Book Club / Vegan Love Bunny

Scott Pilgrim
Volume 3: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
By Bryan Lee O’Malley

Where we reach the third installment of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim saga and grapple with such issues as: When something is so good – what is there to say? How much does fame change things? And is black and white the vinyl of the comic world? 

 

One, two, three, four!
Here’s a taste of the seven sins!
Driven to distraction, waiting on your call
I am getting trigger happy but it doesn’t help at all
No, and I can’t even think with you still in my head
No, and I cannot do anything, I want you in my head
ENVY! 
ENVY! 
EN! EN! ENVY!

(Ok. So. Now I’ve got that out of the way).
 
(But that’s deliberate right? Like – that song came out in 2002 and Vol 3 came out in 2006 so…). 
 
ANYWAY. 
 
It’s funny going from The Authority to this because – while yeah with The Authority it was possible to go on and on and on and find pretty much unlimited stuff to talk about with Scott Pilgrim I mean: I reread Vol 3 yesterday with the hope that it would give me stuff to talk about and instead: yeah – it just poured through my head like clear cold water and so by the time I got to the end I mean – I didn’t have a single thing that I wanted to write about it. You know – I guess that’s why they call it being critical: it only really kicks in when the thing you’re looking at doesn’t work properly. It’s like when I watch a film: I only ever really start thinking about it and taking it apart when it’s not working: if I’m watching the perfect film: then yeah – my mind is elsewhere. Higher brain functions are switched off and it’s all just about the enjoyment and loving the feeling of the entertainment. You know – for me that’s art (or whatever). 
 
So erm yeah – Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness? I liked it. I thought it was good. 
 
But trying to put my finger on it? Well – that might be a little harder…
 
But hey: part of it (I think) is how it approaches relationships. I mean: I was talking to my friend Laura last week (hi Laura!) and about the idea of how media wraps your understanding of the world and yourself (everything is a flying brain parasite basically): especially rom coms and most of the films that only give you the first stage romantic courtship stuff of a relationship. You know – boy and girl (and yeah – sorry: it’s pretty much always boy and girl because our society is hetero-normative: but hey – that’s not my fault ok?): meet cute, have some sort of misunderstandings and then (in the final act) manage to get together and sort out all their problems: they kiss and embrace. The end. And well yeah – that’s it. 
 
And not to get to “Mr Story” or whatever: but daganamit – we kinda need stories to understand ourselves and how things work: and if all we ever get is a model of the first few steps of how romantic love works then erm yeah: we’re all gonna kinda get a little screwed in the head right (spoiler alert: we are all a little screwed in the head). Which well yeah: I guess is a part of the reason why Scott Pilgrim is such a thumbs up for me because erm yeah: it kinda goes past that early stage and gets to the point where yeah: it’s about the stuff that gets into how a relationship works – but rather actually (maybe more importantly or something?) all the ways that a relationship doesn’t work. Because erm yeah – seriously: the wreckage of failed relationships are scattered throughout every page of this thing: it’s like bodies at the end of Hamlet.  
 
But hey: maybe by reading about it: that kinda helps? Or something? 
 
Or: then again – maybe it’s just funny because of all the vegan stuff? 
Also: I wonder how much Bryan Lee O’Malley feelings changed as he wrote it? I mean: as I far as I know: (something I read somewhere?) he planned out all of Scott Pilgrim before he started writing it: and seeing how he started in pretty much obscurity and then had the last volume published at the same time as million dollar movie based on the book came out: I mean – that must be really weird right?

Because yeah: the one thing I’m kinda reticent to write about (along with talking about past relationships and exs: which LOL – I kinda feel would be appropriate seeing how you know: we’re talking about Scott Pilgrim so let’s get stuff out in the open: but also – oh my god – no one really wants to be airing their love lives out in public right?): but yeah – the whole famous thing which along with Lucas Lee in the last volume seems to be a Scott Pilgrim motif and the way it affects you and the feelings of… ha… Envy (omg: I only just got that).

I think it was an Alan Moore quote where he said that back in the old days the one thing that kids wanted to do was go off to sea and nowadays it’s wanting to be famous: because well yeah: kids are stupid and their values come from the flying brain parasites that is society and ideology and etc. But then also: I mean – it would also be cool to be famous right? (And man: wanting to be in a famous band – ha – I can totally relate). And altho I’m not sure there’s much real intellectual insight into famousness in Scott Pilgrim: I think it actually goes one better – as it kinda gives you an insight or a way into the feeling of it: of being on the outside and only being able to look in (or look up even).

