Comic Fodder

What is "Scott Pilgrim"?

What is “Scott Pilgrim”? That is the question recently posed on a message board. What followed were a few posters writing their praise for the series, and the author of the thread responding with "Oh it's manga? Never mind".

The thing is, I see where he's coming from. It seems in recent years that the classic "DC vs Marvel" debate has been replaced by "DC/Marvel (i.e. superhero comics, even though super hero comics are much more than just DC and Marvel, duh) vs. manga. Most of the old school fan boys shun almost anything Anime influenced, finding solace in their familiar spandex clad friends. I know this, because I am one of those old school fan boys. The thing is, I'm an a-hole to feel this way. I know this and yet, I rarely read any manga. This is not to say I don't appreciate manga. I do. I love the kinetic visual style. I love the action sequences. I even like a lot of the art. But, like many old school fan boys "it's just not for me".

Lets look at the roots of this conflict. For me, this conflict all began with JOE MADUREIRA. See back in the mid 90's Joe Mad brought his wonderfully anime influenced style into the mainstream. While the style proved to be very popular, it also set off a chain reaction of imitators as many caught on to the zeitgeist. For many it was a welcome introduction to new take on comics. For others it was an invasion of big-eyed crazy haired hacks.

Where Joe Mad came (and the lesser known, but fantastic, Adam Warren before him) actual manga followed. Years after all the Joe Mad imitators left, and Mad himself had moved on to video games (and soon to be Ultimates 3) fanboys became further alienated as book store shelf space vanished to shelf after shelf of manga digests.

A new generation came around. One not brought up on He-man and Spiderman, but reared on Pokemon and Power Rangers. These nu-fanboys (and for the first time, girls!) flocked to the manga digests. Marvel wisely started publishing digests of their more manga-influenced titles (Runaways, Sentinel, X-Men Evolution, etc).

Which brings us to a Canadian comic called Scott Pilgrim. If you've read my earlier columns, you know I'm pretty much a dyed in the wool superheroes guy. It's not the sum total of my reading habits, but it'd be pretty silly to pretend otherwise.

If you've read my earlier columns you'll also know that I love me some Scott Pilgrim. I came across Scott in message boards, where the book is praised a lot (deservedly). Funny enough, several "Civil War" banners in signatures proclaiming "I'm with Scott" gave me my first visual taste of Bryan Lee O'Malley's style.

Then I read the praise. Not just any praise, but this quote from Brad Meltzer:

"Scott Pilgrim Are you reading Scott Pilgrim? I just gave my copy to a friend and watched his reaction. Hoo momma, good stuff. Go treat yourself -- find Scott Pilgrim from Oni Press and read it. Now. Stop reading this. Go get it. Really. No, now. It made me feel young and like I had hair again"

Wow. It made a bald man feel like he had hair again.

That is about the strongest praise I could ever read. Plus the fact the source of the praise was respected writer, and old school fanboy superhero nut Brad Meltzer (oh yeah, and he's a New York Times Best Selling author, too)

Meltzer talks on his message board also about the Pilgrim:

Scott Pilgrim. Buy it. Read it. Learn. Love. I really just dig this book so much. Brad

Comic Book Resources contributor Arune Singh name checks SP on his "best of" list right next to Old School superhero fanboy favorite Dan Slott:

Arune: Dan Slott was one of the go-to-guys for awesome writing, from his mini-series work to the incredible "She-Hulk" (no pun intended); Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote my favorite book of the year with "Scott Pilgrim"; So with this all in mind I decided to check out the first SP OGN "Precious Little Life".

Here's my link to my review of that: DRUNKEN DAVE REVIEWS: “Scott Pilgrim”

So you can see how I felt about it. I loved this book. I also finally was able to buy the second two volumes of the series (no thanks to Midtown Comics! I still love you though), and my praise only grows for the series (I think book 3 may be the best). Now, what's this all got to do with Superheroes vs. manga? Well, if I were myself from a few years ago, it's entirely possible that I would merely bypass this series, because of its manga influences. As I said before, I'd be an idiot.

The back of Scott Pilgrim OGN's has the genre listed as "Comedy/Action/Romance". I've always hated genre characterizations, I feel they never do the work justice, and are often misleading. How do you characterize Scott Pilgrim? Action/Video Game/ Manga/Punk Rock/Drama/Soap Opera/Comedy? That just scratches the surface.

How about the reasons why a superhero fan would like this book?

Accessible protagonist with whom the reader can identify with? Check.

Love interest main squeeze? Check.

Arch Enemies? Check.

Over the top action sequences? Check.

Seriously if Scott Pilgrim could stick to walls and shoot webs (and I wouldn't rule it out) he could be Spider-man. However, there are people who won't try the book out because the characters have big eyes. Or because of it's digest format (I personally have never had a problem with digests, mainly because some of the first comics I ever read were Archie digests from the grocery store, and "Untold Legend of Batman" digests from my elementary school's bookfair). It's an understatement to say that these people are missing out. However, who can fault them for their tastes? It's not so different than me not reading "Lone Wolf and Cub" or "Yosagi Yojimbo" or "Battle Royal" or any other manga.

So I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm seeking out manga recommendations. Got any?

Post'em in the comments section and I’ll buy’em up and read’em all.

Steven Grant wrote in his wonderful "Master of the Obvious" column on CBR about the recent ComicCon International:

I had one observer of the market postulate that the "manga market," the ones who idolize Japanese comics and want nothing to do with American comics, is turning into the previous generation, and the newer generation, the ones coming into comics now, are making those distinctions less and less, and they're just interested in "comics," without borders. I'm not sure I believe that, though there's apparently market research backing up the theory, but if it's true it should make American comics companies, not to mention companies like TokyoPop that are trying to market whole lines of nissei comi, pretty happy. Certainly the "mange format" has interested quite a few publishers, which makes sense for anyone trying to crack the bookstore market since that's the top format there; one publisher even approached me about reprinting one of my old stories in that format.

I hope he's right.

Manga reccomendation? I don't read much but Blade of the Immortal is very, very, good. It's got great characters, great concept, great art, can't be placed in history like Lone Wolf but its still a great samurai comic. Check it out.

-- Posted by: Jake at August 2, 2006 5:22 PM

This is actually the second Blade of the Immortal recommendation I got...looks like I'll picking it up next week.

-- Posted by: Drunkin Dave at August 3, 2006 9:19 AM