Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Finest Hour: Celebrating Scott Pilgrim
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, the first volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels, was published on this day, August 18, in 2004. It introduced the twentysomething Torontonian slacker to the world, and secured Bryan Lee O’Malley a place in the comics canon.
Scott Pilgrim doesn’t do much. He plays bass in the band Sex Bob-omb, he lives in an apartment mostly paid for by his roommate Wallace Wells, and he goes on dates with Knives Chau, a cute high schooler who is way too into him. His life changes one day when he places an order on Amazon.ca which gets delivered by Ramona Flowers, a cute hipster woman his own age, on rollerblades. She starts appearing in his dreams, as the subspace portals she uses to deliver packages so quickly happen to go through his head.
Scott becomes enamored of Ramona, eventually breaking off his relationship with Knives to pursue her, but discovers that he has to defeat Ramona's seven evil exes to do so. He fights the first evil ex, Matthew Patel, when he interrupts a Sex Bob-omb show, and the rest appear in the next five volumes of the series: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, and Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour.
The Scott Pilgrim series is an interesting mix of young adult romance, Japanese comics, fantasy, and video game nostalgia. The black and white pages of the first published versions are both reminiscent of manga and North American indie comics. The elevated emotions and heightened stakes of the comics could also be found in superhero comics, Sailor Moon, or even one’s own memories of high school. O’Malley peppered Scott Pilgrim with nerdy references but also imbued them with meaning. The series has all the epic comic book-style fights you could want, but ultimately Scott wins in the end by growing up and realizing that maybe he’s not the perfect hero he thought he was.
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life was not O’Malley’s first work in the comics world. He had previously illustrated and lettered comics for Oni Press, who later published Scott Pilgrim. His first graphic novel Lost at Sea came out the year before Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. Lost at Sea also features a coming-of-age narrative mixed with magic realism, but O’Malley didn’t have his big break until Scott Pilgrim.
O’Malley received much critical praise for the Scott Pilgrim series. In 2005, he was nominated for three Harvey Awards for Best New Talent, Best Cartoonist, and Best Graphic Album of Original Work for Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. He also won a Doug Wright Award that year for Best Emerging Talent. Over the following years, O’Malley would go on to win a Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist in 2006, a Harvey Award in 2007, and an Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication in 2010 for Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe.
Beyond the awards, Scott Pilgrim was named one of IGN’s top 100 comic book heroes in 2011, and the series was adapted into a movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in 2010. Directed by Edgar Wright, the movie brings the video game and comic book references to the fore, without detracting from the emotional journey of Scott and his pals. A video game, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, also came out in 2010.
Bryan Lee O’Malley has gone on to create the graphic novel Seconds, winning a Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Cartoonist for that one as well, and Snotgirl, an ongoing Image comic series with Leslie Hung. It’s safe to say O’Malley will have a long career in comics, and Scott Pilgrim has ensured he can continue to make weird, magic realist, creator-owned works.