In 1993, Scott McCloud published an unexpected blast of pure genius, _Understanding Comics_: a monograph on comic books in the form of a comic book. Now he has created a sequel. I was leery at first; I wasn't sure that there was much more to be said, and I feared that the freshness of the first volume would be lacking. The first half of _Reinventing Comics_ somewhat fulfilled my fears; chapters dealing with the artistic and business side of comics seemed like afterthoughts to the first book, and chapters on issues of diversity, while interesting enough, didn't really jump off the page at me. But the second half of the book, unexpectedly, brought back to me the excitement I felt in 1993. It covers new technology, especially the Internet: digital production, digital distribution, and the evolution of comics in the digital world. McCloud includes a brief history of computers, the internet, and computer graphics, and analyzes both the impact digitalization has had on comics, and the impact he expects it to have in the future. Always the optimist (see Zot!), McCloud is also terribly smart, and the future he envisions is exciting and provocative. _Reinventing Comics_ is essential reading for anybody interested in comics, in the potentials of the Internet, in information theory, or simply in thinking.
When I first read Understanding Comics (and decided to publish it in Italy) I thought noone else would ever tried to do such a thing anymore! An essay IN comics? Too much work. I was wrong. A fool did it again, and that fool is always Scott McCloud! A wonderful work: Reiventing Comics is full of (practical) suggestions about the future of comic art and, once again, is all in comics! Yes, I'm already working at the Italian edition... and I talked about it ...as soon as I received the first photocopies of Scott's drawings to make it translated in french, dutch etc...: it deserves it.
Reinventing Comics has one strength that makes it timeless: Scott McCloud systematically explains what was wrong with the comics that were created through the end of the 20th century. When he switches over to what's needed to overcome those issues, the book becomes more idealistic than practical in many areas. The book is particularly hobbled by a limited appreciation of how comics might blur with (and be surpassed by) electronic gaming.
His basic optimism is that the comics genre can expand to satisfy more readers' needs by:
1. Becoming more like literature. 2. Developing as an art form. 3. Providing creators with more rights. 4. Changing the industry business model to serve everyone's needs better 5. Improving public image. 6. Reducing the heavy hand of governmental overview. 7. Appeal to females. 8. Represent all kinds of people. 9. Diversify in subgenres. 10. Employing improved digital production methods. 11. Providing digital delivery. 12. Exploring the potential of digital comics.
Basically, he sees escaping the box of limited distribution by providing online, direct distribution. This method is potentially cheaper and could provide for more creators while eliminating many intermediaries.
I suspect that some of his optimism will be "over the rainbow" for quite a while yet.
It's interesting that even the blockbuster success of so many comic-based characters hasn't helped to reinvigorate the comics business more. I think that's where he doesn't realize that in a world of video, comics seem dated and static.
Will comics go the way of high art and become something primarily for older aficionados? I doubt it. Comics are like candy to boys of a certain age. Comics help them to dream. Can comics go beyond that heritage? It's possible, but is it likely? Books like this one will have to do more than point the way: Breakthrough success is needed to draw an audience and more inspired creators.