‘Scott Pilgrim’ was great… but…

Allow me to talk about Scott Pilgrim, by Bryan Lee O’Malley again for a moment. Usually when I speak of this wonderful bit of comics gold from Oni Press, it’s to applaud it, praise it and to try to get whomever I’m talking to to buy it. But despite that, I’m afraid I’ve finally found it’s flaw, and it’s pissing me off.


I was sitting at my desk, doing my usual bit of work for iFanboy when my mind wandered a bit. I looked up and down my shelf at the various trades and paused on Scott Pilgrim to appreciate its genius. Then it struck me, like a bolt of lighting coming from Thor’s hammer:

“Waitaminute. What the…?”

If you look at the picture to the right, you should immediately notice what has irked me so about this book. I hadn’t looked at all 4 volumes, together on my shelf, until that moment. So I hadn’t noticed that THE FOURTH VOLUME CHANGED THE DESIGN ON THE SPINE! Ahhhhhhhh!

Now call me crazy. Maybe I have a touch of the obsessive compulsive disorder. But this gets on my nerves to no end. I’m fascinated by how the comic book companies keep getting this wrong and do not realize that trade dress and cover design is something that we (well some of us) find tremendously important. When I look at my shelf now, all I can see is:

  • How volume 4 of Scott Pilgrim has the title way bigger than the previous volumes.
  • How they got rid of the character from the covers face from the spine.
  • How they changed Bryan Lee O’Malley’s name from the video game style font to a more plain font.
  • How they made the Oni Press logo bigger.
  • How they made the volume number bigger, and colored with a thick outline around it.

Now I understand that even the covers of Scott Pilgrim have slightly changed here and there across all 4 volumes, but for the first 3 volumes, the spine design remained consistent! It was something I could depend on. Like I said, I may be crazy or nitpicking and I’m not even that big of a big design nerd (although I do enjoy good design), but its the lack of consistency that drives me absolutely nuts. When I’m investing money in collecting a series of books, and plan to put them on my shelf, I want to run along the spines and see continuity of design. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, nor is it that hard to keep track of. But time and time again it happens.

Take Runaways for example. Right next to Scott Pilgrim on the photo above, you can see how after volume 2, they changed the logo. Okay, that’s fine, I guess, because they didn’t know the book would be a hit and then they had the arrows-y logo created. Fine. But then, in volume 6, they move away from the painted character images on the spine, to use a shot from one of the covers of the issues in that volume and then GO BACK to the painted character shots in volume 7! Its like someone in the trade paperback department at Marvel was out sick the day they did volume 6, and then came back and said, “Crap! Well, we’ll go back to it in volume 7.”

Now I know I sound crazy and I’m sure this is the last thing anyone in the production departments at Marvel, Oni, or any of the publishers want to hear. But it’s this attention to detail that makes me truly appreciate design when it’s well done, like the recent reprinting of the Preacher trade paperbacks that correct some of the inconsistencies of the haphazard cover dresses in the previous print run (too bad I have to go buy all the new ones now to replace mine) or the run of Powers trade paperbacks that, even though they changed publishers from Image to Icon, were able to keep the consistent spine trade dress, with the yellow box with the publisher logo along the top. Now if only they were consistent with the font size.

It’s easy to dismiss this, but I stand here, (possibly alone, I admit) saying that it’s something I care very much about. Of course no one is perfect, but with the staying power of trade paperbacks and large print runs, I hope that some day, we can see consistency in cover and spine trade dresses and I can sit back, look at my shelf, and relax.


  1. Yeah, I have to say that I agree completely on all fronts. I was bitching to a friend the other day about that scott pilgrim thing.

    I say that you do not stand alone sir. Now let us fight the good fight against spine inconsistencies wherever they occur!

    I do have all of the new Preacher trade printings though. Very nice.

  2. I too am with you on this one. Nothing at all crazy about it. Graphic design consistency is important for the identity of a title. I freaked a little when I saw that the third trade for DMZ had a yellow cover instead of the black and white that I was used to, but what a relief when I picked it up in the store and saw that they left the colors alone for the spine!

    Don’t you F with my books!

  3. wow, i can honestly say that, if not for you pointing this out, i would have never noticed… and i still don’t care. different strokes for all kinda folks i guess.

  4. As Josh’s rolls his eyes…

    I noticed. And then I moved on. Haha.

  5. ***I couldn’t decide between “As Josh’s eyes roll” and “As Josh rolls his eyes.” So you got a little of both.

  6. Maybe a touch…?!

    You’ll feel better three issues from now when a new pattern emerges to replace the familiar uniformity you’re pining at the moon for.

    If ever a series was to qualify for an erratic design style, it would arguably be the self-indulgent, hyper, gamer referenced, pseudo-manga that is — Scott Pilgrim.

