In six years, Bryan Lee O’Malley has gone from a burgeoning artist with a single critically acclaimed graphic novel to one of the most beloved figures in the comic book community.
The reason? His six-part Toronto-set Scott Pilgrim series about a 20-something whose life is filtered through a pop culture cocktail of manga, movies, and vintage video games.
With a Hollywood adaptation hitting DVD this week, Metro got a chance to speak with O’Malley about the recently completed Scott Pilgrim saga.
How did the idea of depicting Scott Pilgrim’s life through this surreal pop culture lens come about?
It just came naturally, a kind of mishmash of influences from when I was a kid and in high school. The books were a way of getting all of that stuff out of my head, onto the page, and out there. Weirdly, that happened to be what really catches on with a lot of people. I didn’t really think it was for everyone. I thought it was just my personal obsessions, but it turns out to represent a lot of people’s experience from growing up in the 80s and 90s.
Did you ever think it could be a film?
No. I started talking to [director] Edgar Wright right after the first book, but I never thought there would actually be a movie because most of these things never get made. I think it worked because we had similar experiences. We both approach American pop culture as outsiders, him from the U.K. and me from Canada. We never felt like that was our world, but I think we both wanted to create something that synthesized our world and that kind of fantasy world.
How do you feel about your Scott Pilgrim experience now that it’s ending?
I’m glad to be finished the work and I’m glad to be moving on to new concepts. It’s very much anchored in my early 20s and I’m looking forward to working on something explores the same themes, but from different angles. What’s saddest is just moving on from the movie and all these wonderful people. But they’re all my friends now and that’s really nice.
Was it important to you that the film be based in Toronto. and did you have to fight for that?
There was actually no fight with the studio about that, which seems to surprise everyone. Universal never batted an eye. It was always supposed to be in Toronto. The only moment that it wasn’t was when New York was offering better tax cuts, so they were considering filming in New York and dressing it as Toronto, which is kind of baffling.
Do you have any plans for what you’ll do next?
I’m definitely going to do more comics, that’s always been my calling. So that’s the plan for at least the next few years. When you’re doing comics, they take so long that when I think about what I’m doing next it’s like, “Oh and then I’ll be 40.” So that’s tough. When you really schedule out your life its kind of terrifying, but that’s what I do.
You based drawings in the books on photographs from your time in Toronto, which were recreated in the film. What’s it like for you to watch now?
It’s weird. My wife and I watched it together and the park that they go to in the film was right near my house. It was actually where me and my wife walked on one of our first dates. So seeing that turned into this spectacle was really strange.
And on top of that Edgar took all of these locations and stylized them into what we called the Amelie version of Toronto. The snow is always perfect and they would try to eliminate certain branches of trees and wires to kind of clean it up. They wanted it to look more like the comic and have that kind of simplified look. So, it’s beautiful in an odd way and it is how I see Toronto.