It’s no secret how I feel about Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series: it’s brilliant (check out my 10/10 review of the latest volume here). And I don’t mean some sort of internet hype machine brilliant, but rather legitimately a brilliant work of art that is funny and goofy and geeky but also speaks a lot of truth about relationships and growing up. And I feel like this work from O’Malley isn’t a fluke (check out Lost At Sea; while I don’t think it’s as polished as Scott Pilgrim it shows O’Malley as a writer and artist with a firm grasp on character and emotion. Anyone surprised by the emotional complexity of Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe probably didn’t read Lost At Sea).
As if this comic isn’t cool enough, it’s being turned into a movie, starring Michael Cera as Scott and co-written and directed by Edgar Wright. Yes, the guy behind Spaced and Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s his next film, prepping right now in Toronto. If ever there was a perfect melding of director and material, this is it.
Last week Bryan took some time out of his day to get on the phone with me. This is what we talked about.
The new volume of Scott Pilgrim shows a huge amount of growth on your
end; in the years that you’ve been doing this – as you’ve gotten older,
gotten married – has your relationship to Scott changed?
Yeah, but I also had the arc of the series planned out from the
beginning. But it is a growing up alongside Scott Pilgrim kind of thing.
Do you think you’re ahead of Scott when it comes to growing up?
Oh yes. Definitely. [laughs] It’s hard to keep in the mindset of a 23
year old when you’re pushing 30, but that’s why I’ve always wanted him
to grow with the series.
You have the arc that you set up in advance years ago. Are there times
that you look at the arc that you set up when you were younger and wish
that you had made different choices for it? Are there decisions that
you made back then for Scott that you want to change?
Not in so many words. It was really pretty vague in the first place, so
I always allowed myself some room for improvisation. Stuff from Volume
5 was not planned to this degree; I always knew they would split apart
at the end, but I didn’t know the details.
One of the interesting things in Volume 5 is that the twins have very
little backstory in comparison to some of the other Evil Exes. Was that
a conscious decision to background that element?
I think they got more backgrounded than I completely intended. I just
had to trim stuff here and there, and it seemed less essential at this
point. I’m also planning to do more of a real specific history in the
last book. I’ve been putting that off for a while.
So we’re going to get a good look at Ramona’s entire life or just the boyfriends?
Ummm… I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure of the scope of it yet.
I do love the idea that she has other ex-boyfriends who maybe aren’t
evil but are just dickish. I hope to find out more about that.
One of the things fans are wondering about is as we see things gear up on the movie, will Volume 6 hit before the film?
I like to think so. What I was saying the other day in New York [at New
York Comic Con] is that I think I can outrun Hollywood. They’re a
little bit slower and more lumbering than I am. So yeah, the plan is to
have it right before the movie comes out. I don’t know exactly when
that is yet, so it’s kind of vague.
How has the way you’ve approached the book changed since you started?
You’ve moved to America, you have a different life in a lot of ways.
Does this make it easier for you to focus on the book, or are there
more distractions now that there’s a movie, you’re married, all that?
I think I have become more professional as I age. I do focus on it
more. I work more on a schedule, a 9 to 5 thing. From that perspective
I’m better. I think the book was better this time; it was delivered on
time for once.
I’ve heard there’s going to be new editions of the books with different jacket designs?
It’s not announced or anything.
As the series comes into the home stretch is there any thought of some
kind of big collected edition, like that Complete Bone volume?
It’s a thing that hasn’t been completely hashed out yet. There are
various options for it; we talk about maybe doing something in color,
maybe hardcover, maybe collecting the first three and the second three
into two separate books or doing one with all of them. There are a lot
of options, and nothing is hammered out yet.
You guys have not been that aggressive with the merchandising. Is that
something you specifically decided on or is it just the way it’s worked
It’s been a little of both. For the most part it’s kind of laziness and
not getting on the ball. Ever. We keep talking about stuff, doing toys
and that kind of thing, but my publisher is small, there aren’t that
many people there, and they’re publishing a million other books too. We
just haven’t gotten off our duffs to do it yet. But hopefully some
stuff will come with the ramp up to the movie.
