Maria Bamford’s Relationship Gets an Unvarnished Exploration in ‘Hogbook and Lazer Eyes’

Maria Bamford made a name for herself as a comedian’s comedian, best known for starring in “Lady Dynamite,” the absurdist Netflix comedy loosely based on her life. Now she and her husband, Scott Marvel Cassidy, tell a more reality-based version of their life together in the new graphic novella “Hogbook and Lazer Eyes.”

The story opens on Bamford and Cassidy finding each other in the online dating world after a number of disappointing alternative encounters — illustrated with a series of one-panel caricatures — as well as their own lifetimes of baggage. Photo references used to personify their exes were pulled from Cassidy’s high school yearbook. “So now that it’s published through Fantagraphics I was like, ‘Oh no, am I going to get sued?'” Thankfully, he added, the publisher cleared them.

“I did work for Paramount Parks, and I did have a one-night stand with a Ferengi,” Bamford recounted, explaining the tale behind her illustrated Ferengi ex. “And it was a mistake.”

An illustration showing a man dressed as a Star Trek Ferengi creature, and another showing a bald man with a msutache.
An illustration from “Hogbook and Lazer Eyes” (Courtesy Fantagraphics)

But rather than being a first-person tale, their relationship is narrated in the book by their canine companions.

“The dogs are great narrators. They just have a really rich storytelling tradition in their lives,” Cassidy joked. “The dogs had to be free with talking about their experience.”

“They see everything,” Bamford added.

Making their dogs the narrators came about because the couple had a habit of playfully imagining dialogue from their pets.

Cassidy is a Los Angeles artist, a painter and illustrator for the past 35 years. While Bamford’s career often involves taking intimate details and turning them into stand-up comedy premises, opening up in this way didn’t come as readily for Cassidy.

“Maria is always ready to share every little scrap about our relationship, whether I like it or not,” Cassidy said. “But I’m usually on board. And, you know, we don’t have a lot to hide.”

Telling the story through their dogs’ voices also helped them to share that truth.

“It was kind of about them, less about us,” Cassidy said.

An illustration showing the OKCupid pages of "Hogbook" and "Lazer Eyes." Hogbook's profile shows her details as 43/F/Single, Los Angeles, while Lazer Eyes is 49/M/Single, Los Angeles. It shows they have a 98% match on their about tab. Other tabs include photos, personality, and interests.
An illustration from “Hogbook and Lazer Eyes” (Courtesy Fantagraphics)

The book’s title, though, doesn’t come from the names of their dogs as might be expected — it comes from the names that Bamford and Cassidy used on dating site OKCupid.

“I chose the title of Hogbook for my dating name, because I used to have something very vague — ‘FunnyThoughtful’ — I cast too wide a net,” Bamford explained. “That’s everybody. Everybody’s funny and thoughtful. Whoops. And so I thought, I love words, and I thought, two words that are fun together are ‘hog’ and ‘book’ — ‘Hogbook.’ One guy responded, and it was this man sitting next to me today.”

Cassidy was excited to find someone who he matched with at 98% after finding others on the site who were only 50% or 60% matches — Bamford was the first person he met off of OKCupid. His own Lazer Eyes name came from a photo on his profile that made his eyes appear red.

Bamford added that turning their stories into this book was “healing in a lot of ways.”

“I get to talk a lot publicly about everything,” Bamford said. “So it was nice for me to feel like, ‘Oh, my partner gets to have the microphone.’ And Scott has had the microphone — he has done stand-up, and he knows how fun it is. But he seems to like painting better.”

Cassidy was always working on comics or painting, he noted, which led to working on this book as a joint venture.

“We’re both very confident in our own crafts,” Bamford said. “When I was younger, and I was dating other artists, it was always, the man came before me. All of the sudden, you’re invisible in a partnership. So we’re lucky, I think, that both of us have many years of being on our own.”

“It was just a natural thing — ‘Oh, why don’t you join me on this? I’m going to do it anyway, so join me,'” Cassidy said.

The book’s emphasis on their narrators also helped with the illustrations, which feature numerous drawings of their dogs that have a true-life quality.

“I think we take at least a dozen photos of our dogs every day,” Cassidy said. “So we had tons of reference material. And sometimes that reference material would spark a story, like, ‘Oh, that’s when we walked into this park near Occidental College.'”

The photos give the story a rhythm, with a number of repeated frames using subtly altered poses — such as images of the dogs, and occasionally their human companions, napping.

“The repetition of the images I like, especially when it comes to napping, because there’s nothing going on — but maybe there is,” Cassidy explained. “Sometimes an eye rumbles, or eye opens, or there’s a grimace. I like it.”

“Or somebody screams out in a night terror,” Bamford added.

Bamford shared admiration for her partner’s work ethic, noting that he’s “driven to write and create on his own — where it’s like, sometimes people like, for example, myself, will complain about the opportunity to make things.”

“He just loves to draw and paint. So I think most of the vision came from him, and then we went through it together to do some of the writing,” Bamford explained. “Making it into a comic book, all the intense feelings of relationships, was really cool for me to see. I’m not a super visual person — I don’t really know how to do that.”

She also praised the emotion felt in the work, such as the way that he illustrated one of their early dates.

“I interpreted some of the things that he said as terrifying,” Bamford said, “and then he made himself into this terrifying big monster. And that’s exactly what I felt.”

A giant green, hairy, bearded monster with ragged clothes in a sewer is shown under the heading "Third Date" as a blonde woman's thought balloon reads "A lot of issues."
An illustration from “Hogbook and Lazer Eyes” (Courtesy Fantagraphics)

As in that situation, the book doesn’t shy away from difficult feelings, including the deaths of several of their dogs.

“It helped a lot to memorialize our pets that had passed,” Cassidy said. “A lot of that was, how do I keep these dogs alive and in a physical form instead of just a memory?”

That desire inspired the earliest version of the book, initially sold as merch at Bamford’s stand-up shows before being extended and turned into this book from legendary indie comics publisher Fantagraphics.

“It was really just selfish,” Cassidy said.”I wanted to even document what our narratives were of the dogs, no matter how ridiculous it is. So I’m grateful that anyone wants to read about it.”

Dogs dressed in spacesuits in a science-fiction adventure. The narration reads, "Arnold plays Space Professor Conrad who build the space ship we fly in. I play eco-scientist Willamina. I am on a mission to return a stolen box of greenies. On Planet Parvo we are captured by an evil space rat kitty, X12-500." Their dialogue then reads, "I love you Dr. Wilamina." "I love you Dr. Conrad." The laqst caption reads, "Our scenes were cut by a writer known to be a pussy (a scaredy cat afraid of space dog professors.)"
An illustration from “Hogbook and Lazer Eyes” (Courtesy Fantagraphics)

Memorializing their dogs also includes what you could call a deleted scene from “Lady Dynamite,” featuring their dogs on set — before their scenes were ultimately cut.

“They did such a great job. They hit their marks,” Bamford said.

“Hogbook and Lazer Eyes” by Maria Bamford and Scott Marvel Cassidy is on sale Tuesday.

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