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Out of McCloud's three books on comics (the other two being Understanding Comics and Making Comics), this is the weakest. This is largely because this is McCloud's book on the future of comics, and it was published in 2000.

The book consists of two distinct halves, the first concentrating on the future of comics themselves -- the industry, the readers, expansion, etc., and the second concentrating on how the digital revolution will affect comics. I think the first still has a lot of relevant information in it, despite the fact that it's now seven years later. McCloud clearly has a lot of experience in comics and in the industry, and his manifesto of sorts still resonates with me (despite my, uh, knowing not much at all about the comics industry). While some of it is now obsolete or somewhat funny, given the current manga trend, it's nowhere near as obsolete as the second half on computers and comics.

Alas, the second part just had me alternately giggling or scanning over pages. It is not really his fault that he wrote it just before the first big internet boom crash, or that things in that industry change so fast that books from last year are already out of date. But there you go. Also, it reads like every other book about the internet and "ZOMG THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION!" written. I mean, I would be interested to see McCloud's look back on things that have changed -- PayPal and the popularity of many webcomics and blogs and the entire "long tail" theory are versions of what he predicted, but I'd love more concrete details on how they have changed the comic industry. But no more predictions, because they just make me laugh.

The first part, though, would have benefitted from even more detail; I think the book as a whole would have been better if it had all been the first part. McCloud details 12 areas in which comics could improve in, some of them being gender representation, minority representation, more genres, focus on the writing, focus on the art, industry revolution, and etc. Sadly, there are only a few pages dedicated to each of these twelve areas. And while I know he only wanted to give a jumping-off point for people, there could be whole books written about each of them.

Also, (you all knew this was coming up) while I was glad that he did at least notice the disparity in gender and POC representation in the content of comics and the comic industry, the whole thing gets about four pages. Argh. I mean, he thankfully knows enough to acknowledge that it's not as easy as saying, "Well, it's just because we don't see enough comics with women/POC" and he acknowledges sexism and racism as institutions. But I don't think he goes far enough to point out that increasing representation takes a lot of work and focus; it's not something that just happens. Granted, it is the same for broadening genre representation, but since I personally find that combating sexism and racism in comics is about, oh, say, eleventy billion times more important to me than genre representation (I can get that elsewhere), I am just going to harp on that point.

Also also, I laughed and laughed because we did get a lot of the advances he was asking for, only with manga. Alas, the American comics industry has yet to get a clue, from my POV. This is, by the way, not to say that manga solves everything, because manga also needs to improve in the same twelve areas that McCloud pointed out for comics. It's just that I feel like the manga industry keeps growing here, so the potential to hit upon those improvements is larger, as opposed to the comics industry, which has yet to win me back. (Comics, I used to love you a lot, but I feel like you keep slapping me in the face over and over and over. At least manga wants me, even if it is only for my money.)

Anyway, it was an interesting read, though flawed, and I so desperately want McCloud to write something on manga.
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I'm blogging books and manga separately this year, just because I read so much manga. I feel like I've read remarkably few books this year; last year my reading had gone down in total, but I didn't separate the books and manga out, so I'm not sure if I read more books this year or last year. I definitely read way more manga this year, which is why the book count is only at 90. It's really weird; not reading many actual books makes me feel like a slacker, particularly since much of what I did read was YA.

Thoughts about the year in books )

I've blogged nearly all of these previously; the ones that haven't been written up yet are asterisked. You should be able to find everything via tags or LJ memories, and if you're curious about one of the unblogged ones, leave a comment and I shall expound upon it.

And now, without further ado, my top ten books of 2006:

  1. Gillian Bradshaw, assorted novels )

  2. Sarah Dessen, Just Listen )

  3. Scott McCloud, Making Comics )

  4. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back )

  5. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing )

  6. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night )

  7. Beverley Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race )

  8. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia )

  9. Jo Walton, Farthing )

  10. Scott Westerfeld, Succession )

Also recommended: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Christina Chiu, Troublemaker and Other Saints; Sarah Dessen, Dreamland; Emma Donoghue, Life Mask; Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Susan Vaught, Stormwitch; Cornel West, Race Matters; Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Total read: 90 (3 rereads)

All books read in 2007 )
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(subtitle: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels)

I think this is McCloud's third book on comics/manga/graphic novels, the first two being Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. Like the other two, this one is written in comic format. It sounds gimmicky, but it actually isn't, as McCloud uses the format to illustrate how and why comics are a different medium. Also, it's so much easier understanding what he's talking about when you can actually see the techniques in effect, such as word balloon placement, gutters, panel layout, and etc.

I haven't read Reinventing Comics, but Understanding Comics is still the textbook on the techniques of comics. Making Comics goes even further and has McCloud explaining exactly how certain techniques and tricks work to support or take away from the narrative. He goes into character creation (more the appearance than the character's background), panel layout, narrative flow, and etc. He breaks down the artist/writer's choices into five: choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image, choice of word, and choice of flow. These cover fonts, word balloons, panel layout, style, establishing shots, and more.

I can't really say how useful this would be, since I don't actually write or illustrate comics, but as a reader of the medium, it's fascinating. There's even a chapter 5 1/2 online so that McCloud can show the readers how the nature of browsers and the internet change things for comic writers and artists.

My only problem with this book is that it isn't long enough; I wanted even more details that McCloud provides, including in-depth analyses of manga pages, comic pages and graphic novel pages. But I suspect that would make the book four hundred pages long or so. When I say that it isn't long enough, I don't mean that McCloud doesn't give enough details. He has created a great overview into the techniques that any comic writer/artist needs. It's just that... he's so good that I want entire textbooks.


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April 2017


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