Marvel and DC aren’t the only ones riding the current wave of comic book adaptations. Bryan Lee O’Malley--whose Scott Pilgrim graphic novels have become a darling of the indie press--has now joined the ranks of Stan Lee and Frank Miller in seeing his four-color creation come to life. The big-budget adaptation stars Michael Cera and is scheduled to open this Friday.
“When I started the books,” O’Malley explains, “I didn’t think anyone was going to read them because there wasn’t anything else like it. Even down to the format. I just didn’t know it was going to happen; we didn’t sell very many copies at first, but it just started snowballing. Turns out a lot of people like it. They like the video game stuff. They like the weird fusion of the Japanese comics, the video games, the music, everything, but bringing it down to earth with the relationship story. It works for people.”
That connection drew the attention of director Edgar Wright, who wanted to preserve the unique spirit of Scott Pilgrim for his adaptation. He worked very closely with O’Malley during the development process.
“I didn’t want to get in the way,” he explains, “much the way they didn’t want to get in the way of the book. I’m not a filmmaker. But it seems like almost every morning, Edgar and [screenwriter] Michael [Bacall] would email me and be like, ‘We need more jokes for today!’ We would all just kind of riff and make new stuff up… Even when I was at home, I would be getting these emails; it felt like I was involved.”
In a bit of serendipity, he completed the sixth and final book in the Scott Pilgrim series just as the film was coming together. The two projects dovetailed nicely (“I stole a few lines of dialogue because I felt like I was entitled,” he laughs self-depreciatingly), even as a shift in comic book adaptations was taking place in Hollywood. Thanks to Robert Rodriguez, the superheroics of the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises were giving way to properties more off the beaten path.
“I think at the time we started,” O’Malley notes, “it was around the time that Sin City came out. So this is like before this new wave of movies that are strongly based on the graphic novel, that use it as a storyboard.”
While he notes that the trend has made for some great films, however, it has also come at a cost.
“I feel like a lot of people come into indie comics because it’s a cheap and easy way to get something that looks like a movie and show it to movie producers. Which I think is a crappy way to do comics. It’s not a way to make a good comic anyway. The Marvel style these days is a kind of photorealistic, pseudo-movie look. I don’t think that’s the strength of comics.”
In the meantime, however, O’Malley has nothing but praise for Wright and his team, and seems quite happy with his Hollywood experience. When asked about it, his reply was simple.
“Amazing. An experience like no other.”