I am, as many of the people who have to endure me on a daily basis can assure you, a Scott-a-holic. I find Kim Pine’s attitude endearing, I love Wallace Wells as much as a straight man can with cheating on his Good Lady, and I can relate to Scott, in all the joy and squirming guilt that entails. Bryan Lee O’Malley has created something that accurately (or maybe that should read honestly) reflects a group of nerds, geeks, misfits and pleasant ne’er-do-wells. It’s not the first series to do so, it will not be the last, but it has struck a powerful shared nerve amongst its fans nonetheless.

And now there is a movie coming out – did you know that there is a trailer for it on the internet?

A quick preamble for those unfamiliar with the series: Scott Pilgrim is a 23 year old Canadian with a band but without a job. When Scott meets Ramona Flowers, the literal girl of his dreams, things get complicated – not only is he already dating seventeen year old high-schooler Knives Chau, Ramona brings her own baggage in the form of seven evil exes whom Scott must defeat in combat is he wants to date her. In this series of events, you will at some point meet demon hipster chicks who fight in a dance-off, skateboarding movie stars, vegan psychics, recipes for shepherds pie, a man with possibly the worst memory in the world, eerie kitties of purpose unknown and a Final Fantasy approach to getting a job. Some or all of these may well be in the movie. Irrespective of that, boredom is not really an option.

The series could quite easily degenerate into ridiculous hipster nonsense that tries too hard. That it doesn’t is down in no small part to the skilled hands and brain of its creator. O’Malley treats the subject matter with both a critical eye and genuine sincerity. Scott is a likeable fellow, but he is also a tremendously selfish ass who doesn’t so much ignore other people’s feelings so much as not bother to check. He frequently veers from being someone we support to someone we want to smack with a surprising frequency – the balance then is kept by his friends, who by turns admonish and care for him. His supporting cast is an interestingly developed bunch who are initially as fun archetypes rather than stereotypes, but who later blossom into more fully formed entities with their own motivations and perspectives on Scott and his behaviour.

Not only that, but they are people we can recognise, both in ourselves and the people around us – everyone knows someone who is like Kim Pine, sarcasm masking a deeply emotional individual who has much greater concerns than would seem obvious. Everyone knows someone like Wallace – funny, charming, prone to drinking just a leeeeeetle bit too much… This is indeed what I meant when I described the series as being fundamentally honest earlier. For all the whizz-bang hilarity of the constant stream of video game references, exploding set pieces and silly ideas, Scott Pilgrim is the story of a young guy that’s not really that young any more and needs to start growing up. This metaphor is taken to a whole new level as the books continue – by the fifth volume, we barely see the battles any more as they drift into the background, acting as pathetic fallacy for the characters emotions rather than set pieces in their own right. Even Scott is wearying of them, which in and of itself raises questions – should a relationship be this much work? Is it worth overcoming all these obstacles? And who should be the one to decide this? The points are never actively raised, yet there they are, waiting for the audience all the same.

It would be remiss of me to imply that the work is simply down to the writing, but O’Malley’s art fits the tone and requirements of the work perfectly. It has an open and expressive style which varies from book to book – in no small part due to O’Malley constant improval as an artist. The first book looks almost primitive compared to its descendants, the inking scratchier and rough, yet it still oozes a charm and enthusiasm that guides the reader through. The deceptive simplicity also allows the reader to more easily project their own feelings and reactions onto the characters. I sometimes gauge how much I like an artist by how much I wish I could draw like them. So far as Bryan Lee O’Malley’s abilities are concerned, I wish I had his hands. He’s just that good.

The movie, since it was in a way the impetus of the post, is being directed by Edgar Wright, he of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. Tonally, to work on this is closer to his breakout series SPACED than either of his aforementioned films, albeit on a much grander scale. From what the trailers, video blogs and various leaked fragments have revealed, it looks to be an exceptionally faithful adaptation, faithful being the key word here. Images from the series are recreated, but are reconfigured and transformed into a movie format, rather than the slavish exactitude of Sin City. It even goes further than other comic adaptations by incorporating sound effects and comic visualisation to enhance the sensations on display – watch in the trailer how speed lines fly around the characters, or how hitting drums creates extra visual kicks. The last movie to attempt something along these lines was the unfairly maligned SPEED RACER, but Wright is merging the kaleidoscopic explosion of the Wachowkski’s wonderful live action cartoon into something much more “natural” and evocative.

Hype is building up this Summer due not just to the movie coming out in August, but the final volume of the series as well. With the fifth book ending on a rather epic cliffhanger (it was described upon release as The Empire Strikes Back of Scott Pilgrim), Scott-a-holism looks set to reach an all time high, and rightly so.

Previews of the comics for those interested can be found here.
15 June 2010: There is also a video game in the works, to meet all your chibi-Streets of Rage 2 needs!