Josh Kopin vs. The World

SPOILER: This is gonna get mushy, so look away if you're squeamish.

I saw Scott Pilgrim. It's a very good movie, that much I know for sure- it'll take another viewing or two for me to decide if it's a great movie. Mostly, that's because I have a hard time separating the movie from the books; there were moments when I'm pretty sure I was enjoying it simply because I wanted so badly to enjoy it. That Edgar Wright was able to make a movie that wasn't beholden to either the original plot or the original imagery was essential to my ability to separate the two and enjoy the movie for what it was blah blah blah BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Look: by now, you know all that. You know that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a successful comic book movie precisely because it's influenced by the originals rather than being dominated by them, and that it successfully translates Bryan Lee O'Malley's work to film because it does what film does well, rather than trying (and failing) to do what comics do well on film.

Given that you've probably already read that review in a hundred different places, I want to talk about something else: I want to talk about why Scott Pilgrim works, even when it shouldn't. I want to talk about why I want to be able to hand the six volumes to my children (who, being my children, will surely have the same interests as me. That's how parenthood works, right?) and say "Here. Read this." In other words, I want to talk about why I love Scott Pilgrim.

While it would be easy for me to be all "Well, it's the best romantic comedy since Annie Hall, what's not to love" (which is pretty much true), I'm going to go a little bit deeper than that, and that story starts like this: once there was a girl who broke my heart. It happens to all sorts of people all the time, which means there wasn't anything particularly special or unique about the experience, but I did take it pretty hard. Eventually I got past it but, even when I did, a lot of the gunk (the guilt, the anger, even some of the sadness) stuck around. I'm still dealing with those feelings, with that gunk, in a lot of ways.

Then again, so is everybody else. Our new relationships are built on the ashes of our old ones. We learn from the experiences, we figure out what we did wrong, and we try it again. And that's what Scott Pilgrim is all about. Even better, the couple at the center of the whole damn thing is, in every way that matters, an everycouple: Scott's made mistakes, but Ramona's made them too- and whose are worse is irrelevant, because it all happened.

And that's why I love Scott Pilgrim. From the beginning, it's been about figuring out what the next move should be, based on the last one. It's about making mistakes, the dangers of stagnation, the problems with moving from place to place without ever actually moving very far at all. It's about learning to live with what's happened, about fighting your demons (sometimes more literally than others), and, eventually, it's about getting better. You want to know why, ultimately, both the film and the comics are so damn effective? The key is right there: they wore these themes on their sleeves (not unlike an X-Men patch) using characters that (provided you look past the slick, relatively hip, video games and music and manga dressing) everyone understands because everyone sees a little bit of themselves in, and they did it masterfully, without falling into a sappy, saccharine, puddly mess. More importantly, each iteration does it in its own way, in a way that works well within the medium being used: Scott Pilgrim and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are two related but wholly separate entities that hit on precisely the same themes in a way that works with the advantages and limitations of the way in which it was presented.

This is not to say that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World didn't, sometimes, feel like a comic book (the way that the editor translated a comics gutter into something intelligible in film was particularly cool), simply that Edgar Wright took a six book epic, compressed it into one relatively short film, and still made it all work (although- there isn't exactly anything simple about that, is there?) Even more impressively, 'inna final analysis, the movie took those same issues that the books deal with so well and made me think about them in a different, although extremely complementary, way. This is, ultimately, how the movie must be viewed: as a complement to the books. Both of them, independently and taken together, helped me get better. Both of them, in their own ways, helped my clear some of that gunk. So, yeah, that girl still broke my heart. And, yeah, I felt pretty bad about it for awhile. But poor, oblivious Scott Pilgrim? He's had that problem too. And so has everybody else.
Earlier this evening, I learned that a friend of mine, Abraham Mendoza, died today. This one's for you, Abe.

Bee in My Bonnet!

"bee in... The Ramble" from MySpace/Dark Horse

There was a unique and unusual pleasure to be had in hearing the comicsmith, Jason Little, read this comic out loud with accompanying music and a projection of the comic panel-by-panel to a small crowd at one of R. Sikoryak's (@RSikoryak) Carousel nights a few months back. Now the masses can be exposed to it as well since it has been published on "MySpace Dark Horse Presents". The experience of hearing this comic read that night (and then having it divorced from that experience on the web) was particularly surreal for reasons that will become clear over the course of this review.

Right from the start "The Ramble" is a hilarious tale of two friends meeting-up in the Big Apple's world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art for a... uh... unique tour. Oh man. You've really got to click the link at the top of this post and read it yourself to fully appreciate this. THERE ARE NO WORDS.

Speaking of there 'being no words,' one of the most fun elements of the comic is explored after they leave the MET, occasional pictographs in place of words. An element that starts out playful like this:

and this:

And later, after a few sausage jokes, crescendos into something brilliant, painful, awkward, and hilarious:

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

There's a sequence of photographs inter-spliced with drawings during a tour of statues and another one during a film [above], four panels in silhouette during a discussion about burlesque, and there's a panel in '3-D' color-separation style while talking about 3-D. A character attempts to better read the text in another panel by grabbing the panel borders! The piece does take Bee and friends through the part of Central Park called the Ramble and all over New York City, but really it's a ramble through different art mediums and styles Little finds interesting. (On his blog, Little refers to this as the practice of "putting it all in there". Which says everything.)

Actually, as far as Jason Little's career in comics, the whole piece is just the tip of the iceberg.

I first became aware of Jason Little (@Beecomix) several years ago when I suddenly found myself in possession of a copy of "Jack's Luck Runs Out" from Top Shelf Productions, a marvelous/crazy comic that's like a Tarantino action-movie but with a playing-card visual style set in the world capital of entertainment: Las Vegas. I first became aware of his rotund reoccurring character Bee, a little over a year ago when I discovered "bee in... Motel Art Improvement Service" on [Unfortunately, that link now only goes to a 10-page excerpt. Fortunately, that means that a collected print edition from Dark Horse is in the works!] a webcomic about sexual discovery and... a whole lot of other crazy things.

I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself a few months ago at the Carousel event at which he read "bee in... The Ramble" and his personal style is as warmly whimsical as his comics. The surreality of the story for me is that after a sequence in which Bee and her friend get thrown out of a silent movie for the above antics, they arrive at a Carousel event where a sequential self-portrait of Little himself reads the first half of the comic we were hearing! Reading this later on the web broke the 'this comic could be now' feeling, but added an exotic feeling of cluing you into this weird gathering of comicsmiths. Add to this, the fact that it's the last comic in the last issue of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" and that's mighty strange right?

The humor in the character interactions can be a bit 'precious' at times and the draftsmanship has a few uneven moments, but in the end the jokes are great, the art is smooth, plus it's colored fantastically, and the play with art medium and art-styles more than makes up for any faults anywhere else.

Really, all of Jason Little's work I've encountered so far is worth reading. Look him up at Beekeeper Cartoon Amusements' website.

~ @JonGorga

Marvel's Really Got A Three Theme Going On, Huh?

A November shipping Warriors Three mini? Written by Bill Willingham?