    “Graphic design consistency is important for the identity of a title.”

    Ironically I would say it’s the fact that it plays close to the existing iconography – or identity – that further justifies the design even on it’s own terms, beyond the nature of ‘the beast’.

    And thank the heavens there’s some sort of joy in the Scott Pilgrim spines, as opposed to the god awful blandy mcblandfests that are the Marvel trades. If not for the colour array, it’d be like staring at Kirsten Dunst’s face.


  7. I noticed this when I bought the trades for ultimate spider-man, and the spine, and actual book size were different in volume one than the rest. It bugs the crap out of me

  8. Isn’t there some kind of pill you could take for that? Really, and who wants to hear about it. Just read the g**damn mo/effing comic and enjoy it!

    What the hell, you are just venting… go ahead and let it off your chest… is the least we could do.

  9. Ron: I’m right there with ya… this is the kind of thing that drives me NUTS (much to my wife’s chagrin).
    This is why, in general, I love my Marvel, Image and Vertigo trades over my collection of DC trades… the DC trades are all over the place in terms of their cover dress, creating a completely haphazard appearance on the shelf.

  10. Gotham Central did the same thing, it’s maddening

  11. This drives me crazy as well. It’s confusing because you would think that there would be a person at these companies that would notice that. I don’t think it’s weird for Ron to think like this at all. I fell the same about my DVD’s. I organize them by company that releases them so all the logos match up. But nothing is more frustrating than the Harry Potter films because after the first 2 none of the packaging is consistant, or Alias, each season has a different size box!

  12. As Josh’s rolls his eyes…

    How did you know!?! I was doing exactly that!

  13. Wow…I don’t know what to say. Hey, at least the inside is good. Right?

  14. That’s hilarious. This came into my RSS feed, and as I read it I immediately thought, “Lemme guess: Ron.”

    I look at that picture, and you know what difference I see between vol. 4 and the other 3?: I can read the name of vol. 4 on the shelf. Maybe the publishers just said, “Hey, maybe more people would buy this book if they could, like, see it at the store.” Same thing with the Runaways volumes. Look at those first two Runaways; what the hell is that? Then, bam! Bold logo, contrast, eye-catching, bigger… somebody ambitious said, “Hey, let’s sell a couple of these things, instead of leaving it up to the obsessive-compulsive nerds to track them down. What if we try attracting the attention of people who don’t already know what this is, like we’re making books or something?”

    I say this as someone who regularly shleps down to the Borders next door and spends half an hour trying to figure out whether they have the thing I’m actively looking for. Oh, those f***ing Fables spines. They’re consistent! Consistently illegible.

    (Grandson, fetch me my spectacles.)

    Mind you, I’m not entirely unsympathetic. I remember when I got that batch of Essential X-Men in the mail, and for some reason every facet of the design of volume 2 was completely, garishly different… but 1, 3, and 4 were completely consistent. I resold the books a year ago, and thinking about it still bugs me.

  15. That’s funny, I saw the picture of the different spines and thought “this is by Ron”

  16. Haha, I thought the same thing. It also bugs me, cuz on the old Morrison JLA trades I’m picking up, some will have a the Blue DC “swoop” logo, and some won’t. It’s kinda annoying but whateves, it don’t change the content… most of the time.

  17. Wow. Just… Wow!!

    Ron, I dig ya in that non-homosexual way, but man, you gotta get out more. Comics should be about what’s inside, not how it looks lined up on the shelf.* Just, wow, man.

    But please, seriously, anyone considering buying a new set of books you already own just to impress someone with how your shelf looks with all the books lined up like good little soldiers – please, please, please buy something you’ve never read before. It’ll look just as good on the shelf, and maybe open your mind to something else.

    But Ron…



    * I know you – and the other two and hopefully everyone posting – do care about contents over presentation.

  18. It’s not something that angers me, but there are fleeting thoughts about it every time I run into it, not from a collector

  19. I have to agree with you Ron. I was just telling my wife like 2 days ago how I liked the way my Marvel trades look (the Marvel logo on top)as opposed to my DC trades (DC logo in different places on each book).
    I was also looking at my Ultimate X-Men trades, and it drives me nuts how every book (16 so far) has the Ultimate X-Men name in different sizes, different placing, different colors (although the color thing I think is supposed to be like that).
    Also, for some reason, my Executioner’s Song trade is probably a 1/2 – 1/4 inch shorter than the rest of my Marvel books. No idea why. Maybe because it’s old, but it looks lame.

    So don’t worry Ron, I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  20. Gotta say, I think this is pretty trivial.

  21. I collect only trades. I gotta say i’m with ron on this.
    but it doesnt mean that i’m not going to buy a set of books because the spines dont match.
    I recently bought young avengers vol1 and 2 at a very cheap price, one of them was a premiere hc and the other was a regular tpb. It bugged me at first but the content was so good that I didnt care anymore.

