Saturday, May 26, 2012

On the Coffee Table: Reinventing Comics

Title: Reinventing Comics
Author: Scott McCloud

Image via Amazon

Reinventing Comics is McCloud's follow-up to the excellent Understanding Comics.  Published in 2000, this second book explores the expansion potential for American comics in the 21st Century.  Comics then and comics now face many of the same challenges as do all print media.  With the ever-growing power of digital technology, what is the future for an industry built on ink and paper?  Can print compete with digital over the long haul?  Probably not.  So, what can the publishing industry do not only to survive the changes, but to embrace them and to thrive within the new regime?

The comics industry in the United States does face a few challenges all its own, even twelve years later.  With The Avengers smashing box office records like a Loki-wielding Hulk, there's no denying the brand marketing capacities of the comics medium.  However, comics do still target a very narrow demographic: WASP, straight, male, aged 14-35.  Moreover, the vast majority of comics to be found in the average specialty shop are still superhero narratives.  Compare this to the broader appeal of comic books in Japan, for instance, and it's understandable how McCloud and many others within the trade feel that their art has only scratched the surface of its potential in the States.

In my own comics exploration, this book has come to me at a good time for a couple of reasons.  Over the past few months, I have fully immersed myself in the early Marvel Age (early 1960s) comics.  While it's been great fun acquainting myself with all of the characters in that rich universe, I am beginning to tire of the formulaic stories.  I am eager to head in new directions and Reinventing Comics was well worth a read for the recommended reading list alone.  McCloud also provides the historical context for the importance of these works.

McCloud devotes the second half of the book to exploring the possibilities for comics in the Digital Age.  On June 6th, my college classmate Zander Cannon, along with his business partner and fellow alum Kevin Cannon (no relation), is launching a web-only publication entitled Double Barrel.  Get it?  Two cannons?  Double barrel?  Very clever.

Image via Double Barrel

The initial book, first of a planned twelve-month run, will be available on a variety of platforms at the bargain price of $1.99 for 122 pages.  Be sure to check out their blog and learn all about it.

In considering the potential offered by the digital universe, McCloud poses the question as to whether or not there's inherent tactile satisfaction in holding a book made of paper and binding as opposed to an electronic reading tablet.  For me, the answer is definitely yes.  I also think books are beautiful.  At our house, they're essentially a decorating scheme.  While I can certainly appreciate the convenience offered by digital media (he says as he composes and self-publishes upon one), I don't think I could ever be convinced that paper books should be replaced entirely.  That's not to say it won't happen, over time.  But I don't want it to happen.  Evidently, the Cannons don't either.  At the end of the twelve-month run, the books shall be collected in hardcover.

1 comment:

  1. I don't want it to happen, either -- and I think there are a lot of us who feel that way. (More than not.)