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December 16, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Scott McCloud

Scott McCloud

Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel? If so, what was it?

My first comic book that I remember seeing was at a friend’s house when I was maybe 10 years old. I’m sure it wasn’t the first, but it was the first that made an impression. The back of it had a chart of what all the DC superheroes looked like in various alternate universes. That blew my mind. But I wasn’t a regular comic book reader. In fact, I kind of hated the things until junior high school, when my friend Kurt Busiek turned me around.

What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?

Much of what I love about comics we find in graphic novels as well. The one additional virtue, of course, is length, and I like the idea that a story can grow to whatever size it needs to in order to take full advantage of that story’s potential.

Whose work do you admire?

A lot of people’s. Probably my favorite cartoonist is Tezuka Osamu. He is the god of Japanese comics and anime. Other very influential artists for me would have to include Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, and Hergé, and I was influenced by Kirby, whether I like it or not.

Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?

Not nearly enough. I’m reading a John Cheever audio collection now. But I have to rely on audio now because I’m always on some deadline and those I can listen to while drawing. My reading is scattered. When I get the chance, I’ll dip in to one thing or another, but it’s hard to predict what it’ll be.

How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?

Not a huge number because of deadlines. I wish it were more. Some months it’ll be a lot more than others. I’ll have dry periods and then sometimes I’ll read a ton. I started reading Death Note recently. I was just curious. I haven’t gotten far enough to make a strong judgment.

Which do you prefer and why: color or black and white?

It’s a silly dichotomy. You can’t really choose. It’s like asking what’s more important, music or prose? I’d like to have both of them, please. You might as well ask me which of my children I like best. There’s marvelous stuff being done in both. I’ll say this: I’m not a fan of repurposing. If a comic is designed for black and white, I hope it’ll stay that way. And if a comic is designed for color, I hope it’ll stay that way. Color and black and white are whole different formats. They should be designed that way. 

How did you first get involved in the field professionally?

In many ways, I set my mind to being a professional comic artists at 15 and I didn’t stop until I did it at 23. Right out of college, I got a job at DC in their production department and I worked on breaking in with my own comic. That was Zot!, and that begin in 1984. I always had this notion that t I would break in, but I had to finish high school and college first.

What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?

These days, it’s very positive. Telling people you’re a cartoonist when you’re sitting on an airplane or you’re at Starbucks, you can power up. It’s good to be a cartoonist these days. It means you’re creative and you have a day job you like. And strangely enough, it makes you sound smart. How the hell did that happen? It wasn’t true 10 years ago. Drawing comics is a cool job, and people finally figured it out a few year back.

Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?

I’m not a collector. I have a very strong antipathy toward collector culture, and I think you’ll find most artists feel the same way. They nearly destroyed the industry in the ’90s. It’s so beside the point. It’s fetishist stuff. We hope people will read what we write and draw, not just shove it in a bag. I’ve never bothered to check what I have that’s worth the most. Whatever it is, I should probably take better care of it. It’s probably lying in a pile somewhere. Comics are for reading. It’s demeaning to have them sitting with baseball cards, like they’re Tom Mix or Howdy Doody stuff. Surely we can do better than that.

Is there something you covet adding to your collection?

I would like to get that gigantic new Kramers Ergot. I haven’t bought that yet. It’s like the size of a horse.