Because the brain is overrated and the heart is where it’s at (broken or otherwise).

 

I think I might have mentioned this on the last Scott Pilgrim discussion…

First time I read SP I was years younger than him and now I’m a bit older. Ick. (I still see him as exactly the same – lovable goofball idiot)
 
First dozen times I read Infinite Sadness, it was in Black and White. Now it’s in Photoshop colour. Urgh.
 
Quickly, to the colours.
 
Argh. Nooooo. I wish my physical copy wasn’t halfway across the country. It might look better in later volumes, but it feels pretty goddamned clear that O’Malley wasn’t putting the first few volumes together with colour in mind. I mean the start of volume 4 always looked nice, so why does the book so oft look like a cat getting intimidated by MS paint. The skin tones (*retrospectively, Amir realised this was not the ideal forum to start another race war*), I think, are what do it. They’re so flat! All the characters suddenly look way more similar. And yeah there are some cool sparks here and there, some club lighting does have a cool sense to it. STILL though. Boo. There’s a stark, clean simple power to the visuals and the colour undoes that.

 


I know I said quickly and am so aware this is a discussion, but….welll… Skip ahead if you like? But if you’re here, look at the picture! Goddamn. So stark, so clean, so clear. A big strength of OMYs (easier) art has always how he’s so good with lines. The man turns line work and the use of black into tactical expression. There’s a thick line here to sell cuteness, a thin line there to keep attention on something else. It works. Hell look at the blacks, those inky pools, look at that sweet shading approach, your attention stays hard and fast on the characters expressions. And in Scott Pilgrim, a series whose appeal is dependant on it’s self-aware hilarity – that’s important. Thinking to Scott Pilgrim 4 onwards and how the art changed a bit, took less use of big inky pools and just the way OMY shapes characters and details I can see it working better (the covers unanimously look grand) but in early Scott Pilgrim. Blech. Someone in the Barbican should totally get those b&w versions back in there, they’re like 2 quid used off Amazon each. (I don’t know how library procurement works. I still have an image of a 50 year old in a yellow cardie turning up to Harper Collins with a gun.)

PLUS….I know this is very “but vinyl has, like, a sound that I can validate myself to” but I like the black and white on the first 3, it wasn’t a massive MASSIVE thing at that point and was still just some fun awesome thing that wasn’t a part of the broader zeitgeist.

Aside from that….it is hard to talk about this one! I mean, how much commentary can you get on the 3rd round of SP discussion? It’s a favourite series of mine, but 2 & 3 are so meant to be omnibussed together – it’s all about seeing how Scott got to where he is emotionally. What the break up did, the ghost that haunts a goof and all that jazz. And I mean this is the “middle”, volumes 2-4 are definetely the middle, where plot can take a bit of a back seat and we can just let the characters breathe and enjoy OMYs “SNES-ronto”.

OMYs approach to memory really shows here, most break up flash backs from writers as….urgh….”emotionally mature” as him tend to be quite Annie Hall, more than willing to show that the relationship breakdown was a mutual thing, that love can’t entirely survive the changing needs of people changing away from each other. Here though, it’s from Scotts eyes – Envy is seen from sweet to terrible as the relationship descends and he doesn’t see himself as responsible for any of it.

Envy too gets some of that memory play and it really helps that there are touches of “person” peppered throughout, especially with how she over romanticises her Vegan love bunny and gets schooled on it later on, building her into someone who isn’t portrayed as a generic cartoon bitch and more as a driven person that simply outgrew Scott.

Yeah…after that….not got much to add. It’s really funny, really sharp, sweet and STEPHEN STILLS IS STILL THE BEST CHARACTER EVER.

Joel –

Really agree with the whole changing author idea. Scott Pilgrim is a story written both by an indie kid getting to know his craft and a lauded master gearing his way through the Hollywood press machine – one story by two different guys (both of whom happen to have a phenomenal sense of humour and character). The 2nd read through, its suprising to see the theme of memory was so prevalent throughout, when I first got to the finale, It felt like a new theme he was plugging in but now, yeah the roots of it are much clearer.

(I want to run into Chicken Cottages shouting “Vegan Police”, if only to get free deep fried chicken sans the guilt of contributing to that particular terror of a cottage economy).
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