrated in lurid candy pinks, yellows and greens. In the proud tradition of gross-out alt-comics doyennes like Julie Doucet and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Wynbrandt revels in smashing the beauty myth, and she seems to be doing well at it. At age 25, she’s already been featured in The Best American Comics 2015 compilation, nominated for SPX’s prestigious Ignatz award for her comfort-zone-annihilating 2015 comic Big Pussy, and named one of five comics artists to watch by LA Times.
Despite her unapologetically outré subject matter, Wynbrandt isn’t quite the social reject her work might allude to (witness her charming reading of excerpts from this book at the performative comics reading series Brain Frame). While her stuff is bold af, on the phone she sounds both world-weary and cute, like a bored teenage babysitter ordering pizza. Since recently flying from the parental nest (“I’ve lived in the same 7-mile radius my whole life,” she tells Paste. “I just moved out in December, like two miles away from my mom”), she’s been busy drawing, working full-time as a secretary at an auto shop and tabling at Chicago’s alt-comics expo, CAKE, where she led a workshop with her newly minted roomie, fellow cartoonist Amy Lockhart, and raged hard at the afterparty.
Despite being “really hungover,” she had some smart, assertive things to say about making “gross and depressing” comics, her Bieber obsession, how seriously badly dating sucks, whether she has, in fact, found an answer to her cri de coeur for someone —anyone—who’s DTF.
Paste: Let’s get right into it. The title, the ice-cream colours in this book, the super-sexual content, the way you represent yourself—it’s aggressively envelope-pushing.
Gina Wynbrandt: That’s good! I’m making everyone uncomfortable, which makes me happy. I used all bright pink in Big Pussy, and everyone over my parents’ age says they can’t read it. In this book, it’s still very female colors. It makes it even more depressing and gross. I think maybe men wouldn’t like it? That’s a thing I seem to be drawn to do: is making myself unattractive to men.
Paste: Do you feel satisfied with that reaction?
Wynbrandt: To take moments that are uncomfortable or sad for me, and turn them into something I find funny is great. When I read my comics I don’t feel distressed, or in pain. Writing the comic is satisfying. I hope the reader isn’t feeling bad for me—or they can feel bad for me, actually. I’m down with that. I’m actually happy with any reaction.
Paste: How much of this crazy stuff is autobiographical?
Wynbrandt: I would say maybe like 70 percent of it is made up. In [the chapter in the book titled] “Someone Please Have Sex With Me,” it’s the most explicit: a lot of it is true, except for the ones that are set in the future, obviously. When I was eight, I was trying to cyber in AOL chatrooms without even really knowing what sex was. I found my dad’s Playboys and sold them to a boy at my school. In high school, I had platonic male friends and it just made me angry all the time. So a lot of that is true.
Paste: You draw a lot in the book about being intensely sexually obsessed with Justin Bieber as a 21-year-old, when he was still a teen. How’s your relationship with the Biebs now?
Wynbrandt: My relationship with Justin Bieber is… flawed. [Laughs] I still am a fan, but it’s just so much apologizing and rationalizing at this point. I worry about him. I will say I am wearing a Justin Bieber hoodie as we speak and looking at my Justin Bieber posters on the wall.
Paste: Are you serious right now?
Wynbrandt: Yes, I’m serious. When I was 21 and alone, it made so much sense. I was like, “I’m never going to have a boyfriend again!” And, of course, Justin Bieber—the product, not the person—exists to appeal to girls who are too young to date, but want to have a boyfriend. So I was particularly vulnerable to his lyrics, and his cute little face. I was extremely thirsty and depraved. All bad.
Paste: Ever try to meet him?
Wynbrandt: My uncle tried to get me meet-and-greet tickets to see him in 2012, but he got them from someone really sketchy so we got to the venue and there were no tickets under my name. I had been like, “He has to meet me! We paid $500!” I’d told everyone: “I’m going to smell what he’s like and commit it to memory!” But there were no meet-and-greet tickets. I was still able to go to the concert, which was good. I guess.
I tried to tweet my comics about him at him, but basically I didn’t want to turn my Twitter into a spam account. He has so many followers, the chances of him seeing it would be super low. But he does share fan art! Only most of the time, and it’s done by, like, a really adorable 13-year-old fan, and honestly the art is really shitty. So I get mad he hasn’t shared what I’m doing in, like, art college.
My mom tells me I’m going to be really famous and “we will meet and work together as peers.” [Laughs]
Paste: It’s also cool how you use videogame tropes and other digitally-inflected elements in your work.
Wynbrandt: I’ve always been interested in how sex can be used in technology: I’m fascinated with RealDolls and virtual reality. My uncle used to make sex video games in the late 1980s and 1990s, so I’ve always been aware of that. I never actually tried to masturbate to the games, but once I started looking into it, I was thinking, Wouldn’t this be an interesting thing for a comic? So I started playing these little mini-games for research. They’re more about patience and clicking buttons, with no actual sexual skill required. But something is satisfying about being like, “I kind of fucked this girl because I clicked the right buttons.” The ones I was playing were more, like, hentai art, and some more recent games, with 1990s cone-tit Lara Croft animation.
