22 June 2010

How to Rescue Comics

The entire comic industry needs to be reinvented from the ground up. At least according to Scott McCloud in Reinventing Comics it does, and he makes a convincing argument. In the introduction he outlines “The Twelve Revolutions.” These revolutions are twelve areas in comics McCloud focuses on in their reinvention. In a later chapter entitled “Big World: the Battle for Diversity” McCloud breaks down three of those revolutions: gender, minority, and genre diversity.

The comic industry has been declining since the mid nineties. McCloud feels that in order for comics to move forward, or better yet grow outward in all directions, several things need to change. The twelve revolutions serve as focal points in Reinventing Comics. The revolutions focus on comics as art, comics as literature, creators' rights, industry innovation, public perception, institutional scrutiny, gender balance, minority representation, diversity of genre, digital production, digital delivery, and digital comics. McCloud claims that only by reinventing comics on these twelve levels can we realize comics for their full potential.

The vast majority of comics have been created by white males. To McCloud this is a major reason why comics lack diversity. He states that comics created by women, while vastly diverse, have some qualities in common that many comics created by men leave out. Similarly minorities have perspective that white males can only guess at, and this perspective can add diversity to comics. These both contribute in a way to genre diversity. McCloud, while he does love superhero comics in his own way, realized that too many men it tights only appeals to a small percentage of the population. In order to broaden comics appeal and gain a larger audience, comics must seek to be as diverse as possible in genre.

Reinventing Comics can sometimes feel like a plea for help. Poor McCloud. He releases his first book, Understanding Comics, around the pinnacle of comics popularity, and then comes a major decline in the industry. I cant help but wonder if McCloud asked himself “didn't they read my book?!” In the introduction he cites many possible causes of the comics recession. I wonder if the rising popularity of the internet didn't have something to do with it, though McCloud doesn't mention that as a cause. McClouds appeals, and his “Twelve Revolutions” seem especially suited to those in the comic industry: creators, publishers and the like. Its purpose for comic readers seems to be just informative, not so much a call to action.

Its a little disappointing that there is little diversity in comics. McCloud makes a very good point that comics can do so much more than what they currently do. I can see why he believes that in order to make more diverse comics, we must have more diverse comic creators, including more women and minorities. His estimate is that one in every thousand people in the United States are comic readers. McCloud wish, it seems, is for more people to enjoy comics the way he imagines they can enjoy them. Considering the great heights that McCloud illustrates as comics' potential, I hope he gets his wish.