Scott Pilgrim: genius comic about a slacker who has to fight his love's seven evil ex-boyfriends: sweet, funny and great!

I don't know what took me so long, but I finally got around to reading Bryan Lee O'Malley's inspired, hilarious, snarky, delicious graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim (though I know how I got around to reading them finally: I ran into Scott McCloud at the Toronto Comic Arts Fest and he said, "You have to read 'Scott Pilgrim,' it's about a guy who can only date the love of his life after he defeats her seven evil ex-boyfriends!").

I sent away for a review set of the first five volumes -- I'm not sure, but I think there'll be six in all -- but they were promptly stolen by my wife, who wouldn't give them back, so I had to buy another set at Forbidden Planet in London and then drop pretty much everything to read them, at speed, howling with laughter and turning down corners on pages I wanted to save for posterity.

The premise is pretty much as McCloud described it: Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old Toronto slacker who falls in love with an Amazon delivery woman who's just moved from America, but in order to date her, he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who have a variety of super powers (my favorite is the vegan, who has the vegan power of moving things with his mind). On the way, we find out about Scott's friends -- slackers, successes, screw-ups, beauty queens, lovelorn ninjas, a whole charming host of them -- and his history and run through a series of genuinely touching, ha-ha-only-serious flashbacks about Scott's life.

The setting is crack for me, since it's the Toronto of my young adulthood -- they have one epic battle at Casa Loma, the weird castle where I got married; they spend their nights drinking bad beer and eating terrible food at Sneaky Dees, where I practically lived for several years, especially when they were a 24-hour joint on Bloor Street; and there's a brilliant fight-scene at the magnificently kitschy monster five-and-dime Honest Eds -- rendered with sweet affection and a good eye.

But the best part are the little tossed-up popcult fillips, like the 8-bit "PEE" status-bar that slowly scrolls to empty over a couple panels as Scott stands at a urinal, or the One-Up face that pings into existence when Scott earns an extra life.

Reading this reminds me of the first time I read Generation X and discovered a creator who was funny, touching, smart and plugged into many of the same things that my life revolved around. The Globe and Mail called it "Canada's Tank Girl," and I think that's as good a strapline as any. I can't recommend it highly enough -- and hey, there's a pretty decent-looking film-adaptation in the works, too!

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim Versus The World

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim, Vol 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

Scott Pilgrim Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe

Scott Pilgrim - Comics By Bryan Lee O'Malley


  1. Yeah, ‘Canada’s Tank Girl’… except the protagonist is male. Fail. Well, it still looks fun, I’m gonna check it out…

  2. I love this series, and it’s being turned into a movie starring Micheal Cera in the title role.

  3. Buy them all, read ’em at once! The film’s going to be amazing, but the books really should come first and foremost.

    And if you want to see a masterclass in how to build hype for a film, just follow director Edgar (he of Shaun of the Dead) Wright’s dripfeed flickr page.

  4. “Knives,” huh? Pretty unusual name. Wonder Mr. O’Malley ever saw an anime called Trigun.

    Just sayin’.

  5. Oh, thank God. I thought I was the last person on Earth to read them when I picked them up last month. If I read them before Cory, that means I’m that much more awesome than him. :D

  6. Better late than never! The SP series is sooo great and I was particularly please with the last volume. Now it’s going to be years before O’Malley releases Volume 6. All for me to finish the entire thing on a 25 minute train ride.

  7. Scott Pilgrim was the first thing my comics-obsessed friend handed me a couple of months ago when I asked him for some reading material. Great stuff.

  8. I can’t recommend this enough. The nerd-humor runs deep, but isn’t done in a “HA HA GET IT REMEMBER THAT THING?” cheap nostalgia style. Very good stuff.

  9. Thanks to some friends, I just started reading comic books. Scott Pilgrim was the first I’ve bought on my own vs. borrowing.

  10. “Yeah, ‘Canada’s Tank Girl’… except the protagonist is male. Fail. Well, it still looks fun, I’m gonna check it out…”

    Still gender obsessed?

  11. Does anyone else think Michael Cera seems really wrong for this?

    After 3 volumes, Scott’s kindof a bad boy. I think maybe Cera was chosen for local authenticity.

  12. @6: If you have a problem with Knives, your head will explode when you get to Stephen Stills and Young Neil.

  13. They are indeed great comics. My wife also loves them, but she does share them so I didn’t have to buy 2 of each. :-)

  14. “Scott Pilgrim” is the best comic I’ve read in ages, and one of the funniest sustained works I’ve ever read; I can’t count how many times it’s made me literally LOL.

    Part of what makes it great is the thick stew of video-game / indie-rock / manga / superhero references. (If anyone’s still reading it 50 years from now, it’s going to require as dense a thicket of annotations as “Ulysses”.)

    But beyond that, O’Malley is brilliant at creating characters who are simultaneously clichés and also real live breathing people. The interactions between the characters really remind me of the early Love & Rockets comix (back before the Bros expunged the humor and superhero references.) Simply making Scott himself a likeable character is an achievement, since his overwhelming levels of clueless selfishness could easily make him insufferable. (Michael Cera is a perfect casting choice.)

    Speaking of the movie, I’m really excited about it. Everything that’s been shown in the photos and video-blogs so far makes it clear that these are people who love and understand the comic, bringing it to life. It’s amazing to watch. My only concern is how they can cram all six books into a single film; I would have gone with two per film at most and made it a trilogy :-)

  15. How kid friendly is SP?

    I’m trying to find comix to smuggle into the hands of my nieces.

  16. I actually think it’s a good role for Michael Cera- he’s played the “sweet, quiet underachiever” in so many movies, it will be interesting to see him playing a character who is extremely narcissistic and frankly kind of a dick.

    This is one of the compelling things about the comic: O’Malley’s writing is so good that he can make a character as deeply flawed as Scott still likable. Combine that with having a incredibly intuitive sense of the social dynamics of “being in a band” and you have a very powerful comic masquerading as a bunch of jokes about video games and anime references.

    That being said, if Edgar Wright screws this up the wrath of Knives Chau will seem like a pleasant Spring afternoon by comparison.

  17. I recommend people check out his earlier work ‘Lost at Sea’. It has a different feel from Pilgrim, a bit more melancholy a little less funny but still a great read.

    ‘ a incredibly intuitive sense of the social dynamics of “being in a band” ‘
    I’m pretty sure Mal used to be in a band. I know he still occasionally releases music on the internet under the name “kupek”.


    The book is rated 13+; there’s a couple of swears, cartoony violence and some sexy scenes, but nothing serious.

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