  22. Seriously, can you imagine?

    “The first two trades we put out are really poorly designed. They’re not selling; nobody notices their spines on the shelves; they’re ugly. Let’s tweak the design and add–”

    “No! They all have to look the same… for-ev-ahhh.”

    I don’t wanna live in that world.

  23. I, too, had the thought before I looked at the author, “This is a Ron article.” We love you, RR!

  24. Note that Ron still has love for Scott Pilgrim and that I’m sure he’ll buy future issues just like he did for Runaways. He’s not saying that he’s going to go out and shoot up his LCS over this. He’s not going to drive his car through the wall of Oni Publications. He’s just going to gripe.

    He’s going to gripe and give our little group one more thing to poke fun at him about. And we’ll chuckle if they do it on the show. A collector, almost by definition imposes an order upon what he chooses to collect. Matching spines are orderly.

    Y’know, non-matching spines bug me too. VHS tape collections used to do this. Matching spines look nicer. At a certain point a publisher may choose to change the spines to improve marketing. If so, future editions should be issued with the new spines starting with the first (see what Dark Horse did to the Hellboy line). Until then, allow Mr. Richard’s his gripe.

    But feel free to tease the hell out of him.

  25. thanks Tad! you’ve always got my back – I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  26. “I noticed this when I bought the trades for ultimate spider-man, and the spine, and actual book size were different in volume one than the rest. It bugs the crap out of me”

    If it’s white, then it’s a second printing. The 1st print is red and matches the red/blue pattern of the rest of the line.

    I knew this was posted by Ron without even looking lol. I still love ya man, you’re good people. I agree, to a point. Though I enjoy uniformity as much as the next guy, if that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is. I’m sure they’ll reprint the first three to match the new style, so if it’s that big of an issue you could get those. Me? I’d just go with it.

  27. That is a bit annoying, isn’t it? Would it kill them to be a little consistent? I mean, what’s the world coming to? People are starving, wars are being fought across the ever-warming globe…and now this?!!! Shame on you, Scott Pilgrim book printing type people! Shame.

  28. You know, I get annoyed by this too in that “this is screwing with my comics feung shuay” kind of way. I don’t love sleep over it, but it’s just more visually appealing to have that consistency.

    The most recent trade that did this exact thing was the 5th and 6th volumes of Ex Machina. I was like, “WTF Wildstorm?” and the world became a sadder place…

    …not really.

  29. I don’t love sleep over it, but it’s just more visually appealing to have that consistency.

    Correction: I DO LOVE sleep over this issue. It’s that I don’t LOSE it.

  30. This bugs me as well. The biggest offender is Marvel’s Essential line. It’s not the fact that they changed the trade dress (I only have Vol 1 of X-Men in the old style and the new one is way better) but the fact that even in the new dress, they’re not consistent at all! Essential is different sizes on different series and even within the same series, the character’s logo changes!

  31. http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2341/2108913640_9dd3ecaf2a_o.jpg

    Look at that inconsistent trade dress! Drives me crazy! Look at Thor, why did they change that? Why is Spider-Man smaller on vol 3? And what’s with the colors of circles around volume number that seems consistent in alphabetical order, including, inexplicably with Avengers and Monster of Franenstein, which aren’t even the least bit related? And then there’s X-Men Vol 1 which is completely different! I actually kind of like the color change on various volumes of Wolverine, though

  32. I refuse to read this article. Ignorance is bliss. hehe. I’m loving this book too much and I’m embarassed to say that my opinion can be too easily impacted by others. If I read what made you mad then (whether it would normally bother me or not) I would never be able to ignore it. I repeat again. Ignorance is bliss

  33. Dammit, and I just ordered these trades too! But I’m totally with Ron on this. It maddens me beyond belief when anything I collect just doesn’t look right. It’s stupid, I know, but it’s like them changing the design on the DVD of part 3 of whatever trilogy you’ve been collecting… so superficial, but so damn annoying!

    Still, looking forward to reading Mr Pilgrim though.

  34. This bugs me soooooo much. I see Jimski’s point that it’s just “bettter marketing”. But then wouldn’t it also be better marketing to reprint the old volumes with a new cover? Then people don’t look and think volume 4 of Scott Pilgrim is an entirely different series than those three trades next to it that obviously belong together. Perhaps if each spine in a series was different, it would be less frustrating. But it bothers me to no end when only one or two stands out.

  35. Ok, I just heard that Edgar Wright (‘Shaun Of The Dead’ & ‘Hot Fuzz’) has been given or bought the option to make the film version of this title. I could be wrong, and I’m sure iFanboy would’ve reported it (if so, please delete this, guys).

    If not, here’s the article