Cartoonist discusses challenges of medium
By DANIEL BARLOW Herald Staff | October 20,2006
DANIEL BARLOW / RUTLAND HERALD
Scott McCloud, a California cartoonist who has written three books on comic book art theory, lectures to a class at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction on Thursday morning. McCloud is on a 50-state tour to promote his book-length work, "Making Comics."
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The unofficial professor of comic books went back to school this week.
Scott McCloud, a California cartoonist best known for his trilogy of graphic textbooks dissecting the comic book medium, guest lectured Wednesday and Thursday at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.
The trip to the tiny two-year upstart cartooning school located in the downtown of this once bustling train depot town coincided with McCloud's 50-state tour to promote his new book-length work, "Making Comics."
McCloud told a group of about two dozen students Thursday morning that he began working on the how-to guide to comic books in an effort to better understand the challenges of telling stories in that medium.
He joked that he redrew many pages of his latest book once he realized that the comic book version of himself was committing a storytelling faux pas: Lecturing with his hands in his pockets.
"No! The hands have to be in motion!" McCloud laughed. "To be convincing in your story-telling and bring realistic emotion to your characters, their hands cannot be in their pockets."
For more than 90 minutes, McCloud, a comic industry professional for more than 20 years, entertained the students with tales of coming up as part of the second wave of independent comics in the early 1980s and his experience writing a handful of Superman comic scripts for DC Comics.
But his focus since the early 1990s has been cartooning guides dissecting how the average person reads comics and the myriad of ways to revolutionize the medium. The first book of this trilogy, "Understanding Comics," is considered a must-read in the comic industry.
"That book has become the textbook on how to make comics," explained cartoonist James Sturm, who founded CCS two years ago. "It's a wonderful tutorial on how to approach the medium and has made a generation of cartoonists rethink how they work."
McCloud said he started the series, which also includes 2000's "Reinventing Comics," as way to grapple with the story-telling problems he was experiencing as a writer and artist in the medium.
He bluntly claims that he is neither a good writer nor a good artist. He is, however, a good writer and artist, he said.
"My talent seems to be comics," he said. "I picked the right profession."
McCloud said comics are now experiencing a cultural and commercial upturn as more young readers, including young women, begin reading manga, which are serial Japanese comics reprinted in small and inexpensive digests in the United States.
This growing boom is coupled with the dramatic rise in Web comics over the last several years and the movement of literate graphic novels, such as Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," her autobiographical comic about growing up in Iran during the 1979 revolution.
"Usually just one of those things are enough to shake up comics," McCloud said. "But it's interesting to see how all three will affect the medium."
Sean Ford, a CCS student from Connecticut, said McCloud's love for the medium is contagious.
"He has a lot of energy and that is really exciting," he said. "He is really enthusiastic about every part of this medium."
McCloud also had a mutual appreciation for the comic college and the Windsor County town it settled in.
"White River Junction is a hip town," he said. "It reminds me of Soho in the late 1980s and early 1990s."
Contact Daniel Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org.