McCloud says future of comics will be written on the Internet

McCloud, who is an outspoken supporter of sometimes-controversial Web comics, came to IU to speak on what he calls the “infinite canvas” of the Web. McCloud was one of the pioneers of Web comics and now theorizes on different spatial presentations of traditional comics.

“In terms of basic design strategy, there’s not much difference from some ancient wall paintings to modern comic strips,” he said, using Egyptian hieroglyphics as an example. “If comics can predate print, comics can definitely postdate print.”

McCloud’s lecture was sponsored by the Union Board’s Canvas Creative Arts Magazine, a 100-page publication of visual and written work by IU students.

After starting his work in comic books in the 1980s, McCloud wrote “Understanding Comics,” a book about the history of different comic mediums. He was also the lead writer of the Creator’s Bill of Rights, a document intended to make sure artists are paid for their work each time it is used.

The Internet, McCloud said, is a great medium for comics because of its ability to present them with little outside interruption and in different visual and spatial formats.
“When you’re watching a movie or reading a book, you’re not thinking ‘This is a book, time to turn the page,’” he said. “What do you see? You’re immersed in the story.”

McCloud said he likes story presentations that don’t take the reader out of the story. For example, he said Web comics that simply require clicking on one frame to load the next allow the reader to stay in the story more than presentations that require complicated navigation.

“There’s an element of the user wanting to feel in control,” he said. “The author has some control and the user has some control.”

McCloud’s presentation, which was accompanied by slides, was followed by a question-and-answer session. Audience members asked about the evolution of comics, their history and even the debate about calling the books “comic books” or “graphic novels” – a term that was intended to give the genre more respect in literary circles.

“Some people say comic books are stupid,” said McCloud, who in the past has written parodies of over-the-top superhero fights. “The best way to combat that is to stop writing stupid comics.”

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