Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Advice is cheap. And plentiful; the electronic ether is alive with the voice of a million gurus and charlatans, some well-meaning, some egotistic, most a combination of the two. I have myself occasionally operated under the delusion of having heard the plea of the ignorant; of being capable – nay, required – to impart necessary knowledge. This, as the Teacher put it, is vanity.

The superabundance of short guides and SparkNotes indubitably has many advantages, though it also tends to make it more difficult to focus on those works wherein one might find substance worthy of sustained attention. Scott McCloud’s guides to comics (Understanding Comics and Making Comics) fit squarely in the category of "must read" in that they creatively synthesize many compelling theories about art and storytelling. Though McCloud focuses on sequential art, all creators should be able to appreciate his psychology of artistic experience, which focuses heavily on the audience’s appropriation of the narrative.

Best of all, McCloud’s guides are extremely pleasant to read. Jargon is kept to a minimum and even the most complex of concepts are elegantly illustrated. The books criticise many forms of dogmatism prevalent in the arts, and such critiques are made more convincing by their author's admission of his own biases. McCloud provides a detailed bibliography of his sources, and is otherwise very demonstrative of his gratitude towards his many inspirations.

Making Comics suggests creators remain mindful of the following five story-telling goals:

1. Look for stories that are rooted in your own experience and that speak to the experiences of your readers

2. Find new and interesting kinds of conflicts between characters

3. Surprise your readers

4. Provoke emotions by tapping into common heritage and experience

5. Make your audience care

Though McCloud’s practical advice may seem initially obvious, it is the kind of sound logic which tends to get drowned out by impulses and aspirations – in other words: it bears repeating, if only on account of how seldom such wisdom is taken to heart.

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