*Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life — Recommended

23-year-old Scott Pilgrim plays in a rock band and dates a high schooler named Knives Chau. They go to Goodwill, eat sushi, and hang out with bandmates. One might wonder what a young adult would see in a younger kid, but during a band practice scene, it’s clear that Knives’ adoration of Scott would be hard to resist. Plus, he’s not all that much older emotionally himself, and he’s pretty simple in his approach to life.

When friends hear about him dating a Catholic school girl, they make all kinds of assumptions, but he finds merely holding hands with her to be nice. He also enjoys hearing about her friends the way one enjoys following a soap opera (subtly mimicking the appeal of this story to the reader). The book’s storytelling focuses on incidents, structured in an “and then this happened” way. The approach is reminiscent both of kids spinning yarns and the “anything goes” nature of world-building games, where various scenes have to be played through in order to progress. There’s a dream-like kind of logic to it, emphasized when the source of conflict appears.

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life cover
Scott Pilgrim’s
Precious Little Life
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Scott develops a crush on Ramona Flowers, a rollerblading delivery girl for Amazon.ca. (O’Malley has some of the best character names since Dickens.) She’s somehow traveling through his dreams, taking shortcuts on her route, and she doesn’t indulge his emotionalism and self-obsession. Of course, he’s smitten. Gay roommate Wallace is the cynical voice of reason, telling Scott how to place an online order, listening to Scott’s narration of his life, and encouraging him to do the right thing.

Ramona is Scott’s age, which means his relationship with her includes discussions about sex and other more mature elements, like having a history, as when they allude to unpleasant former jobs. More importantly, she’s had former lovers, one of whom shows up to do battle. As in a video game, he’s got to defeat seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win her, setting up conflict for future volumes. That’s not the only influence: The name of Scott’s band, Sex Bob-omb, is apparently an in-joke, and characters, when introduced, have little caption blocks that give their name and vital stats. For example, after his age, Scott’s says “Rating: Awesome” and so he is.

He’s a terrific wish-fulfillment figure because we know about him only what he chooses to tell us. He’s simultaneously a deep pool, allowing for the reader to invest him with what makes sense to them, and a blank slate. Plus, he does all these cool things: he’s a musician, he’s got his pick of nifty girlfriends, he can fight, his friends obviously trust and care about him, he’s suffering for his art (sharing an apartment where all the furnishings belong to his roommate and lacking extra money) but not in any really painful way.

O’Malley’s art is distinctive, with his characters’ blocky heads dominated by huge round eyes. He’s got a strong grasp of how to anchor pages with solid black spots, drawing the reader through the story. The characters’ pupils, large dots that take up half the eye, are an important part of the composition, keeping the reader focused on the expression of the figures. When they’re shocked or astonished or come to great realization, their eyes become donuts, big circles with little dots that capture wide-eyed emotion.

This is the purest expression of American manga out there today, because instead of concentrating on look or subject matter or style, it captures what makes manga so attractive: a creator telling a story that matters to him in a unique way, one where anything can happen but the focus is on emotion. Energy and ideas permeate the book along with an easy-going sense of humor.

Scott Pilgrim has his own website. More information on the book, including preview pages, can be found at the Oni Press website. For more information on the artist, visit O’Malley’s website.

The blog Peiratikos conducted a lengthy interview with O’Malley in October 2004. His previous book, Lost at Sea, is also recommended.


18 Responses to “*Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life — Recommended”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] In short, [the second Scott Pilgrim book is] more of the same as book one, only better. More information on the series can be found at my review of the first book, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. [...]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Bryan Lee O’Malley is reporting that the third Scott Pilgrim book will hopefully be available in February 2006. You can preorder Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness from Amazon. [...]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero is illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) with flashbacks by Andi Watson(Breakfast After Noon), Christine Norrie (Hopeless Savages book 1), and Chynna Clugston (Blue Monday). Cover and chapter break art is by Terry Dodson. [...]

  4. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Book two, Operation: Morningstar, is pencilled by Brian Hurtt (Skinwalker) with inks by Bryan O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life) and Christine Norrie (Hopeless Savages). The style is gritty, well-suited to the dirty events portrayed and a bit rougher than Rolston’s. [...]

  5. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Scott Pilgrim may be an acquired taste for some, but its video-game mood of goodwill reminds me, in an odd way, of the Saint and his capacity to find adventure anywhere. In this case, Scott, his roommate, and his girlfriend are on their way to the movies when a bunch of teen-girl movie star clones jump out of a poster and attack. The situation’s complicated by Scott’s refusal to hit girls, which alternates between chivalry and stupidity. Fun read. [...]

  6. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Reading the description of Sidescrollers’ premise — three teenage boys hang out and play video games until one decides to pursue the girl he’s got a crush on, resulting in (according to the publisher) “a giant rock ‘n’ roll videogame adventure!” — one might be forgiven for thinking that Oni is trying to reach the audience who loved their surprise hit Scott Pilgrim. [...]

  7. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Bryan Lee O’Malley brings up the long time involved in getting the effort going (possibly another discouraging factor?): “I pitched for this line too, and Shelly & I went back and forth for a few months on different ideas, but I was working on Scott Pilgrim v1 at the time and eventually had to drop out so I could finish it. I’m surprised it took them this long to announce the line (two and a half years since I was involved), but I think longer lead times are probably a good thing in the graphic novel biz.” Brian Wood brings it back to quality: “I think in the end all that’s going to matter is if the readers/consumers like the books, not what gender the creative team is. And if you look at the YA section at any B&N, it’s pretty diverse in that regard, so all the Minx books have to do is to be good.” [...]

  8. Laura Says:

    I read one of the books in this series and it was really good. I kept on reading it all day and was really captivated!

  9. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] The first: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life [...]

  10. Zombies Calling » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] those complaining that Hicks’ art looks too much like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work, check this out. While still cartoony, her style here is more detailed than in Ellsmere, although [...]

  11. Comic Foundry: How I Will Miss You » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] goofy short bits of fun. Also featured in this issue are interviews with Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Grant Morrison (Final [...]

  12. Seen at the Library » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Janes) and featuring short comic inserts by Hope Larson (Chiggers) and Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim). That’s my favorite part of going to the library: finding something neat you didn’t [...]

  13. Scott Pilgrim Movie Looks Amazing! » DVDs Worth Watching Says:

    [...] movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, is due out on August 13. Based on this trailer, it looks [...]

  14. Coming Up: Graphic Novels Due July 2010 (or Later) » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] will be Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Oni Press, $11.99, MAY10 1089), the conclusion of the outstanding series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. We should see Scott finish defeating Ramona’s evil exes, and I [...]

  15. Good Books to Budget For: Comics Out July 14 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] of the week is, of course, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Oni Press, $12), the final volume in the series and the precursor to the movie, due out next month and eagerly anticipated. However, although [...]

  16. Scott Pilgrim Rocks! » DVDs Worth Watching Says:

    [...] Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life [...]

  17. Good Comics at the Comic Shop December 11 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] with very clever use of the comic format to really get the reader involved in the face-offs. How Scott Pilgrim uses video game allusions, Buzz! uses words. Check it out, particularly if you have preteens […]

  18. *Seconds: A Graphic Novel — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] later. So it’s not surprising that the next book by Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim, has been heavily […]




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