From Kick-Ass to The Losers, this year has brought an eclectic range of comic book-based movies. But the quirkiest yet could be Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which is based on a series of graphic novels by Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley.

Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and featuring Superbad and Juno star Michael Cera in the title role, it centres on a 23-year-old slacker who sets out to win the heart of glamorous rollerblading delivery girl Ramona Flowers by battling her seven evil ex-boyfriends.

"I'm incredibly excited," declares O'Malley, who lives in New York. "I've been working on the film and it's been amazing. It's an experience I never thought I'd have."

Influenced equally by his love of Japanese manga and rock music, the first volume, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, was published in 2004 by Portland-based independent comic book company Oni Press.

"It was pretty much based on what my life was like at the time," recalls O'Malley. "I was in my early 20s and I was in bands. I was a young person in the city who was doing his own thing. I was also inspired by all the video games I played as a child. All this stuff from the pop culture of when I was young was coming into my head."

Born in Ontario, he drew on his experiences growing up in the shadow of the United States. "That's one of the first things that Edgar Wright got; that 'outsider compared to the US' aspect," says O'Malley, who depicted New Yorker Ramona as an archetypal representative of her nation. "She stands for the big cities, where all the action and the real story is happening. Then we have our story, which is kind of happening on the fringes of it all."

As someone who cheats on his girlfriend, Scott is not the most sympathetic protagonist. "I think of it as about someone who learns that they're a jerk," laughs O'Malley. "His character arc doesn't necessarily change that much throughout the story, but he comes to realise that he's not the greatest hero."

Five annual instalments of the comic novels have appeared and the much-anticipated final edition, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, has just hit American comic shops and will be available in New Zealand through Harper Collins next month.

"I always wanted it to be six books," says O'Malley. "But it was a vague plan. I hadn't really worked out what happens in the story, but I knew it would go on for a while. I never thought I'd still be doing it in 2010.

"If someone had said that to me back then, it would have shocked me."

After Josie and the Pussycats producer Mac Platt optioned Scott Pilgrim in 2004, Wright came on board almost immediately. The film is not only the English director's inaugural American feature, but it is also his first outing without his Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz cohorts Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Apart from Cera, the film also stars Mary Elizabeth Wanstead (Die Hard 4.0) as Ramona, and Brandon Routh, Satya Bhabha, Mark Webber, Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman as her nefarious former flames. "I have a huge fight scene with Scott," teases Schwartzman, who is Scott's final nemesis, Gideon Graves.

The Fantastic Mr Fox actor is full of praise for Wright. "He's such an awesome director and it's such a large movie. There are a lot of complicated visual effects and it needed a real captain. He's such a cinephile and he has such a love for everything from action movies to drama."

O'Malley worked closely with Wright, acting as a script consultant and visiting the Toronto set on several occasions. However, while the film bears his distinctive stamp, he didn't contribute to the art direction.

"Edgar is a strong visualist and he had a strong idea of how it should look in his head," explains O'Malley. "But it's also very strongly based on my artwork and what you see in the books."

He also dismisses criticism that Scott Pilgrim should not be a live action film. "There was a lot of that kind of talk when it was announced, but I never saw it as an animated movie. When I draw characters they are meant to be roughly representative of humans, even if they don't look like them."

As O'Malley hadn't finished Finest Hour by the time the film went into production last year, he was able to incorporate some of his exploits on-set into his concluding effort. Consequently, the celluloid and graphic novel incarnations of Scott Pilgrim boast very different conclusions, about which O'Malley remains tight-lipped. "It's hard for me to talk about it," he says. "I wrote it throughout the filming of the movie. It was very difficult and I don't really want to say anything about it plot-wise, but I hope it's going to be satisfying. The movie is like a complete version of the story. It leans heavily on the first four volumes and the ending is kind of its own take, which I appreciate. I like stuff being separate as it's difficult to replicate a storyline in a different medium."

* Scott Pilgrim vs The World is in cinemas from Thursday.

-Herald On Sunday / View