Monday, March 29, 2010

Comic Book Rock Stars #1: Bryan Lee O'Malley

Comic Book Rock Stars: Yet another ongoing and infrequently updated feature, in which we cover crossover comic book artists/musicians.

Back in September, I was wondering aloud about the under-researched realm of comic book artist/musicians. This came about when I went to see the final Harvey Danger shows in Seattle and the opening act for one of the shows was Can You Imagine? which featured cartoonist Peter Bagge (to be covered in a later installment). My research dug up a surprising number of crossovers and a planned single blog post spiraled out of control until it got stuck in draft hell. In accordance with my new year's blog resolution (simplify, simplify, simplify), we'll be kicking off this feature by focusing on one such artist, which perfectly ties in with my CanCon biases: London, Ontario-born cartoonist and creator of Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O'Malley.

If you aren't already familiar with Scott Pilgrim, the mass awareness campaign is well underway. In brief, Scott Pilgrim is a twentysomething slacker who must defeat his girlfriend's seven evil ex-boyfriends to win her heart. With its manga-style illustrations, the series is also riffs on video games, indie rock, and pop culture at large, all the while unabashedly set in Toronto. The first volume of the acclaimed series came out in 2004 with the 6th and final installment hitting stores in July, just a few weeks before the film adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hits theatres with Michael Cera in the title role and helmed by Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright.

The promotional machine is starting to kick into high gear. A couple weeks ago they released the teaser poster ("An epic of epic epicness.") followed by the recent trailer, which had the internet a-buzzin'. I'm sure it's not lost on pop culture geeks that we get to see George Michael Bluth vs. Superman (Brandon Routh), The Human Torch and future Captain America (Chris Evans), Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), and even George Michael's ex Ann ("Who?") Veal (Mae Whitman). Even the inevitable video game tie-in looks promising with retro graphics and music from 8-bit punk rockers Anamanaguchi.

Music plays a big role in Scott Pilgrim (even his name comes from the song of the same name by 90s Halifax band Plumtree) with numerous references to bands, both real and fictional, and scenes taking place in actual Toronto show venues. Scott plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-Omb whose music in the film, it was recently revealed, is written by Beck. Music for the other fictional bands in the story will be provided by Metric, Broken Social Scene, and presumably others yet to be revealed making for probably the most anticipated soundtrack this year. Even Chris Murphy of Sloan, who were referenced in the books, is serving as the film's musical director, coaching the actor's musical performances. Yes, the inherent Canadianess of the comic is faithfully being infused into the film.

Anyway, this is all a long introduction to something I learned in my comic book artist/musician hunt, that Bryan Lee O'Malley played keyboards in some Toronto bands (Imperial Otter and Honey Dear) and he also has a collection of solo recordings under the name Kupek that even includes (gasp!) a few cover songs. As he states succinctly on his site: "Kupek is a band, and I am the only member of the band".

Kupek - Nautical Disaster [originally by The Tragically Hip]
I used to love this song from The Tragically Hip's Day for Night but it kinda got ruined over the course of several parties during university when some friends I know would repeatedly crank it and drunkenly sing along karaoke-style. Now whenever I hear it, that image immediately springs into my head. Still a great song though. In my mind, The Hip are pretty much the quintessential Canadian band and it's a shame they weren't a part of the Olympic opening or closing ceremony, though judging by the latter's line-up the producers weren't that keen on exuding Canadian pride anyway.

Kupek - Nothing Compares 2 U [originally by Prince]

Go check out to download up to seven albums of his music for free!

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