Someone Please Have Sex With Me Interior Art by Gina Wynbrandt
Paste: What would happen if the version of you in the book actually found a satisfying sexual relationship?
Wynbrandt: I wonder that all the time, too. I wish it were an option for me to find out, for the real life me to get it. Someone tweeted me a picture of a dick today, and I was like, “This is a step in the right direction!”
Paste: C’mon. Is it really never, ever going to be an option?
Wynbrandt: Growing up, I was never catcalled, no one ever had an unrequited crush on me. It’s not so much the sex I want as it is romantic interest, which I never have. The guys that will fuck me are just like, “Cool, she’s’ [voice dripping with sarcasm] ‘down to clown.’”I don’t even know, I haven’t had a boyfriend since high school so I don’t feel aware of what I should be doing. I’m as romantically mature as a ninth grader.
It’s hard to describe. The secret is, I’m actually a big slut that does have a lot of sex. But it’s only with guys I can meet on the internet, and so it feels less legitimate. Honestly, a lot of the things that happen are really bad.
Paste: Bad how?
Wynbrandt: I went out with a guy last year and he spit in my mouth. I was just like, This wasn’t agreed to! Just weird horrible things. Geez, actually I don’t want to make it sound like I’m being assaulted all the time; let’s just say it’s never really satisfying.
Paste: Why keep looking online if it’s so terrible and disposable?
Wynbrandt: I keep looking online because it’s given me results. I’m a child of the internet: I assume that’s how I should tackle all my problems. I don’t meet new people. When I do they’re like, cartoonists and stuff. Nothing wrong with cartoonists and stuff; I’m just not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I don’t know what they want.
Paste: You seem to not give a fuck about yourself in all this: what the implications are for you in putting all this stuff out there. You’re all about entertaining the audience, making it funny for them, at your own expense. Is that good for you?
Wynbrandt: I don’t have any regrets. I’ve had too many good responses. I do have a 13-year-old sister and a 7-year-old brother and my dad is super conservative, so I have worried they’ll read them. I am nervous thinking about all that, but it’s not enough for me. I got nominated for an Ignatz for a comic called Big Pussy. I’ve already cemented my brand.
Paste: Your brand?
Wynbrandt: “Gross horny woman” has always been my brand. [Laughs]
Paste: Is writing about this stuff an exhibitionistic thing?
Wynbrandt: I don’t actually think it’s that subversive in indie comics. It’s not like I’m really making gigantic waves. I think sex is so interesting, like of course I want to write about it. Nothing is more interesting than my own sex life, obviously. Maybe if I get laid, I won’t have to do this anymore. I would love that if I could get really rich and famous and I could start hiring escorts. It’s all about finances.
Paste: Ever think about doing a more in-depth thing about that a la Chester Brown’s Paying For It ?
Wynbrandt: I like to have a lot of fictional stuff in there, because I’m afraid of getting too descriptive of my actual sex life, but I have thought about doing something more in-depth. I think it’s something I’ve unconsciously avoided. Although, I’m so TMI about my sex life in real life to my friends, and on Twitter, that I don’t feel the need to commit myself. If you just talk to me, I’ll tell you about all the fucked up shit I do.
Paste: Was this always your M.O.?
Wynbrandt: I think this was always my personality. I was probably more secretive when I was a teeanger because I didn’t want to get in trouble. I was so excited that I was the first of my friends to lose their virginity, all like, “I’m cool, and adult, and you’re children I guess!” Going through puberty, I was always interested in sex, and wanting to know what it was, even though boys never looked at me. I’ve always been like that.
Paste: You said before you’re not really that controversial, but come on: the main character in the book, who’s named after you, gets fucked by feral cats. You’re still unapologetic about stalking Justin Bieber. You can see how some people would find that alarming.
Wynbrandt: I guess, but because I’ve mostly been a self-published artist, you could only get my stuff through alt comic book stores. No one who’s not already looking for weird shit would find it. But now you can order my book through Wal-Mart. Maybe I’ll become more aware of how fucked up my work is.
Paste: Are you hoping that some dude will see the book and be like, “She’s so funny, I actually really like this girl”?
Wynbrandt: I’m hoping that my book will be entertaining, but yes, the title is also a real plea that no one has ever taken seriously. [Note: this recently seems to have changed .] My comics are basically an advertisement for the worst part of me. If you’re into that, I’m actually not as gross in real life, so check out the real thing.
It’s actually like that quote you always see with a picture of Marilyn Monroe: “If you can’t handle me in my alt-mini comic, you don’t deserve me in my Paste Magazine interview.”
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