scott mccloud's talk at rit


Funny, Scott's hair is grayer than it looked in Understanding Comics. :)

He does a great job of illustrating his talk with fabulous graphics. Static images...sort of. He moves through them very quickly, creating a sort of animation that's driven by his clicking of the remote mouse.

He's focusing on the material from his new book, Making Comics, and talking about the various choices that you have make when you're creating comics of any kind.

1. Choice of moment: What parts of the story do you show? how fast is the pace of the narrative based on number of frames in the sequence? nice examples shown here.

2. Choice of frame: How close in do you zoom? How much of the picture do you show? What do you reveal, what do you withhold? Shows "vaudeville-like" comics of the early 1900s, with "fixed frame" approaches, much like theatre. Vestiges of that can be seen in early Peanuts. Even things like the direction the characters are facing tend to invoke the US, characters tend to "face front," they're "slaves to the closeup".

3. Choice of image: 99% of books on comics are about how draw, about the creation of the imagery itself. Huge range of choices here. Photorealistic to stripped down, boxed or not, colored contours, etc.

4. Choice of word/subject (I got lost here for a minute, not sure if my numbering/wording is accurate. Must buy the book.) Integration of words and pictures is important. Words can be like images. Figures can be calligraphic. Words and pictures can providing contrasting messages.

5. Choice of media: Newspaper? Book? Comic book? Web site?

There are things that are consistent in comics, across form and genre. The intrinsic rhythm of call-and-response, for example. The author gives you an image, then asks you to imagine the interstices, the action between the panels.

He said in the early '90s, when CD-ROMs were the dominant form of multimedia, that we needed a "durable mutation" of comics.

Those early "multimedia" comics were essentially a recreation of the form of the print comic, and layering sound and motion over it--very McLuhan-esque in its appropriation of a previous media's method of presentation.

This created a discontinuity where mode changed from space==time to time==time.

(I love that he's using so many examples of things we talked about last week in my Intro to Multimedia class, from McLuhan to Mosaic.)

Next generation took advantage of hypertext to "choose your own adventure." Created a new disjuncture...comics are more structured in their linear presentation of material, the author is the "ultimate authority." On the web, in hypertextual narrative, the user "authors" the experience.

Another a game, a user doesn't say "let me tell you about this narrative I experienced," they say "let me tell you about what I did". They're the author of their own experience.

But we like our narrative to be seemless. We want to know who's in (the reader) or you (the comic author)? The web created a tension there.

The idea of the comic author as creator of a "temporal map" is part of what he calls the "DNA" of comics. The basic ideas predate the print medium (he shows great examples), and he believes they postdate print, as well. Early versions, however, used adjacency for continuation (scrolls, tapestries, etc). In print, we lost adjacency.

So he wondered...can we "put comics back together" in a post-print medium? Only if you think of the screen as a window rather than a page. An unbroken canvas that could scroll past the window. Series of fabulous "what-if" illustrations that I can't begin to transcribe.

(This is an amazing talk. I feel bad trying to capture any of it in this plain text format.)

Turns out that the right term is a "successful mutation" rather than a "durable mutation." A successful mutation recreates itself.

We still haven't figured out how to effectively present long-form comics (graphic novels) in an online format. Most online comics are short-form, newspaper comic-strip style. Long-form wants us to get lost in the story, to not be pulled/jarred out of that reverie by the form.

Amazing, rapid-fire discussion of the various "schools" and "forms" of comics. (Colleagues sitting next to me are laughing..."try to write that up," they say to me. Not bloody likely.) This is un-freaking-believably dense with imagery and content and thought. Just like his books.

Shows a series of interesting multimedia comic implementations.

"Pup" (
A horizontal navigation rather than discontinous right/left, up/down. (Interesting to me how the difficulty in navigating horizontally really affects one's ability to get "lost" in the narrative.)

"Delta Thrives"
Uses "immersion" and gradual reveals with imagery. Introduces motion, which has that discontinuity, that change of mode of that yanks us out of the narrative. But this one it works better, in part because it's not a narrative animation, it's a loop indicating motion rather than story continuation. There's visual activity but steady state in the narrative.

"Bright Morning Blue"
Interesting use of white space to indicate passage of time. In print we change size and shape of panels (their "amplitude"), but we don't change the space between them (their "frequency"). Because we understand that as we move through space we move through time, the extra "beat" in the pace of his narrative clearly indicates passage of time.

"The Right Number"
McClouds' new "micropayment" web comic where comics are embedded frame within frame (almost a z-axis) rather than next to each other.

"crazy comics". Totally jarring. And yet, a volunteer from the audience figures out the navigation in seconds. That's his point--this is completely different and yet still familiar.

Why is this important?

Comics will always be a minority art, people will read them primarily for escape. (We don't have a choice as to which world we're born into, he says, so it's our birthright to create worlds in which to escape.) It's important that we have a diversity of art forms. If all we have is the moving image, that's our window back into the world we live in. If we have only one window to view life through, our world is flat. If we have multiple windows, we can triangulate our world and see it in a richer way.

In comics, he says, we rise above the treadmill of time. (oooo...I love that line!) We're no longer blinded by the passage of time, we have an altitude that allows us to look down on the world of both space and time. The texture of time can be seen.

He finishes his talk, but turns the podium over to his 13-year-old daughter Sky, who has a 7-minute powerpoint presentation on their 50-state tour. (Thankfully, there's no sign of a bullet point anywhere. She's clearly learned from her father.) She talks about how and why the trip came about, and mentions that they have a LiveJournal community that they're maintaining for the trip.

They're also doing audio and video podcasts, with the 11-year-old (whose name is Winter) interviewing people along the way ("Winterviews," get it?), and the 13-year-old doing the voiceover and editing of the video. She shows a 30-second clip from the show, which is really nicely done.

(For the Q&A, he gives his 11-year-old the wireless microphone so she can run it to questioners. Very entertaining.)

Nice line: "I believe in a market of willing buyers and willing sellers." iTunes co-exists with BitTorrent, for example.


Wish I could get him to come to Seabury. . . .

This is a great write-up.

I also get lost in multimedia comics that use both vertical and horizontal scrolling. They require too much thought to maneuver using the current input methods (mouse or trackpad).

Leave a comment




Recent Photos
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from mamamusings. Make your own badge here.

Upcoming Travel

Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on September 18, 2006 3:12 PM.

my mobile number is changing...again was the previous entry in this blog.

i love my new cingular 3125 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.