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why has scott become iconic?
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pmagnus
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 10:58 pm    Post subject: why has scott become iconic? Reply with quote

It's uncanny the number of webcomics that have Scott McCloud make a cameo-- as in the first panel of my monkey comic. Since I overanalyze this sort of thing, I was wondering how Scott managed to become the icon that he has. (Note that I mean icon in a literal sense, rather than in some fawning fanboy sense: The little glasses-wearing character with the lightning bolt on his shirt has come to stand for deep thoughts about comics.)

Some things that occur to me:

1. The obvious point first: Scott has written a lot of theoretical stuff about comics in general and webcomics in particular.

2. Scott has reached a lot of people via the web, so that people writing web comics are apt to think of him when they think about theory rather than somebody who hasn't got the same internet presence.

3. Scott drew himself in to his musings on how comics work. So artists and savvy audiences already know what a cartoon Scott McCloud looks like. Wil Eisner has also written about graphical storytelling, but he never drew himself into the picture. I would have to do some searching around to even figure out what Eisner looks like. (Not that I wouldn't, if I thought it would move things along in a comic. The Saint Anselm cameo in my comic actually looks like Anselm, even though most readers couldn't tell Saint Anselm from Gavin McCloud.)

I was thinking that point 3 might be the strongest, until I actually typed it out and tacked that parenthetical on at the end.

(Is Gavin McCloud any relation, I wonder.)

Enough blathering,
P.D.
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 12:45 am    Post subject: Re: why has scott become iconic? Reply with quote

pmagnus wrote:
(Is Gavin McCloud any relation, I wonder.)
As a matter of fact, yes. In fact, before he became the World Famous Sequential Artist he is today, young Scott got a gig, courtesy of Uncle Gav, as Your Ship's Cartoonist on the Love Boat. He'd sit with his easel on the Ledo Deck, and draw caricatures of the passengers. It paid more than similar work on the Boardwalk, or at Bar-Mitzvahs, plus he got to dance with Charo every now and then. Coochie-coochie!

And if you believe that, then I've got a Kosher Clam Bar I'd like to sell ya. Silly boy, it's Gavin MacLeod. Just for that, you don't get to sit at the Captain's Table for dinner.

Still, this whole foolishness has inspired me to write a song (forgive my mismatched meter)...

Improvs
Exciting and new
Clink this link
We've got some panels for you!

Morning Improv
Soon we'll be picking another title
Morning Improv
No panels today, gotta be at my daughter's recital


Da Da Da, Dee Dee Dee, and whatever the hell else you wanna put in there.

Man, do I gotta get some sleep.
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L Jonte
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mmmmm... Kosher clams...
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CleverUserName01
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 3:36 pm    Post subject: Re: why has scott become iconic? Reply with quote

Rip Tanion wrote:
Silly boy, it's Gavin MacLeod. Just for that, you don't get to sit at the Captain's Table for dinner.


Actually, isn't it also Scott McLeod, and he uses McCloud as a pen-name for clarity's sake (i.e., so readers don't refer to him as Scott McLee-Odd)? I thought I'd heard that somewhere...

"Do you also say Froe-derick?"
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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 4:26 pm    Post subject: McCloud=Wavy Stink Lines Reply with quote

Going back to the original question, I think that this is merely a good illustration of an effect described in UC. On page 128, he uses wavy lines representing smell on an upturned garbage can, saying that the lines are "Not really a picture anymore, these lines are more a visual metaphor-- a symbol." On page 129 panel 1, he points out that once these kinds of symbols are established, they can be "applied anywhere and the reader will instantly know what they mean."

Now, to some extent the Scott icon is a visual representation of Scott, but in UC and RC it really acts more as a place holder, an icon of comics knowledge. Scott could have just as easily chosen a picture of a monkey, or a Kochalka-style elf, a talking orange, or Cammy the Talking Comic Book, and it would have served the same function. Therefore, like the wavy stink lines, he is easily transposed into other contexts to represent the same idea of boundless comics knowledge. It will be interesting to see the results of Scott's "aging" of his icon in his own work. I wonder if it will carry over into other people's appropriation of his icon or not. I suspect that it will not, since the icon represents the idea more than the physical reality. Of course, older Scott could potentially become an icon of some other concept....

