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    Issue 1 Excerpt - Bryan Lee O’Malley

    Scott Pilgrim

    Cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley prepares for the release of the fourth volume in his hit series, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

    Are these interviews the worst part of the job?
    No, I don’t mind it. It breaks up the day. I haven’t done that many this year since I haven’t had anything out yet. I’m getting used to it.

    So the book got optioned a while back — what’s’ the word on that?
    They wrote a draft last year and are supposed to write a second draft over the summer. There’s no casting, no official greenlight or anything.

    Well, I know they wanted you to plot out the rest of the series so they could write the screenplay. Does that add more pressure for you to finish?
    Yeah, actually, it kinda does. I can’t be like, I could just quit, and say, “I could just leave this book tomorrow and do something else.” But I think the movie is part of that. I wouldn’t want to abandon it because I know whatever happens, the movie will end up being kinda different from my vision of the end of the comic. So I’d like to get my version out there too, especially if the movie does get made. Especially if the movie turns out to be kinda weird or whatever, and people are like, “I don’t like that, I don’t think I’m going to read the rest of the comics.” Well, you know, hopefully everything will be OK and everyone will still be reading.

    Is there also more pressure to finish the book series before the movie comes out?
    No, I mean, I’d like to get as much done as possible before that happens, if it does happen. The movie process can go faster. If they say they’re fast-tracking it and mean it and actually do things fast in movie world — in comics, I can’t really speed up any more than I possibly can.

    Plot-wise, would the movie spoil what would happen in the book?

    I know some people that have expressed that concern to me. It’s like the broad outline of what they can do. Then they put their own spin on it. That’s what I think they should do in an adaptation anyway.

    When you started getting money for the movie, what was the biggest thing you bought?
    We got the first check in 2005, and we were waiting all year. Because we signed it in May and didn’t get the money until September.
    We were waiting to buy a house.

    I’m seeing a lot of celebrities saying they love Scott Pilgrim.
    Yeah, I think the movie is definitely a factor. I think it’s kinda going around Hollywood right now and people are reading it and trying to get in on it. I think that’s why recognizable people are talking about it.

    Have you had any bizarre celebrity encounters through that?

    When I went to San Diego last year I went to a couple weird Hollywood schmooze parties because I got dragged along by my publisher. It was a bit weird. I met the guy who directed Donnie Darko for like one second. I never know what to say in those situations.

    Did you think this series would blow up like this?
    No. It was never intentional. Basically when I was working on my first book, Lost at Sea, it was really insular. And at the time I was working on that book I made a bunch of new friends, and when the book came out they were really underwhelmed by it because it really wasn’t the me that they knew. It was really heavy in my angsty adolescence. So I wanted to do something they’d appreciate. That was really my only goal. I was friends with Chris Butcher, who was managing a comic store at the time, and he helped with the format to make it more appealing. So I guess that paid off.

    Do you read a lot of responses online?
    I say I try not to do it, but I don’t actually try not to. I read everything. I’m one of those obsessively Googling-yourself people.

    It’s weird because you don’t see too many negative responses.
    No, you don’t. That’s the thing. There’s like one out of 1,000. Even the negative ones don’t even bother me that much. Most of the time they’re just like, “I didn’t care for it that much.” Which is fine. It’s bad in the sense that I’m obsessed with it and keep trying to stop, but not really. When the last book came out, I had in my RSS a blog search through Google that continually updates whenever anyone says anything about you, which is just a bad idea.

    When you’re working on the book do you go start to finish, or do you just jump around?
    It’s been different each time, but I’m finding that the most linear fashion as possible is the best way.

    Why is that?

    Just because of continuity from panel to panel. I found myself drawing three panels to a page, then going back and erasing the first two. In general, I write a full script, and I did a couple passes on it this time and tried to make it as tight as possible and let people read it and give feedback. On Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness I was a little scattered and all over the place and it kinda suffered because of it. I want it to be tighter from top to bottom.

    Besides that, are you doing anything differently with Vol. 4 than you have with the rest?

    It’s taking so much longer. It’s the hardest one so far, definitely.

    How come?
    There’s just so many things, it’s hard to pick one. I did change my paper size for drawing. I went up by 3 inches, which doesn’t seem like much, but I think it’s helping out with the art a lot. It probably does take a little longer, and it’s more to wrap your head around.

    How is it helping the art?
    I was starting to feel kinda constrained by it. I was drawing really small. The first three books I drew on 7-by-11, which is sub-
    computer-paper size. It’s printed at digest size, so it’s OK to be small. But I went up to 9-by-14 this time, which is a lot bigger. It doesn’t seem it, but it is. It helps when reducing the art and the errors are less visible. The lines are a lot cleaner.

    Would you say drawing is the hardest part about producing the book?
    I wish I could just do the script and do a revise and be done. Or even just do the thumbnails and be done. But there are so many steps that it just takes so long.

    There’s definitely an evolution in your art from Vol. 1 to 3 — it’s a lot crisper now. Do you think it takes longer to achieve that?
    On the first three I don’t think I was really putting much more time in. The first one was rushed. Like, actually rushed. I did 100 pages in a month or something. Drawing better doesn’t necessarily take more time. I just kinda got better, I think. But drawing bigger takes a little more time, and I guess the thing that takes more time is that when you have more space, you can fit more details in. So you can put in more background material and stuff like that. You have to try and find the balance, and I’m still trying to do that.

    Do you think you’ve gotten better as an artist in general, or better at drawing Scott Pilgrim?
    Oh, definitely as an artist in general. I’ve done, like, 600 pages or something of Scott Pilgrim, and it’s not like I’m just drawing Scott Pilgrim again and again. I am doing buildings and trees and cars and things like that. And also with panels and storytelling and that kind of thing. I think I’ve definitely improved and am at a decent place now.

    Is that a worry for you at all? That your mind will be stuck in Scott Pilgrim when you move on to other projects?
    I don’t think so. It is evolving. It’s not like I’m drawing the same episodic story over and over again — it’s not like I’m drawing Garfield. It evolves, and I think I’m allowing it to evolve with me as I get older and my interests change. Not so much that it’d be alien to whoever read the first volume or anything. I definitely wanted to play it from the beginning to be a learning process and growing process.

    What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in that process?
    It’s such a whole package, the whole comic. I’ve become a better writer and I’ve figured out how to lay out my pages in an unconfusing way. It’s just all around. It’s kinda like my apprenticeship. There’s no comics master to apprentice to, so I have to learn everything.

    Now why is that? Is that because you’re more of a hybrid style?
    I didn’t want to draw X-Men or anything, so I don’t really have a role model. So I’m kinda doing my own thing and learning from old Japanese comics.

    Are there any Japanese comics in particular you look up to for that?
    There are no specific ones. I just try and learn through osmosis, I guess. I like (Osamu) Tezuka. In the past year I’ve been reading a lot of his stuff. I tend to get Japanese books and not actually read the words, just look at the panels.

    Were there any new pop culture influences when you were working on the new book?
    I know when I was writing the script I was influenced a lot by Edgar Wright, who was helming the Scott Pilgrim movie. So we were talking a lot during the making of the third one. So for the fourth one I was definitely watching Shaun of the Dead a lot. Just because his stuff is very structured, and I liked that it was very tight. I’m sure there’s other stuff. So much stuff goes in because it’s such a long process. Everything that I do and see and take in kinda gets filtered in. So it’s hard to remember because I’m still in the middle of it.

    For the rest of Comic Foundry’s chat with Bryan Lee O’Malley, pick up the first issue of the magazine.

    Posted by Tim Leong on October 28th, 2007 filed in In this Issue |

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