The cool thing about the movie is that so far they seem really
interested in using the artwork promotionally, as opposed to just
giving you a beach ball with Michael Cera’s face on it.
At this point how involved are you? You were up in Toronto recently,
but how involved do you see yourself being in the day-to-day of the
They definitely run a lot of stuff by me. Which I’m like, ‘Guys, you
don’t have to run that by me,’ but they still do. Which is cool.
They’re being really respectful. But when I went up there I was just
doing legal clearances and stuff – figuring out what I made up and what
I stole, basically. I was mostly sitting in an empty room; I don’t work
in the movie business, so I have no idea what was going on.
With the movie you have run head on into the internet. You have been bemoaning the internet.
I try not to bemoan it too much. If you were around me in person you’d hear a lot more.
How frustrating is it for you to log on the computer in the morning and see something that’s wildly untrue?
It’s aggravating, but I’m just trying to let it slide for the most part. But I definitely rant for a half hour sometimes.
What’s more annoying: when somebody publishes a rumor that’s not true
or when somebody writes something about the book and has obviously not
read it and seems to be making up aspects of the story?
I think they’re both equally annoying. There’s so much speculation and
rampant inaccuracy on the internet. Some of the stuff, I don’t know
where it comes from. The other day I got attributed as saying something
that I didn’t say, and they didn’t source it – they just claimed I
said. It can drive a man insane.
You’re a regular presence on Twitter. There are more and more creators
on Twitter; how does that affect you as a creator? You’re so in touch
with your audience, on a very personal level. How much of the feedback
do you pay attention to and how much do you have to tune out?
I don’t know if I should say! I kind of see Twitter for the most part
as a one way thing – it’s an announcement system. I announce whatever
stupid shit is on my mind, and occasionally I’ll engage in little
conversations, but for the most part I only interact with people I
already know. But I have like 2000 some followers at this point, so I
know there are a lot more people reading it than replying.
Do you catch yourself not saying things on Twitter because you’re suddenly aware of how many people are paying attention?
I mean definitely. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve had to curb over the
last couple of years, like my blog; I know that a lot of people read
it. People have even sourced it in movie blogs. People even source my
Twitter, which is… legit, I guess. But I have to be careful.
Volume 5 is just out, but we have to know – are you on vacation or are you writing 6?
I’m outlining it now so that I can get started on it as soon as
possible. The thing is that I found this happening with the fifth book:
I started writing it right after I read a draft of the screenplay and I
started writing in the voice of the movie rather than the comic voice.
They’re slightly different; they’re very similar but it’s for people
instead of comic characters. So I want to bang this out before I start
seeing people in character and acting stuff, because I know that will
warp me for a while.
That was actually my next question, whether you’re worried if the
actors in the roles will effect the way you approach the characters.
Does seeing Michael Cera as Scott does that impact the way you write
I haven’t see Michael Cera do it yet. Well, I’ve seen a little bit. I
saw so many auditions last year, for every role, and some of them stood
out. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the cadence of Stephen Stills’ or
whatever. But I have to remember to stick to the established cadences
in my mind rather than the ones the actors bring to the table.
One of the things a lot of fans are interested in is Michael Cera as
Scott. There are people who wonder if he’s the right choice, especially
since they see one sort of persona from Cera and wonder if he can
capture Scott’s up energy. What do you think, based on what you’ve seen?
I’m pretty sure he can do it. [laughs] People have really
different ideas of what Scott is like. A lot of people see Scott as
being really, really cool and really handsome… and I don’t know about
that. There was a good quote on the CHUD forum the other day where
somebody was taking these people to task. He said, ‘Scott is a guy who
cries when his roommate saves over his Final Fantasy game – you don’t
think his voice cracks from time to time?’
Me and Edgar and
Michael [Bacall] the writer, we don’t see Scott as being a hero-like
idol. We don’t see him as Zac Efron or whatever. Nobody ever suggested
anybody else to play Scott. I think Michael Cera is going to do a
fucking awesome job.