WEIRDLAND: Bryan Lee O'Malley

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bryan Lee O'Malley

"The FCBD story introduced Scott and his friends to first-time readers and it also provided fans with another adventure that they'd embarked on. Wallace Wells, Ramona Flowers and Scott are characters that would appeal to the average American reader, and O’Malley reiterated what he said before that the characters were originally loosely based on himself, his girlfriend and his roommate when he was then 23 years old. “But I'd like to think they have since grown into their own unique personalities. I certainly don't think of them as myself, my roommate and my girlfriend anymore, but I do think "what would he say in this situation?" or whatever, when I feel stuck.” Source:


The "Scott Pilgrim" influence is not only in digest-format indie books, but in a lot of new comics that blend together a lot of different pop-culture touchstones that the creators are interested in, in the same way that you blend together manga, indie rock, video games and so on.

Brian O'Malley: You know I sometimes worry that it's like a cultural dead-end if everyone's just kind of regurgitating. I know I'm kind of part of a scene of stuff like that. Even Edgar Wright, who's doing the adaptation, is kind of in the same area in terms of creating a synthesis of everything else that's gone into you as a younger person and turning it into your own art later. But is it really you, or is it just regurgitation?

-What is your take on Scott himself? He's a good guy, he's a funny guy, but he's also kind of an unrepentant slacker.

Bryan O'Malley: He's a profoundly lazy person. He never really goes after anything-he just lets it all fall in his lap. You sort of highlight the worst parts of your own personality. I was a gifted kid, and when I was growing up I didn't want to do anything unless it was easy. It's the same thing with comics for me. Comics were the only things that were easy enough for me not to give up on through high school and university. Scott is just like that, but turned up to 10. He never does anything but stuff comes to him anyway. He's just really lucky.

-So he is a reflection of you in some way.

Bryan Lee O'Malley: Yeah, definitely. He's some aspects of me that I like and others that I really don't like.

He's also the archetypal stupid character. It's fun to write a stupid protagonist because you don't really have to know anything.

-Do you feel that Scott's grown over the course of the volumes?

Bryan Lee O'Malley: The idea is that he will have grown by the end. Hopefully. [laughs] I don't think it's very apparent yet. Any growth that he's made has been relatively minor even though he would think that it's major.

Volume Four addresses that more. Source:

"In cheekily appropriating his title from the Smashing Pumpkins' epic third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, O'Malley is winking at Billy Corgan's pretensions, but that doesn't mean he avoids repeating them". Source:

In fact, there are notable similarities between the two Infinite Sadnesses. Each is an artful, ambitious third release by an artist who flourished on the fringe and whose work is suddenly being recognized by the mainstream.

Volume three even includes a list of tunes for a "mix CD" that was O'Malley's soundtrack while working on the book. "I don't feel like I'm a big authority on music," he admits. "I'm not a 'tastemaker.' Source:

O'Malley was a big anime geek in high school, though, and his trademark visual approach in Scott Pilgrim is a blend of manga-style eyes and actions and a very North American sense of

melancholy. "Lost at Sea" was a dreamy, introspective book that plunged into the depths of its characters’s psyches to drag truths to the surface, one at a time. I think that one of the reasons why this first volume of Scott Pilgrim instantly worked so well for me is that it doesn’t try to be Lost at Sea 2: Still Lost but instead goes wildly in a different direction. Scott Pilgrim is fast and goofy, catapulting Scott from one situation to the next.

From the cast of characters that Scott gets to interact with to the scenes just with Scott, there was always something to bring a smile to my face, be it the little “ratings” that appear next to each character as they’re introduced, to the dry wit where the reality of the world is casually noted in contrast to Scott’s crazy actions.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any seriousness in Scott Pilgrim. Scott’s first extended encounter with Ramona Flowers, for instance, starts off silly but gradually moves into something that shows a great amount of maturity. If it had just shown up that way it might have felt out of place, but O’Malley slips these moments into the book so perfectly and gradually that it never feels like the tone of the book has shifted until you stop and think about it afterwards. Of course, lest you think it’s ever gotten too serious, O’Malley responds with rock-and-roll-meets-Nintendo fight scene to end all fight scenes. (You may think I’m making this up. I’m not. And it’s wonderful)

In the end, the writing for Scott Pilgrim is just good old plain fun.

The art is unsurprisingly strong in Scott Pilgrim. At a casual glance it might be easy to categorize it as being “cartoony” but there’s a lot more going on here.

From the opening page with Ramona’s head tilted down as she walks across the snowy lawn, to her wide-eyed expression of terror as she shows up unexpectedly to Scott’s front door, there’s a lot of variety and energy in the art. These aren’t loosely-drawn characters because O’Malley has no choice; it’s a very deliberate drawing style, able to bring a lot of depth of emotion onto each of their faces and bodies as they appear on the page. Additionally, O’Malley brings Toronto to life as a living, breathing location in Scott Pilgrim, with each location coming across as more than just a background, but as real neighborhoods and places that our characters are moving through.

Little details like the ever-growing snow that Scott and Ramona plunge through comes across almost like part of a dream, with the sudden diving down towards the door amidst the assault of the elements on our characters. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and it gives the entire book an extra high quality level with its entire look and feel. Sources: and

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