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“Rating: Awesome”

I was going to start this post by asserting that I haven’t followed more illustrious bloggers into hiatus because I had gotten tired of writing, but only because of a total lack of time, not to mention technology meltdowns that have been resolved at least in the past week. But then I realized that there is even more too it than that. Basically since the beginning of the Peiratikos blog, my interest in comics has been waning. Occasionally there’s a Seaguy to perk me up, but I mostly stick with it because I like talking with Steven about things we’ve both read and because I enjoy some of my fellow writers in the blogosphere and because it’s good practice to be writing. But I was uninspired and missing blogging only in that I felt some guilt about not keeping up with it. Then last week I got some sort of flu and was stuck in bed and ended up reading something that changed all of that. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, reading Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan O’Malley was something of a conversion experience.

I agree with Steven about the contents of the book, though I don’t necessarily endorse quoting of Foreigner lyrics. Scott is a relentlessly self-absorbed 23-year-old Romantic musician in a nonsexual relationship with 17-year-old Chinese-Canadian Knives Chau who forsakes her (kinda) for the literal girl of his dreams, super-cool American rollerblading delivery girl Ramona Flowers. But there’s more to it than that. For one thing, the art is amazingly cute, unique manga-ish flatly layered yet static black-and-white scenes. It’s cute, very cute. I know I said that already, but I emphasize because I might have avoided it for fear of cuteness had Steven not pushed for it, because I’m afraid that cute stories can’t live up to my cuteness standards, whereas ugly stories tend to be fine at staying ugly. But what’s more impressive is that Scott is such a likable hero even while his faults are all totally evident. It’s clear why his bandmates are charmed with Scott (and also why Kim can see through him) and why his roommate Wallace tolerates his general helplessness. He’s endearingly self-assured, unquestioningly sure that he’s the hero of his own narrative.

So there I was, 24 and not in a band but soaking in the bath, trying to open my sinuses, feeling frumpy and unfriendly, and Scott Pilgrim managed to get through anyway. I don’t know what more to say than that it was charmingly written, with a feel of both real affection and real communication that is rare in comics. Scott Pilgrim made me wonder what ever became of all the bands I hung out with back in high school, when I was a high-strung non-physical Catholic school girl not unlike Knives. I assume many of them think of themselves in the same inflated terms Scott Pilgrim would use to assess his own life, but somehow this is much easier to tolerate in a fictional character than it would be in my old circle of friends if we hadn’t all drifted in our own directions. The funniest line is not, as Steven erroneously believes, Scott’s lack of knowledge about’s web address, but that when major characters get ratings (whether as to hotness or just general goodness is unclear) Scott’s 19-year-old sister is rated “‘T’ for Teen.”

And obviously I successfully coerced Steven into reading Scott Pilgrim, meaning that I got an email on my first day back to work saying “Not only is everything grammatical and spelled correctly, it’s intelligent, witty, pomo playful.” That first part is almost the most essential in my book, as I think everyone is right to refuse to take comics seriously as long as comics writers (/artists/letterers) are unwilling to write properly and get their writing edited before going to press. (Most recently, this meant fury at Peter David or whichever Captain Marvel staffer couldn’t bother to do a quick search to realize that Anne Heche is an Anne-with-an-E. Seriously, people, this is the easiest stuff ever, and it makes you look like morons and makes me despise you. Trust me on this.) At any rate, Scott Pilgrim is seriously well-written, funny and poignant and self-aware, smart without being at all pretentious, full of goofy banalities without being stupid. It was a little depressing to see how young Bryan Lee O’Malley is, but I’m ok with the idea that I’m not going to accomplish much, so it’s not a competition. At any rate, he’s clearly very talented, an excellent storyteller with a good ear for dialogue and an eye for the details that matter. I look forward to seeing the next installment of Scott Pilgrim’s life (and we have to wait ’til 2005??) and whatever else he’ll be creating after.


  1. Jeff says:

    I read Scott Pilgrim this weekend, after hitting up three stores before finding a copy (in fairness, at least one of those stores didn’t have it because they had sold out). I can’t even begin to express how impressed I was. O’Malley has grown by leaps and bounds since Lost at Sea, which I’d rate a solid “ok” and is the reason I didn’t pre-order Scott Pilgrim. What a great book!

    — 23 August 2004 at 4:11 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Like many other things, Lost at Sea slipped below my radar, perhaps because I wasn’t really buying comics when it came out. So Steven and I raced around to all our local comics stores looking for it, with no luck. I’m glad the word about Scott Pilgrim is getting out, though, because I adore it. And we all know everyone should read the things I like!

    — 23 August 2004 at 5:17 pm (Permalink)