The Scott Pilgrim series are one of, if not the, most favourite series of graphic novels of mine (Akira and Watchmen coming in a close second place) and I can’t believe that next year will mark ten years since the first instalment, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, was released. The series still captivates me, even now after reading it so many times. What is it, for me, that makes it so brilliant? That’s a hard one to answer but in a nutshell, and without spewing thousands of words on it, its pretty much that I’ve lived it, probably like so many other readers. I’ve had the giant ex that looms over a relationship, been in bands, pulled an Envy Adams-esque stunt, done the brothers thing, had an epically faithful cat, had gaming birthday parties, can name an equivalent of every character in the book in people that I know… I could, but won’t, go on. The main thing that strikes a chord the most is the number of pop culture references and the ease with which the characters use them to describe situations and feelings. Something that my friends and I have done for years, again probably like so many of you. So, in anticipation of its tenth birthday, here is a small run down of some of the pop culture references that feature in the graphic novel series. In no order of preference…
Scott has an X patch on his iconic Parker as an homage to the comic and television series, something which he has to explain to Ramona on one of their first dates. Later in book five, Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe, Scott is seen trying to explain to Ramona the storyline in the Uncanny X-Men comic series which culminates in issue #251 in a moment where Wolverine is crucified on an X. Not that Ramona seems that interested…
2) SEX BOB-OMB
Scott’s band, with Stephen Stills on guitar and Kim Pine on drums, is a clear reference to the explosive bomb enemies from the Mario game series and it’s not the only band in the series to have a gaming-inspired name. Scott’s High School band with Kim and their friend Lisa Miller was called Sonic and Knuckles, his University band with Stephen and Envy Adams was named Kid Chameleon and Envy’s hipster major label group were called The Clash At Demonhead. The group’s drum logo is even a reference to the game; the symbol being a stylized ‘NO’ that appears whenever you shoot a friendly character. The band’s drummer Lynette Guycott is also named after the games skeleton boss Tom Guycott. Even local rival band Crash and The Boys were named after a game and Scott’s name suggestion, Shatterband, for Stephen Stills new group is an homage to game Shatterhand. Not that the Mario references stop with the band name. When Ramona asks Scott if they are an ‘item’, Scott’s brain response is to list items from the Mario games and when Ramona informs him about her subspace highway, the only example he can think of are the secret highways from the game series. At one point Scott is seen wearing a tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3.
3) RIVER CITY RANSOM
When Scott was in High School and in order to win the heart of a teenage Kim Pine, he had to defeat a whole school of bullies and the ‘boss’ (Kim’s then boyfriend) in a scene that played homage to side-scroller game River City Ransom. Scott’s enemies also explode into coins, much like in RCR and a load of other games. When Scott tries to remember the names of the Katayanagi twins in book five, he calls them Andy and Randy Katamari instead. Andy and Randy at the names of the ‘infamous Dragon Twins’ who turn up towards the end of River City Ransom.
4) STREET FIGHTER
During Scott’s first battle with Ramona’s first ex Matthew Patel, Scott pulls a Street Fighter reversal whilst also hitting Patel with a SF special attack Dragon Punch. Patel’s ability to levitate and throw fireballs is also similar to SF character Dhalism. The layout at the start of Scott’s fight with Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness is reminiscent of the beginning of each fight on the Street Fighter game.
5) BONKS ADVENTURE
O’Malley’s title pages sometimes spoof game title pages with the characters from Scott Pilgrim filling in where fit. Scott Pilgrim VS The World riffed off Bonks Adventure, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together see’s Ramona and Scott take on Sonic The Hedgehog and Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe referenced the game Double Dragon III. The Katayanagi Twins hurricane kick attack is also a direct attack lift from DDIII. Second book Scott Pilgrim VS The World also shares its title with The Simpsons SNES game Bart Vs The World. Whilst not a title page, book four see’s a double spread during the fight between Scott and Roxy Ritcher that directly copies the opening of NES game Ninja Gaiden. Even the midair strike between the pair is a direct panel lift.
