Essay The Second: How to Reinvent

I think that there is one very important thing which Scott McCloud left out of his latest book, Reinventing Comics. I don't know that this was an intentional oversight. Maybe it just seemed so entirely obvious to him that he didn't think he needed to mention it. Or perhaps he simply forgot.

For those who haven't read this book: Don't worry, I think you'll still understand the point I'm about to make, but here's a brief summary of what Reinventing Comics (or RC, from this point on) has to say: The potential of comics as a communication and storytelling medium is unlimited. The development of computers and the internet can play an important role in realizing that potential, as long as we remember that comics are comics and not TV, movies, games or anything else. (A comic that moves and talks is no longer a comic, for example.)

There has been some talk about this book (though I haven't run across as much discussion as I would have expected or would have liked), and much of it starts with the same qualifier that DC Comics chose to place (almost damningly) at the front of RC: "I don't agree with all of Scott's conclusions, but..." It's interesting to me that people find the need to say this; As if the best way to prove your own stature is by disagreeing with an accepted expert in the field. The problem I find with this is that people are talking about talking about comics and, in all this talking, they're forgetting that actual reinvention of anything involves a certain amount of practical application.

Forgive my lapse into metaphor, but Scott McCloud has led an army of potential revolutionaries to the top of a hill and pointed to the broad, sweeping vista rolling into the distance and said, "There! This could be yours! How can you get it? Well, here's a few ideas!" The army behind him stood on top of the hill and some said, "yes, yes- it just could work," and some said, "no, not that way, but what about this method?" and still others said, "nope. Won't work. No way; No how." This was all to be expected and most likely all factored in Scott's plan, but what happened next is the bit that I find disheartening.

General McCloud went forth from the hill to occupy some territory and show the revolutionaries what he was talking about (please see Zot! Online, for this demonstration) and a few followed him to watch. The problem is (as I see it) that most of the army is still on top of the hill, discussing, talking, arguing and trying to figure out just what IS the future of comics? Even most of those who followed Scott down from the hill are simply discussing Scott's demonstration. And those that said "it won't work?" Well, they're long gone (and good riddance). The problem is that Scott left out one crucial bit of his manifesto. He probably thought it was so basic- so fundamental- that he didn't even need to mention it, but since it wasn't explicit, people haven't noticed it. Yet. Would you like to know what that part is? Lean close- I'll tell you:

"Go forth. Make comics."

The revolutionaries were led to a hill, shown the land that could be theirs, and were told how to gain that territory. They weren't explicitly told, "go, get it. Now." So there they stand, on the hill in the deepening twilight, talking about it.

Now this is not solely Scott's omission. Comic writer Warren Ellis has been very vocal in encouraging his readers to work at making comics better through various means, but all the patronage in the world won't make a difference if the art itself isn't worthy. Warren doesn't lead his readers astray with false hopes of glory, success, fame and wealth in the comic industry (for those seeking rewards of that nature are truly better off elsewhere), and that's admirable. But this is exactly where RC takes over; Showing us what a new paradigm might look like; Breaking the mold; Reinventing (to borrow a handy phrase) comics.

It is not because of this that I decided to make Zwol (as I had been working on it for some time before RC was published), but it is this thought that keeps me going: I'm going to reinvent comics. Me, Scott, and whoever else has the drive to do it. The rest can talk all they want, and they can even disagree with us, but, in the end, those that do the work will have the most profound effect.

Scott may have left it out, but I'm saying it:

Go forth. Make comics.

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