Two summers back, comic fans of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s acclaimed Oni Press “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novels were invited to see the world of the books in blazing color when the “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” film hit the big screen. This August, that process comes full circle as the publisher prepares an all-new deluxe hardcover editions of the series with color by “Batman, Incorporated” and “Swamp Thing” colorist Nathan Fairbairn.
Oni and O’Malley jointly announced the new 6″ X 9″ volumes tonight at the Emerald City Comic Con, revealing that after the first book – “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” – hits in August, the second color hardcover will land in October. Subsequent books in the series will come out bi-annually until readers can have the full “Scott Pilgrim” saga in color on their shelves by 2014. These new editions will also feature brand-new, DVD-style bonus features prepared by O’Malley.
Bryan, let’s talk about the origin of these new “Scott Pilgrim” editions. Had you been thinking about a color version of the series for a while, or is this a result of you having some room in your schedule before your new “Seconds” graphic novel comes out next year?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: It’s something we’ve talked about, and there are so many possibilities for repackaging. People are always asking, “Are you going to do a big omnibus edition?” and things like that. Initially, I was resistant to color because the books were always intended for black and white. That was part of the manga aesthetic I was going for. But we found the colorist Nathan Fairbairn who’s really good. He works on “Batman Inc.,” and he’s amazing. We actually had a few people try out, and he just nailed it. He sent pages in and said, “I didn’t have much time, so I just did these in an afternoon,” and they were great. That’s kind of what you need when you’re looking for someone to color 1,200 pages of comics – someone who’s really fast and has the right style off the bat. I was really, really impressed with that, and it made me much more enthusiastic for the process now. Then someone at Oni decided to make the books hardcovers at a larger trim size, so I think they’re going to be really cool.
And this isn’t just a simple coloring job. I know you’ve been working to clean up some of the art and prepare it for this whole process. Did you end up redrawing any of the pages, or did you go through and just clean up the lines a bit?
I didn’t do too much redrawing in the first book. There’s literally one page at the very end that I completely crapped out when I was in a super hurry to finish the book. So I went back and redrew four panels and turned them into six panels instead. I don’t know if anybody will really even notice that that’s different, but I did it. I didn’t want to go the George Lucas route and change everything, but in terms of cleaning up the art, when you’re going to have a guy color a bunch of pages you drew eight years ago, you kind of want to make sure he can understand what he’s looking at. [Laughs] I mean, when you’re doing a black and white book on a deadline, there’s a lot of times where you just crap out some of the background elements and stuff like that. You just scribble stick figures in the background. So there are some spots where I’ve tightened up things like that.
You’ve been answering a lot of questions and posting a lot of art on Tumblr of late, and I noticed one post where a fan was asking what color Ramona’s outfit was supposed to be in one of the books, and you said, “None. It was in black and white.” Are there instances now where you’re having to rethink how some of this stuff looks for the first time because of the colorization?
Yeah. That’s been hard, actually. We’re still going back and forth on some stuff as we’re not quite locked in on the first book. And I’ll say that since the came out, it’s kind of locked in a lot of these colors in people’s minds. So when we started working on this stuff, I felt that especially in the first book, we’re kind of beholden to the pallet of the movie. Fortunately, it’s this really nice, harmonious pallet. So in the first book, we know how pink the hair on Ramona is, and the outfits are all colored similarly, and I think we’ll just go from there. I think that’ll help me decide on the whole thing, and it’s already what’s in the reader’s mind at this point. It’d be weird to go and color things all different at this point.
The other big part of this is some bonus features in each book. Like I said, you’ve been going through a lot of your old concept work and other sketches online of late. Has that just been part of the preparation for this project, or are you going through and scanning your old art in general to clear out all that paper from your life?
No, that’s is all just stuff that’s just been sitting on my hard drive. I’ve been all digital pretty much since the beginning of “Scott Pilgrim,” so most of that is me going through old folders on my computer to clean stuff up. The part of the book that we’re doing is kind of like a “DVD extras” section at the back. It’s turning out pretty cool. But otherwise, I’m just going through and picking out stuff on my computer that I haven’t looked at in years and putting it on my blog. The extras in the books are largely unpublished. There are a few pictures and sketchbook things I’ve published over the years, but a lot of it is new stuff, and there’s commentary on all of it. I wrote an essay on how I started the book, and that kind of thing will continue on all the new volumes.
What’s it been like to get back into all this art? I think people are excited to see “Seconds” as it’ll be the first long form non-Scott thing you’ve done in eight years or so, but has the coloring and remastering been cathartic at all? Are you going to do this and be ready to not draw any Scott Pilgrim for a few years?
Well, I’m going to be working on these reprints for the next two years probably. We’re doing two a year, and I’ve cleaned up the art on the first two volumes so far. I’ll have to do more as we get closer to each new one and I do the extras for them. So I’m really constantly revisiting, which is fun. Obviously, I’m self-obsessed and like doing this stuff. [Laughter]
“Seconds” comes out next year. Are you wrapped on that book or working on these two concurrently? Has there been any ways in which one project feeds off the other?
I’m nowhere near wrapped on “Seconds.” It’s set for next summer, but I’m still working on I guess what you’d call “pencils.” I work that phase on a computer now, so there’s really no penciling involved. But I don’t think there’s a lot of cross-polination. It’s been going pretty well. I’m trying to do all the covers for the “Scott Pilgrim” reprints at the beginning so they all look the same before I get into my “Seconds” style…whatever that ends up being. I find that my work always mutates from year-to-year. So I want them to all look the same when they come out.
Overall, after working on this with Nathan, do you think working in color is going to become a regular part of your comics moving forward, or will you stick to black and white for most things?
I think it’ll vary from project to project. The process of coloring can be incredibly expensive, and it wouldn’t have even been an option at the start of “Scott Pilgrim.” But it feels good as a project with a collaborator. I don’t think I’d ever want to color my own comics. It’s a lot of work. But Nathan’s been great, and I’d love to work with him on future stuff.