Scott teaches himself the bassline to Final Fantasy 2 to show off to his band mates, not that any of them seem interested. Similarly, Ramona doesn’t seem all that interested when Scott quotes As Long As You Love Me by the Backstreet Boys to her to explain his love in Scott Pilgrim VS The Universe. One of Sex Bob-Ombs songs is called Launchpad McQuack, named after a character from the Ducktales television series and SNES game. The Smashing Pumpkins also get their fair share of references. Not only does Scott wear their iconic SP t-shirt during the book, he dons their zero t-shirt. The title of the third book is a direct homage to their album Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, whilst chapter sixteen in the series is titled Frail and Bedazzled after one of their songs. The main stage at The Chaos Theater in the final book Scott’s Finest Hour is a reference to Daft Punk’s pyramid stage. Scott is named after a song by the band Plumtree, Stephen is named after musician Stephen Arthur Stills and Young Neil is named after… Neil Young.
7) PARAPPA THE RAPPER
Scott utters Parappa’s immortal line ‘I gotta believe!’ to himself during a realisation and he’s not the only one to speak lines from games in conversation. When Knives Chau grazes Ramona’s face she responds with the line ‘You fight like a cow’, a line from the Monkey Island series of games. Scott also shouts another Monkey Island line at roommate Wallace Wells to try to insult him; ‘I am rubber, you are glue!’.
8) CHARACTER TRAITS
Scott’s younger sister Stacey is rated ‘T for Teen’ in her introduction, one of the ratings established by the ESRB. When Scott defeats Ramona fourth ex Roxy, she explodes into cute fluffy animals like Dr Robotnik from Sonic The Hedgehog. Envy Adams is referred to as ‘she who will not be named’, a direct reference to Harry Potter villain Voldemort. Evil ex number two Lucas Lee is a skateboarder and his moves and their layout in the book are modelled on the Tony Hawk videogame series. So much so that Scott wants to train to defeat Lucas by playing the game itself. His name is even a direct reference to Jason Lee, a pro-skateboarder turned actor, like… Lucas Lee. Scott wishes he could morph into a ball and roll around instead of having to get up in a direct reference to the ability from the game Metroid. Much to everyone’s surprise, Scott gives Ramona the nickname ‘Rammy’, who just happens to be a character from the game Um Jammer Lammy. Clash At Demonhead drummer Lynette has a bionic arm that directly riffs off the game Bionic Commando. Scott’s attempts to get Ramona’s cat Gideon to come back is a direct reference to Breakfast At Tiffanys, just as his name of Gideon is a reference to the cat with the same name in Pinocchio. In book one, Ramona wears shoes that are an exact copy of those worn by Mr. Silly in Mr. Men.
9) THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
Scott has to face a doppelgänger of himself, Nega Scott, much like the character of Dark Link, a double of main character Link, in The Legend of Zelda. Final ex Gideon Gordon Graves wears a t-shirt that resembles the inverted Triforce logo from the game The Legend of Zelda. Scott has a dream in which he aimlessly wonders around a forest looking for a cheat code which is a direct reference to the maze-like forests of the game.
Ramona’s third ex Todd Ingram is related to Tetsuo, the main character from epic manga Akira numerous times. Like Tetsuo, Todd was taken to a lab in his teens for testing and returns home with bandages wrapped around his head. During his fight with Scott in Honest Ed’s, Todd screams the line ‘Its my brain! What have you done?!’, a quote from Tetsuo. In a ‘display’ of his love for Ramona, Todd punches a hole in the moon, and then does the same for Envy when they are together. This is a direct reference to the two holes in the moon that Tetsuo punches on behalf of Akira to show his followers his powers. Ramona takes it further by stating that after Todd punched the moon the first time, about fifty pages of tidal waves and explosions happened, which is exactly what happens in the manga.