23 February 2012

Evolution Revolution

The introduction of Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics offers a brief summary of comics’ condition over the 1984-1994 period, and discusses the artist’s hopes for the evolution of the medium in the years to come.

McCloud states that while comics artists often don’t share the same objectives for their medium, 12 main goals are shared by the majority of comics professionals, which he refers to as the Twelve Revolutions. These goals are that comics should have literary and artistic value, creators should possess adequate financial stake, improvements in the industry for both the artist and consumer, an improved public perception that recognizes progress, positive institutional recognition, balance between the sexes as well as minority representation, genre diversity, production with digital technology, distribution of comics digitally, and evolution of comics in digital form. From 1984-1994, comics were on the rise, with an increase in sales and even an improved public image. During this period, several of the 12 revolutions experienced some sort of growth. For instance, minority representation in the medium experienced some progression as well as genre diversity, but change was approaching slowly. Comics hit their peak during this time and then began their unfortunate decline.  McCloud describes 1994-1998 as a standstill period for comics, with many shops having to close and many creators having to switch careers because the industry no longer offered them the means to make a living.

McCloud maintains that although comics may never reach the popularity of film, they are still important to “diversifying our perception of our world.” Numerous modes of perceiving our world are necessary to better understand it. Comics can’t fear change. Comics’ artists need to acknowledge their medium’s past but they must also allow their work to evolve.  McCloud uses the metaphor of a chess piece to explain this concept; in order to take up a new location, the old one must first be abandoned. Comics, however, do not need to move forward from their current position, they need to grow from it! McCloud asserts that comics have the potential to appeal to everyone, but they need to become a more diverse art form, incorporating more genres and more styles than ever before in order to achieve this.

One main point from McCloud’s first book, Understanding Comics, that the author expands on is the idea that comics can be for anyone.  More than ten years after the publication of his first book, the author still maintains that comics can appeal to anyone. However, he believes a few changes need to take place before this can be achieved. He states that it is even more important now that comics artists broaden the genres employed in comics, and they must also incorporate new techniques and art styles. Comics need to be about more than superheroes! I thought that McCloud’s chess metaphor was a really effective way of explaining how he envisions how comics should evolve to begin realizing their potential. I agree that comics’ artists shouldn’t completely forget their medium’s past, but they also need to evolve to help their art mature and progress.

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