Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Levels Up

It would be overly simplistic to state that Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim is a comic series about videogames... But on the other hand, it's not NOT about videogames, either. Games are just one of a number of themes woven into Scott Pilgrim that make my nerdy little heart race with glee every time I read it. There's the fact that Scott and his friends are (mostly) Torontonians, so there's any number of casual shout-outs to daily Canadian life (Scott regularly wears a t-shirt emblazoned with the CBC logo, for example.) Or the whole struggling, self-important indie band thing, as epitomised by Scott's band Sex Bob-Omb or rival band The Clash At Demonhead, amongst others. Or the near-constant stream of pop-culture references -, Trainspotting, The Shins - that never come off as forced or overly cute.

But this is a blog about videogames, and if there's one thing Scott Pilgrim's got in spades, it's videogame love.

To date, O'Malley's released five of his intended six-volume Pilgrim opus, charting Scott's epic quest to defeat his girlfriend Ramona Flowers' seven evil ex-boyfriends (I'm wildly speculating here, but presumably the final volume will come out concurrently with or just prior to the theatrical release of the movie adaptation this August - but more on that in a sec.) In both concept and execution, it's pretty much a comic-book translation of the definitive videogame storyline: the hero must tackle and beat X number of level bosses, go up against the Big Bad, and win the heart of the princess in the end. It sounds incredibly precious, and make no mistake, it is - but O'Malley knows what he's doing, and over the course of the five books to date, he's thrown so many curveballs into the proceedings, and dealt with so many identifiable, grown-up trials and tribulations (like scraping together enough rent money to hang onto your shitty apartment for another month, or navigating awkward and often soon-to-fail relationships) in an admirably deft and even-handed manner, that it's anyone's guess where the story will end up.

Of course, at heart Scott Pilgrim IS about videogames, and there are clever little touches throughout to remind the reader of this fact. Besides the band names, the ex-boyfriends literally drop coins (actual pocket change) and items after they're defeated, and characters transform from average 20-somethings to cartoonish, insanely skilled fighters at the drop of a hat. They operate within a universe that's half-reality, half-videogame, and Scott himself is the quintessential videogame protagonist. And in a weird way, all of this makes perfect sense and actually lends the book a kind of heightened realism (at least for colossal nerds like me): how many times have I gotten through a rough day at work by thinking of it as XP grinding so I can eventually level up, or justified dropping $100 on a textbook by looking at it as providing +1 to INT?

Yeah, it's nerdy. Laugh all you want, but you do it too - we've all been deeply influenced by a lifetime of growing up playing videogames. And the great thing about Scott Pilgrim is that he doesn't just think this way: this is the way his world actually works.

Unless you've been living in a Hutterite colony for the past year and this is the first opportunity you've had to escape the watchful eyes of your elders and get onto the internet, you're probably aware of the upcoming adaptation of Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which - barring global catastrophe - should hit theatres August 13th of this summer. Edgar Wright (who, besides having directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, was the co-creator and director of the brilliant nerd-love British series "Spaced", which if you haven't seen... you should) is directing, lovable geek George-Michael Bluth is playing Scott Pilgrim, John McClane's daughter is playing Ramona V. Flowers, and the likes of Brandon Routh, Chris Evans, and the incorrigable Jason Schwartzman have been cast as various Ex-Boyfriends (the screenplay was penned by one Michael Bacall who, despite having no major studio credits to his name thus far, is following up his Pilgrim script with a fictional adaptation of the documentary The King of Kong for New Line Cinema - good enough for me.) And it was, appropriately enough, shot in Toronto, which makes it one of the few high-visibility American films I can think of both filmed in and unabashedly set in a Canadian city (seriously, can you think of any? At all?)

There are a ton of movies out this year based on both comic books and videogames. On the one hand, we've got Iron Man 2, Kick-Ass, Jonah Hex, and The Losers, while on the other, there's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Resident Evil: Afterlife, not to mention the rumoured Mortal Kombat remake. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stands as the only adaptation slated for 2010, however, that falls comfortably into both categories, and frankly (based on the admittedly-miniscule amount of information that's trickled out thus far,) it's probably the one film I'm most excited about, in a cautiously optimistic sort of way.

AND, because the world apparently is a beautiful place, Ubisoft Montreal is currently developing a videogame adaptation of Scott Pilgrim. Whether it'll hew closer to the film or the graphic novel (or equal measures of both) remains to be seen, of course, but in an interview with Comic Book Resources, Bryan Lee O'Malley has gone on record to state that it'll be a classic, retro side-scroller beat-'em-up.

Just as it should be. A videogame based on a movie based on a comic book inspired by videogames? It's almost enough to make a guy religious.


All five volumes of Scott Pilgrim are available in paperback from for $11.26 each (Canadian funds). That means you can get all five for around $60 Canadian, including shipping! That's how much you spent on BrĂ¼tal Legend! This is a much better investment, trust me.

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Vol. 1)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Vol. 2)
Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness (Vol. 3)
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (Vol. 4)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Vol. 5)

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