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Friday, July 18, 2014

Bryan Lee O'Malley vs. His Incredibly Popular Series

Posted by on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM

(Bryan Lee O'Malley will be sharing the stage with Tacocat as part of Verse Chapter Verse, The Stranger's music-and-books reading series, tomorrow night at Town Hall at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $5.)

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We've all been new to the world, and inexperienced, and we've all felt things very strongly, and we've all seen the world through the blinders of someone who believes it will Always Be Just Like This. Milestone works of fiction about young protagonists, like Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, hell, even the Hunger Games series appeal to so many readers because even though we're not all old, we've all been young.

Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-volume Scott Pilgrim series has in one decade become a comics milestone, the kind of gateway drug to the medium of comic books that attracts a passionate, loyal army of lifetime readers. The books, about an aimless, young Torontonian who must defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil ex-lovers in battle, have been adapted into an artistically (though not commercially) successful film by Edgar Wright, and they're generally considered comics masterpieces.

Part of Scott Pilgrim's genius lies in O'Malley's artwork, which is cartoony and friendly and wildly energetic, a horny mix of manga and Jack Kirby and Archie comics. His writing is inseparable from the artwork: pop-culturally obsessed, inventive, interested in the special brand of fun and sexiness that comes from treating everyone—no matter what gender or preference—like a human being who is worthy of empathy. But the other reason the comics have become generational milestones is the universal appeal of a book about the pleasures and pitfalls of youth. There's a fun what-the-fuckness to Scott Pilgrim that springs from the youth and the inexperience of the protagonist (and one would assume, by implication, the creator). The electricity of Scott Pilgrim poured right out of the books and into the hearts of its readers. But what can possibly follow its punk-rock exuberance? What, everyone wondered after they set down the sixth Scott Pilgrim book, finally caught their breath, and wiped the sweat out of their eyes, could Bryan Lee O'Malley possibly do next?

For four years, we saw very little in the way of new comics from O'Malley. Four years is a fairly short span of time in comics—as much as novelists might hate to admit, it takes twice as long to write and draw a book as it does to write one—but it's an eternity to fans who were used to receiving one new Scott Pilgrim book every year, like clockwork. This week finally saw the publication of his next book, a complete-in-itself comic called Seconds, and I'll spare you any suspense: It's terrific.

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