In 2004 Bryan Lee O’Malley showed the world of comic books something they hadn’t really seen before. O’Malley was a small time artist for Oni Press, having worked on a handful of projects. He had just released his first graphic novel, Lost At Sea, to a small but positive reception but he had his sights set on something bigger. Much bigger. The story goes that O’Malley listened to the song ‘Scott Pilgrim’ by the band Plumtree and suddenly the lightning struck. O’Malley knew what he had to do. It was simple really. By combining the American comic book techniques he grew up on with the eastern techniques of manga and his own personal experiences O’Malley knew he could create a comic book unlike any other. He could create Scott Pilgrim.
Scott Pilgrim is one of those amazing pieces of fiction that comes along once in a blue moon. The sort of fiction that taps into the cultural zeitgeist of the time. For me and so many other teenagers this series encapsulates the meandering nature of late teenage and early twenties life for people born in the English speaking western world. It’s obviously something O’Malley understands and it’s something he can connect to his readership with. If you’re unfamiliar it’s the plot of the series it’s best to start by watching the fantastic Edgar Wright film adaptation but it’s most easily summarised by saying its a battle for the heart of a girl.
The funny thing about the Pilgrim series is that it took awhile to gain traction, due to Oni Press’ relatively low profile, which Scott Pilgrim changed, the series was pretty unheard of for its first year of publication. In 2005 O’Malley was awarded the Doug Wright Award for best emerging talent and this began to shine a spotlight on the series. From 2004 to 2010 O’Malley released a new volume roughly every twelve months and as each one hit it found more awards and acclaim waiting for it. By the release of the sixth and final volume O’Malley’s fan base was huge and his series was being optioned for a film and video game. Needless to say the series had a huge impact on the comic community at large.
A problem the comic industry had in the late nineties was, simply put, a glut of super heroes. Too many cape and cowl stories had left the readers searching for something new and Scott Pilgrim didn’t just give the public that it also showed that there was a market for independent stories about every day life told well. It inspired new creators to tell different and more original stories and, at the end of the day, it laid the groundwork for Image comics to come along in more recent years as a rival Marvel to DC. Next we we’re going to jump ahead a little to Justice League: Origin and the New 52!!!
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for another Covert Coot article!