Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Scott Pilgrim Graphic Novels

Plot: Scott Pilgrim is the quintessential wannabe hipster slacker douche with no job who sells himself as a "nice guy" to elicit sympathy from women he does not deserve. When not mooching off his roommate Wallace or playing base horribly in his friend's Stephen Stills and Kim Pine's band (Sex Bob-omb) he is dating, leading on, a high school girl in order to forget about his big break-up with his college girl friend.

Secretly Scott hates his life, then the literal girl of Scott's dreams walks into it and everything seems to change. What would be to anyone else the worst news ever, is met with resolve. Ramona Victoria Flowers is willing to date Scott, for reasons that are as vague as everything else she tells anyone, but there is a catch. Whomever wants to date her has to contend with the League of Evil Exes, seven super-villains Ramona dated throughout her life headed by her last big break-up a man named Gideon Gordon Grave. Scott, however, is more than up to the challenge: fighting (for justice) and video games are where he shines. He secretly thinks this might just be the best thing to ever happen to him. It turns out that it is, but not for any of the reasons Scott Pilgrim thinks.

Verdict: Scott Pilgrim starts out as one of the most unlikable characters ever, and that it is good. It is the point of the story and the fun of the first two acts of the first book in the series. He, however, does not stay that way here, at least not in the way he is presented. When the books abruptly shift from mundane reality to video game battles Scott changes too becoming confident, compassionate, and a hero.  Along with the fully developed support characters of Ramona Flowers and Kim Pine, we see good in him, and want it to shine in both worlds, not just one. We find ourselves rooting for him to succeed, even though when it comes down to it, until the very end, he is just a right asshole.

The same thing goes, actually for both our leading lady Ramona and our final antagonist Gideon, both are far from nice people, and yet we cannot help but believe in them and oddly empathize. Specifically, this story, like certain others you should check out, is about "Nice Guy Syndrome." It is about where it comes from, what it makes men into it, and what boys and other can do about it before its too late (as it is for our antagonists).

Generally, the story is about dealing with change, the expectations we create versus accepting the responsibilities of reality, which are of course key to forming and undoing the misogyny of Nice Guy Syndrome respectively. What makes it all work is that never is anyone involved in this shown forever in un-empathetic lights nor exclusively from the male gaze. It also helps that everyone is so nonchalant about how quickly their version of Toronto Canada and the universe writ large flips from operating normally to operating on video game logic in seconds. Read and buy these books.

Facts: This is a six volume collection of manga-style comics by Canadian artist, and Hope Larson's husband, Brian Lee O'Malley. There is a rare collection of short stories called Full Color Odds and Ends that contain events that happen between Volumes Three and Four, they add to the story, but are not needed to understand it. The series is currently being reprinted in color, two by two each year starting with this one, but is fully available in black and white.

There is a fun multiplayer, side-scrolling beat-em-up online arcade game (made and musically scored wonderfully by Anamanaguchi) and then there is the movie adaptation of the series. This film is called Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It was directed by Edgar Wright. It is good fun, but no substitute for the series. The movie follows a different overall plot. The male gaze is the only perspective, and Scott Pilgrim is never confident or likable there. He is played in the film by and as Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim is a young Barney Stinson (Neal Patrick Harris).


Bechtel-Sarkeesian Test: Ramona Flowers and Kim Pine form quite the amiable friendship over the course of the series. Their conversations are nice background music to the series. Ramona also talks with most of the rest of the women in the cast about various things. Kim, to a lesser extent does too.

 (Ramona Flowers about to take on Envy Adams, Scott Pilgrim's evil ex, for non-Scott reasons.)

 (Knives Chau, Scott's fake high school girlfriend, driving her long suffering best friend Tamara crazy part 1)

 (Lisa Miller Kim and Scott's best friend from childhood. She is a good actor, guitar player, and skateboarder.)

 (Knives Chau versus Ramona Flowers part 1)

 (Julie Powers, party thrower and "girl-friend/owner" of Stephen Stills, is mean, but never phases Ramona or Kim.)

 (Julie Powers with her clique, always capable of wrecking Scott)

 (Knives versus Ramona part 2)

 (Scott Pilgrim is none too pleased to find Ramona having a good long conversation with the women, Roxie Richter  who just tried to kill him.)

 (Knives driving Tamara crazy part 2)

 (Knives driving Tamara crazy part 3)

 (Knives versus Ramona part 3)

 (Stacey Pilgrim, Scott's younger but way more mature sister.)

 (Ramona and Kim reminiscing and plotting.)

 (Ramona and Kim bonding over shared misery.)

 (Ramona and Kim living it up with booze.)

(A typical day with Kim Pine at work, Holly is her co-worker.)

Die Hard Test: Unfortunately the first character, Evil Ex to die is not-white, and there is only one African character, who is a minor character.

(This is Dominique, the manager at the restaurant Stephen Stills works at.)

(Matthew Patel, our first evil ex-boyfriend. He is a short tempered pirate-themed, Bollywood dancing black magician-diva who can summon demon hipster chicks to do battle with fireballs. He does not last long.)

Better than Star Wars: Despite the above the the cast is rather diverse.

 (Knives Chau, 17 years-old)

 (Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, the fifth and sixth evil exes)
 (Jason Kim, Kim Pine's one time boyfriend)

(Though never named, do not mess with Knives' Dad.)

Awekward Angle Syndrome: Any skin is never inappropriate, except maybe the always full color beach scene and Japanese Volume 4 cover, but that is very (like four pages) brief.

Suck it Disney: There are more homosexual characters in this series than most others combined, and that fact is treated as normal as anything else. One of the characters even realizes he is gay over the course of the series and it is just an extra fact not even fully addressed until after the climax of the series as whole.

 (Wallace Wells, red, with main lover-best friend Other Scott. He has many others, steals them from Stacey, and tries to mentor his roommate Scott Pilgrim. Often though he really is full of booze-barf.)

(Joseph, Holly's roommate and Stephen Stills' friend, because Joseph has recording equipment; Joseph is quiet, but opinionated.)

(Roxanne--Roxie--Richter, the fourth evil ex...)

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