Reknowned comic speaks in Blackman

By Jennifer Ruggiero

Scott McCloud, graphic novelist and author of the upcoming book, “Making Comics,” made his lecture a family affair at the Blackman Auditorium Tuesday.

“I like how he does the whole family thing with his wife and daughters,” said Luke Sideris, a freshman graphic design major. “I thought it was a nice touch.”

Introduced by his wife, McCloud arrived on stage with a slide show and a well-versed speech to explain the technicalities of comic book drawing. His 13-year-old daughter, Sky, followed him with a description of the 50 State Tour, “Making Comics,” the family has embarked on. And their youngest daughter, 11-year-old Winter, ran a microphone between audience members during the Q’A session.

For the McClouds, the tour, which started this month and ends in August, serves as promotion for the book and a family road trip.

Sky and Winter are to be home-schooled and will participate in weekly activities to aid their father’s new book. The daughters will broadcast a weekly audio Podcast, and a video Podcast, called “Winterviews,” in which Winter interviews different comic artists that Sky will record and produce.

Tuesday’s lecture was the first for the visual art department’s fall lecture series. McCloud is renowned for his work on “Zot!” and “The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln.”

McCloud also relayed a quick history of comic art.

From Ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphics etched into walls and papyrus showed that “words, in fact, did originate from pictures” to the evolution of the Internet and web based comics, McCloud is enthusiastic about how comics will evolve in the future.

“If comics can pre-date print they can post-date it as well,” said McCloud.

The evolution of the Internet brought comic book artists and their artwork online. The challenge, McCloud said, is using the computer screen to the artist’s advantage.

“The thing that fired me up in the 90s [when the Internet boomed] was having a large canvas and a very small middleman,” he said.

Artists can avoid the business deals behind comic books. They are able to put their artwork on their own websites. Making it cheaper, even free, for the reader and easier for the artist.

Web comics can easily evolve as an art form as well he said.

“What if you treat a computer screen as a window?” McCloud asked.

As long as comic artists use each screen to its fullest potential, readers won’t take their eyes off the page. For this to work, said McCloud, artists need to fit each comic on one page and avoid the dreaded scroll bar – which can make navigation a chore – and the hunt for the next button; a time when readers may lose interest.

“We should not take our eyes off the page,” said McCloud. “No scroll down and hunt. You should have your mind in the comic and forget you’re sitting at a computer monitor.”

He also pointed out that web comics have the ability to transcend the standard left to right formula of print. Due to computers, artists can create comics with parallel stories or alternate endings that readers may browse and choose from.

In what McCloud promised to be a seven-minute life story , he accredited his obsession of comics to childhood friend and fellow comic book artist, Kurt Busiek, who introduced him to a world McCloud previously detested, instead preferring chess.

Along with Busiek, McCloud’s father, a “blind genius rocket-science inventor,” who was never able to see McCloud’s work, had a “blind faith” in his son.

“But, ‘blind faith’ had a different meaning for him,” joked McCloud.

A combination of childhood friends molded McCloud’s eclectic tastes in comic art causing McCloud to formulate certain how to’s on creating the modern graphic novel. It is this detail that attracts his fans.

“We give the reader something to see and read between the panels,” he said.

McCloud said he wanted the audience to walk away with more than just a pretty picture

“He shows comics are more than something you read to laugh about. He shows that you can use comics as a way to tell a story,” said Mary Cotter, a freshman visual arts major.

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