COMIC-CON 2010: Hollywood invades the Scott Pilgrim comics

July 21, 2010 | 9:32 p.m.

Todd Martens, the lead writer on Pop & Hiss, the must-read music blog, continues his guest coverage of Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” which plugs its pop-culture amp into comic books, comedy and cool-kid music.

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Those who picked up the sixth and final volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s Scott Pilgrim series, “Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour,” should not, said O’Malley, be too worried about spoiling the ending of Edgar Wright‘s big-screen adaption, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” They deviate – a little.

“They’re different to some degree,” said O’Malley, who recently spoke to Hero Complex in advance of Comic-Con and the Aug. 13 release of the “Scott Pilgrim” film. “As we went on, we converged more than I originally thought we would. The book definitely changed. I don’t know if it was just pressure from the audience or me growing up, but it evolved out of what it was originally going to be into something different, and hopefully better. So did the movie. We kind of found the same endings from different directions.”

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The final book was released Tuesday by Portland, Ore.’s Oni Press. It brings to a conclusion Scott Pilgrim’s battles with the seven evil exes of the object of his obsession, Ramona Flowers. Hero Complex HQ didn’t receive an advance, so this post won’t contain any spoilers. This writer may have made the mistake of ordering it from a certain online retailer rather than partaking in one of the midnight events at such fine Los Angeles booksellers as Meltdown Comics and the Secret Headquarters, but there’s always the hopeless romantic dream that it will be carried into the office today by a gal on roller blades.

OK, so that scenario isn’t going to happen (sigh). But the reality of making the film did seep into O’Malley’s fantastical books, especially as O’Malley, a recent transplant to Los Angeles, spent more time on the Toronto set of the film. For one, the artist noted that rock ‘n’ roll femme fatale Envy Adams, the woman who sent Scott Pilgrim into a tailspin of romantic insecurity, made a comeback in Volume 6 — a return influenced in some part by Hollywood.

“I’m not 25 anymore,” said O’Malley, who published the first volume of the Scott Pilgrim series in 2004. “My friends aren’t starving artists anymore. I was meeting rock stars and all this junk. It was a strange world, and a different version of Toronto than I had ever known. All these famous people were acting like I was part of the club, but I never fit in. It was the L.A. version of Toronto. That went into the book a little bit.

“I had characters who could bring in that element,” O’Malley continued. “That’s why Envy Adams kind of comes back in the last book.”

The Envy Adams character has a pivotal role in the film as well. Brought to life by Brie Larson, she’s cool and exotic professionalism compared with Michael Cera‘s rudimentary bass skills and neurotic ticks. Yet she’s evidence that Cera’s character has romantic baggage of his own, further riffing on the film’s central metaphor that dating only gets more painful as one gets older.

As the leader of the Clash at Demonhead, Envy was also a rock star, something O’Malley thought he would never wholly identify with. Yet the writer was suddenly finding himself having to write the final books in the series as attention and speculation about Wright’s film grew.

“That became more important,” O’Malley said. “Envy becomes my way back into the book. She becomes my viewpoint. She’s the one who moved away and made famous, and all of a sudden that was me, and that was weird.”

Wright empathized with O’Malley. The director noted that the second season of his 1999 British comedy series “Spaced,” which starred the show’s writers Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes as a pair of unlikely roommates, was created after critics’ feedback had been absorbed.

“I wish we had written the second one in a vacuum,” Wright said. “Bryan was going through a very similar thing that we went through with the second season of ‘Spaced.’ It’s fascinating to hear what people think, but you don’t want to listen to good ideas. You need to feel like what you’re doing is pure.”

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But even if Hollywood worked its way into O’Malley’s vision, it was still twisted to fit his original comic tone. In the third volume of the series, for instance, Scott Pilgrim faces off with Todd Ingram, Envy’s current pretentious rock-stud boyfriend and one who has a special power: veganism. The strength to avoid dairy products makes Ingram simply “better than most people,” dialogue in the film that is largely taken verbatim from the books.

“Watching them talk about vegan powers,” O’Malley said, “I was like, ‘What have I done? Is this going to be too weird for normal people to watch?’ It was fascinating — and horrible – to see all my weirdness thrown back in my face.”

– Todd Martens

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Photos, from top: Michael Cera in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Credit: Universal Pictures. The cover of “Scott Pilgrim Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour.” Credit: Bryan Lee O’Malley / Oni Press. Envy Adams brags about Todd Ingram in “Scott Pilgrim Volume 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness.” Credit: Bryan Lee O’Malley / Oni Press


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