Cross-country tour explores comic-making
SINCE last September, Scott McCloud; his wife, Ivy; and their daughters, Sky and Winter, have been traveling the mainland in their Toyota Sienna van, luggage included.
It's all part of McCloud's 50-state tour to promote his book, "Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels."
Before the extensive tour wraps up in Los Angeles on Sept. 1, the McClouds will give their van a rest as they fly to Hawaii, where McCloud will give a free presentation Tuesday at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
COURTESY SCOTT MCCLOUD
"Reinventing Art for the Internet Age" and the "Making Comics" 50-State Tour
7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts
» On the Net: www.scottmccloud.com
CLICK FOR LARGE
The artist-author made his reputation as creator of the landmark 1993 graphics book "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art," now translated into 16 languages. The man pretty much legitimized the comics medium as "sequential art" with that book. He followed that with 2000's "Reinventing Comics," focusing on how developments in digital production and online delivery has changed the medium.
With his reputation preceding him, McCloud appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con three weeks ago and was a featured speaker last week at the 34th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, aka SIGGRAPH 2007, also in San Diego. His new book, "Making Comics," defines and breaks down the elements of storytelling via sequential art.
Speaking by phone from California, McCloud said his PowerPoint presentation of some 600 to 700 images "is always evolving and changes from place to place. It's this single, growing mutating piece that can be a bit unpredictable at times."
Still, McCloud has been enjoying the tour, as he relates to audiences how much the comics medium and industry have changed.
"Over the past 10 years, it's expanded tremendously. While sales of traditional mainstream comics have been holding steady, it's manga and graphic novels that's been exploding. Manga is relatively new in the continental states here. I would say that in the last five years, manga's readership is 20 times what it was before. It's now common to see middle- and high-schoolers reading manga.
"Not only are the major stores now carrying manga, but graphic novels as well, which signal the biggest changes in the mainstream. Now you have hits like (Alison Bechdel's) 'Fun Home' and (Marjane Satrapi's) 'Persepolis,' which did such a good job of portraying life in Iran that it's required reading at the Naval Academy. More than ever, you can see just about any subject that can be done through comics."
The growing popularity of manga has changed the medium in the United States.
"It's these East-meets-West techniques," he said. "The way the action is framed has changed a lot, where there are more off-center compositions, and letting characters turn their backs to the readers. It's a different philosophy that opens up more reader participation where, between the panels, the storyteller allows the reader to do more work in interpreting the story.
"Because of that, readers feel like they're more inside of the story. Manga has done this very well historically, where instead of just observing motion, readers feel the action of movement with the characters. They're expressionistic effects that allow the reader to share in the emotion being depicted."
McCloud feels he has done a solid job addressing the evolution of sequential art.
"I think 'Understanding Comics' has stood the test of time. With 'Reinventing' there were a lot of arguments and more controversy around what I wrote. 'Making' feels more like 'Understanding' in terms of being more practical.
"'Reinventing Comics' was a subject matter I felt obligated to write about. Looking back, there are now probably some ideas that I would drop, and instead go straight to the parts I was excited about. There were some crazy design ideas I had, like the infinite canvas, which was something I just threw out for people to use. The idea of creating a big, scrolling comic that viewers would have to navigate through is still pretty fringe-y and still considered marginal since most of what's online are more simple gag strips. But give it time. I originally called 'Reinventing Comics' a book about the future, and it still is."
OUTSIDE of his nonfiction books, are there any stories that McCloud, comics creator, wants to tell?
Before "Understanding Comics," McCloud was known for his 1980s superhero series "Zot!" He later wrote a series of issues under the "Superman Adventures" title. But rather than working for DC Comics again, McCloud said, "I want to do more self-generated work. In fact, on my next project, I would like to spend two to three years making a graphic novel. I already know what the entire story is, top to bottom."