Monday, August 16, 2010

An excerpt from the life of Scott Pilgrim

Above is a short video from Adult Swim that excerpts a flashback from the pages of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series. Below is an interview that I conducted with O'Malley for Broken Frontier a few years back.

One of the breakout comics of the last few years was a book called Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim combines action, romance and rock and roll into a package that puts the funny back into funny books. Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim met with Neil Figuracion at the San Diego Comic-Con to discuss his roots, his slacker friends and how vegans earn their psychic powers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: It seems like Super Mario was a big part of your life. Did you spend a lot of time with your friends…

BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY: [Chuckles] I guess so. I feel like everyone around my age did. Yeah, Super Mario 3 was a really big deal when we were all little kids. It’s just sort of like the fabric of my childhood, I guess.

BF: You were the artist on the second Hopeless Savages series. Was that your first comics work?

BLO: No, it was the first thing that I drew that… (hesitating) No, it wasn’t. I worked with my friends – they were in a thing called Studio XD, back in 2000-2001. I lettered their book Last Shot and I worked with Udon for a while doing various things. I did this Spider-man book for little kids. Then I inked an issue of Queen and Country and then I did Hopeless Savages.

BF: What’s the story behind Lost at Sea ?

BLO: I was in California with the Studio XD guys. I was really angsty and had a lot going on in my mind. So I wrote this book that was from the perspective of this teenage girl. Part of the thing I was feeling was just too ridiculous to be a twenty-one year old guy.

BF: Do you feel something like a teenage girl?

BLO: Oh, I used to. I used to be like an angsty sixteen year old girl. I was just really overemotional, over-thinking everything. I was lost at sea, so the book just came out of my mind set. So that was like trying to clear my mind out a bit. Same with Scott Pilgrim, really. Just trying to clear out some of the nerdy junk culture.

BF: Well it seems like Scott Pilgrim is a pretty big change of pace from that.

BLO: It is, but more like a change… like when I’m looking back at my teen years it’s more angsty and like [makes an agitated gesture] whoooo! Then when I’m looking back a little later, like in my twenties, I’m still kinda angsty but it’s not the main thing. I’ve had other stuff to do, other stuff on my mind - relationships and friends ships and stuff like that. So I’m kinda looking more outside of myself, whereas Lost at Sea is really, really internal.

BF: Scott Pilgrim seems like the first great action romantic comedy of the new millennium.

BLO: [Nervous laughter] Okaaay…

BF: How did you initially pitch the series to Oni?

BLO: I don’t totally remember. It was a bit smaller at first. I think it was going to be one book originally. The pitch was basically that it was Blue Monday, which is one of their books – Blue Monday meets Dragon Ball!

BF: Was the reader response surprising?

BLO: It has been, gradually. We’ve been doing it for two years now. The first one came out almost exactly two years ago. At first there was not much [response]. You know, a trickle. It’s just been snowballing really, really steadily. By this time, it’s pretty big.

BF: Your hero Scott seems to be on the tail-end of adolescence. Do you know a lot of guys like that?

BLO: Yeah. All my friends are like that, and I was like that for a long time. I don’t know if it’s always been like that but people in their twenties right now are not growing up, really. They’re still acting like teenagers, [but] they’re just getting apartments and getting drunk every night instead. Having nothing really to do, they’re working in the service industry and stuff. I’m just trying to take a look at that world. A lot of my friends, it’s just like you wish they’d grow up and do something with their lives but they don’t. So that’s kind of Scott Pilgrim.

BF: And then there’s Scott’s true love, Ramona Flowers. Was meeting Hope Larson like that?

BLO: I started writing the book before – not like the actual book but taking notes for the series – before I actually met Hope. But then it just naturally developed. The love interest became sort of my love interest for the time. So she became this American girl, but there’s bits of other girls I know. It’s kind of an amalgamation.

BF: Scott has to defeat Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends. Is love ever easy?

BLO: Not really. Not when it’s any good. It’s usually not Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends hard, but it’s never super easy.