Another way to test this thesis would be to find autobiographical/journal comics that include the physical McCloud and see if people draw him using the McCloud icon. If so, my thesis is basically wrong, because the icon just represents Scott himself, and so the idea of boundless comic knowledge is actually once removed from the icon. But if people tend to use their own style to draw the McCloud they meet, but the icon to draw the idea, then we know that his icon is truly divorced from himself.

I would do this research if I weren't at the moment taking a break from my Alan Moore thesis. Analyzing the iconography of one set of comics isn't a good way to wind down from analyzing the iconography of another.
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Doc MacDougal
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2004 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Another way to test this thesis would be to find autobiographical/journal comics that include the physical McCloud and see if people draw him using the McCloud icon. If so, my thesis is basically wrong, because the icon just represents Scott himself, and so the idea of boundless comic knowledge is actually once removed from the icon.


Not necessarily. The same sign can operate in a number of different signifying "modes". If we want to, we can parse the Scott sign into the basic Piercian semiotic categories.

Icon: an icon is a signifier that represents its signified because it looks like it. In this way, the cartoon Scott represents the real person Scott McCloud -- or at least the idea of him, as is the case in many of the cameos.

Index: an index signifies through a logical relationship. I think this is the mode in which the cartoon Scott represents "comics theory". The Scott character represents comics theory because he is, for North American readers, the most famous theorist, and, indeed, probably the only one many of them have read. Understanding Comics has been so widely read that it, I think, basically sets the frame of reference for most people engaged in casual-to-somewhat-serious theory discussions. And it's because of this relationship that Scott has come to be an index of comics theory.

Symbol: a symbol is a sign in which the signifier has an arbitrary relationship to its signified. Usually when you talk about concrete things become representative of abstract concepts, you're in this field. But, I think in this case, as I said above, that there is a logical reason why the Scott/Comics Theory relationship exists. Since the signification is motivated, in semiotic terms, it wouldn't be a symbol.

So, I think that the same sign, Scott's cartoon avatar, can represent both Scott himself and comics theory without much of a problem. It's just a matter of which kind of signification is in play in a given context.

Ben.
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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doc MacDougal wrote:

Index: an index signifies through a logical relationship. I think this is the mode in which the cartoon Scott represents "comics theory". The Scott character represents comics theory because he is, for North American readers, the most famous theorist, and, indeed, probably the only one many of them have read.


I don't know if this quite explains the degree to which the cartoon McCloud is singularly and overwhelmingly associated with comics theory. While UC has probably been read more widely, Will Eisner's theoretical work is also very well-known. Yet we don't see anything approaching the kind of one to one association between Eisner and theory that we do with McCloud. I still maintain that the iconic stature of the McCloud cartoon has less to do with the actual logical connection between Scott and theory and more to do with the way that Scott created the icon. Had he used an icon other than himself as the voice in UC, I suspect that it would have attained the same or similar stature.
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William G
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott is the only famous name outside of Sergio Aragones that I can think of that has used an avatar of themselves to such an effective degree in their own work. Understanding Comics made the Scott an instant comics celebrity, and it was the avatar that people can remember most from it. All Eisner had was his signature.

Sort of like how we wouldn't recognise Peter Parker, but we'll always know who the guy in the red and blue spider outfit is.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 2:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only other one that jumps immediately to mind is Stan Lee, even though he's never been the artist, but he's been rendered enough times to assume some sort of stature in this regard. Lee represents super-heroics, adventure and alliteration.
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kaos_de_moria
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 10:45 am    Post subject: i think... Reply with quote

i think european readers might have a certain iconic idea how lewis trondheim looks like. and i guess art spiegelman would be recognised, if painted as a mouse.

kaos
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Kris Lachowski
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Osamu Tezuka seems to include himself alot in his comics also.
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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

William Beckerson wrote:
All Eisner had was his signature.


Which is pretty iconic in itself, albiet not very easy to reuse in a webcomic. I know that I can recognize an Eisner work across the comic store from the signature alone.

