Monday, August 25, 2008

COMICS will never die. However ...

Sometimes I get tired of Scott McCloud being treated as the official-and-only-source-of-received-wisdom-about-comics. I get that McCloud is sort of to comics what Ralph Nader was to consumer safety ( ... you know ... before Nader became a kooky spoiler presidential candidate ... ), but sometimes it's just enough already. The world of comics is big, and there are a lot of people—heck, a lot of older, more experienced people—that reporters could talk to about the subject. (And I've been on the reporting side, so I also understand what a pain in the butt it is to track down expert sources, which is why, as a writer, you're glad someone like McCloud exists.)

But, boy, I have to give McCloud his props. The Washington Post recently ran a long "Old Literati Tries to Understand those Newfangled Graphic Novels but Still Isn't Convinced that they Are Serious Works of Literature that Merit Reading—You Know, not Like Thomas Pynchon and Gore Vidal," articles, in which McCloud had two excellent quotes:

"Graphic novel" is "a goofy term," McCloud tells his listeners. "The first graphic novel that got a lot of play was Will Eisner's 'Contract With God.' The thing's an anthology. The next graphic novel that got a lot of play was 'Maus,' and it's a memoir. There are very few graphic novels that are actually graphic novels.

"What they are is a publishing shorthand that says: big fat comic with a spine -- and people get that."

Boy—there it is. Why is that so hard for people? Why is that so contentious? I love that: "BIG FAT COMIC WITH A SPINE!" [insert Artie Lange joke here]

Here's McCloud's best line:

Now McCloud is taking audience questions, and here comes one that seems aimed in my [i.e., the skeptical reporter's] direction.

What about those still-numerous naysayers, he is asked, who resist the idea that books filled with word balloons should be taken as seriously as pure prose? Isn't there a way to educate those annoying old fogies -- perhaps through some kind of "adult literacy campaign for comics"?

Sounds good to me. After all, isn't education what I'm here for?

McCloud offers a different perspective. Some people will never get it, he says.

"And it's okay. They'll die."

Thanks to Newsarama for the link. (I actually saw the article a few days ago, but couldn't work up the enthusiasm to read past the first page of the dubious 5-page story. So I missed the McCloud quotes.)

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