How I Fell Head Over Heels for Scott Pilgrim.
Yes, as the headline clearly states, I really like the creation of one Bryan Lee O’Malley. How did this come to be? The only comics I had read on a regular basis before were the Uncle Scrooge comics I read as a kid (an after all those years, it was still a big thrill to see Don Rosa at a comic convention last year). Being not your average comic book fan but at the same time engaging with comic book fans on an almost daily basis, i could not help but be aware the the 6th and final volume of the Scott Pilgrim series was coming out.
A few people who are known to me were already fans and they were trumpeting the fact that this awesome series would be coming to an end with this volume. However, I brushed off such claims as the hypnotic cries of the brainwashed. Why would I ever be interested in a comic book that looks like it could have come from Japan (seriously though, I have nothing against manga, I just don’t happen to read it myself).
Perhaps fate was working late one night, but long story short, the girlfriend got a 40% off coupon for Borders. So I says to myself, what they heck, let’s mosey on down to the one around the corner and see if this comic is even barely worthy of the hype. I figured I would read a few pages and if it intrigued me, then it might be worth spending the few bob.
A somewhat larger chunk of change later and I finished the final volume, at work, on a Wednesday morning with the bosses permission I might add. How did things manage to do a complete flip in between? Is the series really that good, or did I simply manage to find a comic that appealed to me? Perhaps a bit of both, so it makes sense to elaborate more on the many strengths that attracted me to the series.
Let’s start with the entire plot itself. If you wanted to date a really cute girl and you had to defeat seven of her evil ex-boyfriends, wouldn’t you have an interesting story to tell? I’ll admit, it took till the end of the first volume for me to appreciate the scale of the entire story-arc. it was only in later volumes did I appreciate the complexity of it as well.
The plot however, is only one aspect. The way that O’Malley (ah, a good old Irish name if ever there was one) tells the story is even more important. If you look past all the video game and pop-culture references (and there are many), there is plenty of genuine humour extracted from the characters themselves. The series therefore doesn’t really rely on any crutches for comedic relief. Now granted, there is plenty of self-reverential jokes and indeed more than a few instances where the fourth wall is broken and that causes no problems at all. In fact it makes the comic less serious in and of itself. It is after all, not meant to be taken as seriously as say, Batman or most other ‘traditional’ comics.
The drawing style, simple as it is, does work towards the comics benefit. Some may find it too simple. but I tend to think that combined with O’Malley’s style of layout, it works quite well. The last thing we need is for a full page-panel to be over-bearing in its detail. The character design is almost too simple. I will admit, it took me a while to be able to readily distinguish everyone, but once I became familiar with everyone, that ceased to be a problem.
The characters themselves are what sealed the deal for me on the series. I tend to favour strong, complex characters that, while flawed in one way or another, are still complete overall. Of course, Scott Pilgrim represents one of the most complex characters in the series, who is developing all the way up until the final volume. In contrast, Ramona is already developed, it is the layers of her character that are peeled away as the series progresses that take her from being the most intriguing to being the deepest character of them all.
The wider cast are all unique. It’s also fun to see how they all mesh together or on occasion, clash spectacularly. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how they interact with each other outside of Scott or Ramona. Of all the outside characters, perhaps my favourite is Kim Pine. Not really sure why, she just seems the most down to earth of the lot, despite her constant bickering with Scott.
A good story is nothing without a requisite villain and in that, we have not one, but seven! I’m not going to go into too much detail, but suffice to say, they are a eclectic bunch, and add their own flavour to each one of the volumes. The head honcho is of course, Gideon, a sinister fellow if ever there was one. sadly, I can’t say much about him without ruining the ending.
Which leads us to Scott and Ramona. Both are characters with very complex pasts. Both have said histories revealed throughout the series, although in Ramona’s case, it is revealed a stage at a time, whereas the reader is left to piece Scott’s together until the end when everything is wrapped up. This makes the two of them immensely fascinating characters. Scott, the loveable eejit, Ramona the downright mysterious American girl.
So why the heck should I care whether they get together? I’ll be damned if I don’t have my own relationship to take care of first. That, I’m afraid is a tricky one to answer, because that is the key to the entire series’ success. Just why has everyone (including Hollywood) taken an interest in this pair? Perhaps it is ingrained deep in the human psyche to find that lifelong mate. The fear of loneliness if one doesn’t. We don’t want to see Scott end up alone, (it’s made quite clear in volume 1 that even after a year, he still has not gotten over the fact that Envy Adams dumped him). He is us, and by us, I mean me, as I read the comic. I sure as hell want to see him succeed, because I know that if I were in a similar situation, I’d be fighting my ass off too (and you wondered why they were called the Fighting Irish) if there was even the slimest of chances that I could get the girl of my dreams.
In the end though, the characters made all the difference for me. Sure I loved the humour (both gratuitous and non-gratuitous), but I fell in love with everyone in the series, and I guess that is why I like it so much.
Bryan Lee O’Malley deserves a hearty slap on the back for creating such an awesome series of books. Will the eejits in Hollywood screw it up? The folks at the Comic-Con say no. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the meantime, I will be reading the series again from start to finish because there is so much take in, one reading does not do it justice.
Scott Pilgrim is the first comic series that I have collected, period. If that does not speak volumes about it’s quality, I don’t know what does, because I can be a very discerning person when it comes to the entertainment I love.