William Beckerson wrote:
Sort of like how we wouldn't recognise Peter Parker, but we'll always know who the guy in the red and blue spider outfit is.


Or perhaps, how we wouldn't recognize the "real" Scott McCloud, but we'll always know who the guy in the wacky Zot-themed clothing is.
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Becks bring up Sergo Aragones as being the only other one using an "avatar of themselves to such an effective degree in their own work." Actually, many of the MAD artists from the "good ol' days" used to portay themselves similarly. Al Jaffe usually stuck a charicature of himself, with his curly hair and goatee, in his signatures. Dave Berg always put himself, under ther guise of the Roger Kaputnik character (the guy with the short cropped hair, glasses, pipe, and Safari jacket), in his Lighter Side features every month. And of course Don Martin always portrayed himself looking just like everybody else he drew.

I notice Scott drew himself with shaggier hair in UC, than he does in RC. I guess he got a haircut sometime during that seven year period.

Lisa Jonte wrote:
Mmmmm... Kosher clams...
If you enjoy those, you should try our Kosher Sausage.

CleverUserName01 wrote:
Rip Tanion wrote:
Silly boy, it's Gavin MacLeod.
Actually, isn't it also Scott McLeod, and he uses McCloud as a pen-name for clarity's sake (i.e., so readers don't refer to him as Scott McLee-Odd)? I thought I'd heard that somewhere...
And if he were an artist for MAD, he'd be Scott McClod.

So you're suggesting that Scott may indeed be related to Murray Slaughter after all? Hmmm, I think I'll torture you all with another song (apologies to Sonny Curtis)

Who can draw a walrus with a smile?
Who who can take two homeless kooks,
And make their lives suddenly seem worthwhile?
Well it's you, Scott, and you should know it.
With each stoke on your Wacom tablet you show it.

Panels all around, each day you post them.
Read Monkey Town, it's a really a gem.
Why did you make that dentist fall?

[big brass florish]
They're only comics after all.
[Bucket Kittens go "meow"]
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L Jonte
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rip Tanion wrote:
If you enjoy those, you should try our Kosher Sausage.


Not to be the only consistent off-topic-er in the thread or anything, but I'm holding out for the kosher bacon.
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tim333
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that Cartoon Scott mainly represents comics discussion; it represents Scott only in that context. Whenever Scott relates events or experiences from his life in comics, he draws himself in a different, more pictorally accurate manner. For example, see "My Obsession With Chess", the short comic about the incident with Scott's daughter, or the shot from Reinventing Comics about the Creator's Bill of Rights. Cartoon Scott is used pretty much exclusively for the discussion of the form of comics, as in UC, RC, and ICST.

The dissociation of the icon from its original concrete representation is not complete, however, for whenever we see Cartoon Scott in cameos, although the main point may be discussion of comics form, Scott himself (and his books) is always mentioned, and must be. Therefore, Cartoon Scott may be defined as representing Scott in the context of his discussion and theories about comics.
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William G
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 29, 2004 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, I'd love it if Scott posted, "I rule your asses!" after he reads this.
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BuckBeaver
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think cartoon Scott or the "Scott icon" is so popular because Scott (in the form of his cartoon alter-ego) used it to speak to and directly address his audience that creates the impression of a 1-on-1 relationship. I think it's an extension of the same phenomenon that makes people identify television actors by the names of the characters they play on TV.

Scott also has a reputation for being a nice guy and is of course was one of the first loud voices supporting web comics as a valid art form, but I think the real reason though is because Scott has been so influential. His books have really transcended the comics medium. Graphic/web designers who swear by many of Scott’s theories – even though they don’t work in comics per se - originally recommended UC and RC to me.

Though I’ve dabbled in comics and illustration, I work primarily in puppetry and UC was one of the books that helped shape the way I look at my own artform. I have a video web series debuting in May and we want to make a Scott puppet and have it do a cameo at some point as a little tribute.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooops! I wasn't logged in when I made that last post so I can't edit it. I apologize for the poor grammar.

My bad.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fixed. Edit away.
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