BF: Is there a particularly Canadian point of view in the book?

BLO: I don’t know. I mean it’s one of those things that it’s hard to sort of answer yourself. Like other people look at it and maybe they’ll know. I mean probably [there is], because I grew up in Canada and that’s where I spent my whole life. I’d like to think so, but I feel like a lot of Canadian fiction in entertainment, like TV and movies and stuff, [portray] and attitude that I don’t really like; like really kind of meek.

BF: What would be an example of this meekness?

BLO: I don’t know. I’m probably just making it up?

BF: Well, Canadians are stereotypically polite.

BLO: They’re polite, yeah, and sort of subservient in… What’s that other word I’m looking for? I don’t know. They’re a little too nice – almost passive-aggressive. Yeah, I feel like Canada needs to, I mean not Canada itself but Canadian artists and writers need to stand up for themselves more maybe.

BF: Well, what are real Canadians like if they’re not meek and polite?

BLO: Well they are meek and polite but they’re not… I don’t really have my point of view on this formulated yet. I’m in the process of it. I might be doing some writing for my friend who works for the CBC. You know, I’ll figure it out as I go along.

BF: I actually served your vegan shepherd’s pie recipe for a family dinner.

BLO: Did it go over well?

BF: It went well.

BLO: Some people came over yesterday and they were like “We keep trying to make your vegan shepherd’s pie and it’s not good.” They keep screwing it up and it turns to liquid or something. And it’s like I think you might be using too much liquid. You just have to use a splash really. I don’t know what they’re doing wrong.

BF: Actually it wasn’t that hard for me.

BLO: Yeah, it’s not really that hard.

BF: I guess I’m curious about this whole vegan king fu mythology that you’re creating. Where does that come from?

BLO: [Chuckles] Well, my wife was vegan for a while. Some of my friends were vegan. Some vegans are dicks about it. Not my friends – not most vegans, but some of them are like… I’ve heard vegans say things like “Vegans don’t sweat!” Like that kind of thing.

BF: [Stifling laughter]

BLO: So I just kind of built it up in my mind. I was probably reading Akira or something and I was like oh yeah, so vegans can fly and destroy you with their mind. It was like a natural progression in my mind.

BF: If you could mash up a few different bands, what would Sex Bob-omb sound like?

BLO: Sh*t, I’ve done this before. I remember saying it was early Bis and Uncle Tupelo. I think that’s a good combination.

BF: I hear rumors of a Scott Pilgrim movie.

BLO: I do too. I don’t know. Someone came by [the Oni booth] earlier and said “Oh! They turned in a second draft of the screenplay!” and I was like huh? Then another guy asked “How many drafts? How many screenplays have they written?” I don’t know what’s going on.

BF: Is there actual talk about a real movie.

BLO: There is talk. There is [inaudible] signed somewhere. There’s a few people involved. Edgar Wright was at the show and he’s supposed to be directing it, maybe. If he decides to. It’s not green lit, so we’ll see – fingers crossed.

BF: Would you want to be involved in that process?


BF: More involved than you are right now, apparently.

BLO: I’m involved. I’ve talked to the writer and the director. I’ve been consulting. I’d like some more money.

BF: Who wouldn’t? What would you want the movie to feel like?

BLO: Well if you’ve seen any of Edgar Wright’s work…

BF: What’s he done?

BLO: Shaun of the Dead and Spaced which is a British show. It’s just started airing [on BBC America] actually. Spaced is a lot like Scott Pilgrim in a lot of ways. So I think he has my sensibility. I’d like it to feel like the comics, but in a movie. I think it’s do-able.

BF: So you’re not going to be involved in scripting the film?


BF: So what’s next for Bryan Lee O’Malley?

BLO: I’m just working on the fourth Scott Pilgrim book right now. I haven’t started drawing it yet. Everyone’s like “When’s it coming out? Is it coming out next week?” No, it’s not. It’s going to be out next year, sorry. It just takes a long time.

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