Skip to main content

Mike Sugarbaker

Scott McCloud talk at Stumptown Comics Fest 2008

4 min read

As long as I’m bloggin’ it up: for those of you who missed, or irritatedly switched off, my flood of live tweets from this past weekend’s unstructured talk by Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud at Stumptown Comics Fest, well, here you go.

These are my paraphrases of McCloud’s comments as they went by, so if something he “says” here strikes you as horrible, be sure and check with me to make sure it wasn’t my fault. Thanks!

“right now Portland is as great a comics town as Seattle was in the 90s”

“i got into comics right at the point where anyone watching the American comics scene must have thought it was stone dead [1974].”

“when I wrote about all the different genres we would have in Reinventing, I knew it was pie-in-the-sky. and then it happened.”

“Side-door diversification: diversifying comics thru pulling in people interested in a niche subject, not in comics.”

“People coming through the front-door (comics stores) wanted to read what was in the stores already.” [Grognard capture!]

“You have manga feeding in. You have people passing seamlessly between web and print. That wasn’t there in the 90s.”

“Genres are fuzzy, blending into each other and evolving. The first generation of fans of a genre pick it up superficially.”

“But eventually it gets into your bloodstream. You’re not imitating it, you’re just doing something with the flavor.” Example: Scott Pilgrim

“Scott Pilgrim’s on the cover of Shoujo Beat, not Shonen Jump. Who decided it was a girls’ comic?”

“Is there a cartoonist in the room who writes a full script for himself? I find that so strange and wonderful!”

“I failed. I tried to bring about a type of payment model for content on the web, and that has not happened, except for iTunes.”

“Right now the great failing of comics on the web is the long form stuff – graphic novel equivalents – aren’t a good reading experience.”

“Printed comics are the shape they are because we have two eyes, and two pages of a book. Landscape mode.”

“You can turn the pages of a book without disturbing that long-form reading experience. You can’t click through web pages, though.”

“A few people have screen-shaped pages that you can click on anywhere to go to the next page. Do that, or drop the page metaphor.”

“Comics have actually become so cool now that we’re due for a backlash. You’d better get ready. It’s gonna be ugly.”

“We make two mistakes: form apologizing for content, and content apologizing for form. You have to believe in both.”

“Sometimes you can just turn around and say to the reader, ‘Let’s talk about particle physics.’ ”

“Jim Woodring’s silent ‘Frank’ stories are a perfect melding of form and content. You can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.”

“Jim Woodring said the same about Chris Ware, and I get that feeling from him too. John Porcellino sometimes.”

“XKCD is so pure, it’s just pure invention. But it’s not content over form, really – he’s really inventive, he just doesn’t draw faces.”

“Ryan North [Dinosaur Comics] is the Ramones of comics. Because only the words change!” (15 y.o. Sky McCloud’s realization)

Now everyone’s challenging him to fill in half of “____ is the ____ of comics.” “Someone called me the Raymond Scott of comics.”

“Then someone else says I was the Thomas Dolby. So I said, screw you, I wanna be Raymond Scott! We compromised on Herbie Hancock.”

“When I wrote Understanding, manga and webcomics and graphic novels weren’t an issue. Just comics and newspaper strips existed for people.”

“And then I wrote a definition, and – oops! – there went Jeffy. And the Far Side. But I think Gary Larson would call himself a cartoonist.”

“The stuff the definition sliced off was not the point. The huge area of other stuff was the point. Possibilities are the point.”