27 February 2012

The Battle of The Mediums

He steps on stage and draws the sword of rhetoric, and when he is through, someone is lying wounded and thousands of others are either angry or consoled.
-Pete Hamill      

Pete Hamill, who is best known for his career in journalism in the city of New York , gives us the above quote which does an excellent job of describing Scott McCloud.  He is the epic hero who dashingly rushes to the comic’s defense and uses his brilliant rhetoric to keep the skeptics of comics at bay by reaching within the very minds of readers and revealing the overlooked potential of the comic.  The question is… are you the die-hard villainous skeptic, or are you ready to open up your eyes and see?

Dylan Horrocks gives us some very interesting points to ponder in his rhetorical analysis of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics The Invisible Art. Horrocks begins by shockingly informing us that he believes Scott McCloud really doesn’t have a better reason for using this definition besides preference, and that Scott McCloud is just trying to persuade us to see the comic the way he does.  Horrocks continues with an in-depth look into Scott McCloud’s definition of comics. McCloud’s definition included a term, sequential art, which he got from Will Eisner, one of the most influential comic creators of all time.  Horrocks also states how McCloud so brilliantly uses the term “sequential art” by basically taking that definition and pasting it to that of the comic.  Horrocks goes on to explain how though Understanding Comics The Invisible Art is constantly using metaphors of infinity, he claims it is actually not promoting a limitless expansion or view of comics, it’s simply trying to broaden the already existing borders of the medium.  Like an explorer looking at a map of a new world, Scott McCloud is claiming a portion for comics, and his new definition is this map.  Horrocks also shows us the pros and cons of using this strict map, or definition, when we read a comic. Though this definition does open doors to new art pieces to be considered as comics, in essence this map is a strict path we are all meant to follow and can actually discourage the creation of new comics, which would defeat what Scott McCloud wanted to promote in the first place. Horrocks finishes with a deep look at Scott McCloud’s view on the relation between pictures and words in a comic.  His overall assumption is that finding the right words to use in a comic is a tricky business, and you must be careful, or the meaning can be lost.  McCloud’s experimental solution to this is to use a type of pictogram to convey the meaning into the reader’s mind, which Horrocks claims is due to fail because all our minds will interpret these pictograms differently, thereby altering the meaning anyway.

Dylan Horrocks reveals to us how one of the primary goals of Scott McCloud’s first book Understanding comics The Invisible Art is to try and broaden the world of the comic.  In the introduction of Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud shows us some similar views when he talks about the challenge of comics today not being able to move forward, but outward.  Comics are advancing daily by the use of technology.  They are taking necessary steps toward the future like all other mediums must do, but are still sometimes caught and enslaved by the genres of comics that have been around for so long.  Scott McCloud expressed in his first book that the world of comics would need to expand, so he gave us a definition or concept that would help to promote the cause not hinder it!  In his second book, he gives us the twelve revolutions, the common battle plan which comic creators can use to march forth and claim new territory for the comic.  These two books share a very similar goal, broaden the world of the comic.  Scott McCloud truly is a great rhetorician, one of the great leaders at the forefront of the battle of the mediums, but the question I asked still needs to be answered.  Are you the villainous skeptic who will hinder the progress of the comic?  Or will you join ranks with Scott McCloud and take up the common cause, beholding the vision of what the comic can be?    


  1. Excellent blog, very detailed summary of Dylan Horrock's article. I will admit I was at first the villainous skeptic who apparently was hindering the progress, but after reading Scott McCloud's work I believe I have "jonied his team". Although he had changed my view I don't think I will engage much in the progress of comics.

  2. Excellent post!

    I'm wondering, though, if you're making Horrocks out to be a villainous skeptic hindering progress, though. Because I'm not so sure he is...