Monday, December 28, 2009

Scott Pilgrim vs The Weekly Crisis - An Introduction to Scott Pilgrim

"I'm doing manga set in Toronto. That's what it is." - Bryan Lee O'Malley (@radiomaru)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the major motion picture adaptation of the Canadian manga-style graphic novel series, is going to be released into theatres by Universal Studios in 2010. I thought, for those who are criminally behind on their comic book reading or just haven't heard about this great comic book series, a primer was in order before the movie came out.

Today's guest post is by Rick Chung, a journalist-in-training who blogs at Sad Robot, his personal pop culture and entertainment blog. His original article that inspired this post can be found here. You can also follow him on Twitter.


For the uninitiated, the Scott Pilgrim independent graphic novel series is an incredibly entertaining set of manga-style comic book fiction, written and drawn by Toronto-native, Bryan Lee O'Malley and published by Oni Press.

The Scott Pilgrim series is incredibly charming in a highly enjoyable in a remarkably honest way. Lee O'Malley is able to sum up the positive and negative experiences of being in your twenties with insatiable humour and heart. I can only describe the experience of reading Scott Pilgrim akin to watching a great independent film, an amazing concert, playing Super Mario, making out with a hot girl/guy, and partying all night, all at the same time without leaving your seat. Reading these comics is so satisfying on so many different levels.

The books really speak to the youth in everyone and frankly, they are just plain good fun. Do not be put off or fooled by the bright covers and girly packaging, no matter what your particular taste or preference for art. Scott Pilgrim is for boys and girls of all ages, colours, creeds, interests, and sensibilities, but particularly disaffected, self-aware twenty-somethings of this generation. This is just the kind of thing those with little to no interest in comic books or manga would probably enjoy most.


Scott Pilgrim currently has five volumes out (Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, vs. the World, the Infinite Sadness, Gets It Together, and vs. the Universe) with a sixth and final book on its way. The series is printed in the style of a Japanese manga comic in black-and-white with a digest-sized, easily readable format.

The story style is hyper-realistic with a succession of rapid-fire dialogue, fantasy sequences, pop culture references, hipster comedy, subspace portals, and video game battles and interludes. These books are unabashedly Canadian with many references to our culture, music, with the story taking place in downtown Toronto around many well-known locales and landmarks. The story unfolds in a charming way with witty banter and retro modern style. It really recreates the feeling of hanging and chilling with a bunch of cool, young people no matter what age you actually are.

The plot is simple enough. The titular unemployed slacker/lover/fighter/rock star/hero, Scott falls in love with the mysterious, new American girl in town, Ramona V. Flowers. He must fight and defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in video game style showdowns in order to date her, all while he starts dating an Asian high school girl ninja named Knives Chau, who falls in love with him and swears revenge on Ramona.

With the help of his disinterested band mates and gay roommate, Scott goes on a journey of wild misadventures and experiences, while learning absolutely nothing in the process. We all have had these kind of friends and relationships but probably not nearly as entertaining. Scott is that lovable, irresponsible, unemployed friend we all loved but wished would meet the right girl and grow up. Scott must navigate young adulthood, avoiding ex-girlfriends, and saving the world from evil vegan hipsters and vapid rock stars.

Each book serves as a game level with power ups and a end-level bosses (ex-boyfriends) to defeat before leveling up. Scott plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-omb while his his enemies and ex-girlfriend play in the ├╝ber-sucessful Canadian rock band, The Clash at Demonhead.


The books are highly addictive as Lee O'Malley transcends the art and medium of comics while adhering to its structure and bending its conventions. This series has amazing mainstream and crossover appeal which makes the idea of a live action movie so compelling. Anyone can read this and enjoy it. All of the characters generally suffer from the post-college malaise as they are in their early to mid-twenties.

These books are for everyone and again, I must stress, do not be fooled or put off by the sparkly appearance. You will more than likely enjoy Scott Pilgrim when you read it. Take a minute to read a few pages and you will be hooked for sure. What the series does is play off all the incredibly trivial, over dramatic, ridiculous, fun, stupid, frustrating experiences of young adulthood, throws in popular culture, hobbies, vices, adventure, and dials up the action and humour to 11. Scott Pilgrim has everything I love about the comic book medium as Scott acts as our unlikely hero with a rogue's gallery of supervillains he faces off against but in an original, indie rock style fashion.


Even though the series is unfinished with Lee O'Malley finishing up the yet unnamed sixth and final book, the movie version is already on its way. Based on all the books, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is being directed by Edgar Wright (@edgarwright) (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) with the creator, Bryan Lee O'Malley, heavily involved in the production and keeping the Canadian content.

The film was shot in Toronto and features a killer cast including many Canadians. Toronto-native Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) stars as Scott with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Death Proof) as Ramona. Fans of the series know that Lee O'Malley has injected a lot of visual humour and storytelling that feels cinematic and will hopefully translate to the big screen. The final book in the series will be released sometime next year, likely in conjunction with the film.


Verdict - Must Read. I cannot recommend the entire series highly enough and am looking forward to the film version which has been getting great buzz. Bryan Lee O'Malley really gets the humour in youth and all its drama in a heightened, fantastical fashion. The self-aware nature of the series with it's rapid-fire pop culture references is a delight. These are great books for everyone. Go read them now.

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Anonymous said...

Nice guest post. But I really don't like scott pilgrim. is it supposed to be so juvenile, while thinking its adult? I just can't call it great work, merely good.

Rick said...

Fair enough. I don't know about you, but my early twenties was, and continues to be, fairly juvenile no matter how adult I thought I was. To me, that was the point.

Kirk Warren said...

That's how I view it too, Rick. It's supposed to be that time period when you're still the young adult. Not quite grown up and settled down, but not a child either. Just captures those relationships and thought process perfectly. Everyone knows a guy like Scott or can put themselves in his shoes.

Add the various pop culture references and video game, music and manga influences and it practically encapsulates my life and everything I enjoy.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Awesome write up, Rick. Clearly you are a massive fan, but you've boiled it all down to sell it to others as well.
And I admit, I was massively jeuvenile as an early twentysomething single guy. I still am as a late twentysomething married dude too.

Matt Ampersand said...

One of these days I need to read this series, don't I?

Primewax said...

I guess I need to read this too. I've been putting it off for a while, but I guess I should before the movie comes out.

orongish said...

I remember picking this up at the local book shop 5 years ago. It was just a impulse buy at the time.
It's good to see how far the series has come.

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