Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Review--Reinventing Comics

I should have read this book 15 years ago.

Reinventing Comics was Scott McCloud's call-to-arms for revolutionizing comics, primarily by way of the internet.

While some of the author's then-revolutionary ideas seem dated now, I still found the book, written in comic book format, interesting from an historical and business perspective (for printed comics). 

Even though the title is called Reinventing Comics, the first half of the book actually looks at the past.  Mr. McCloud charts the rise and fall of the comic book industry of the 20th Century which culminated in the imposition of the Comics Code Authority.  Comics then enjoyed a resurgence, but suffered another downturn due to the increasing popularity of video games and increased access to the internet.

Despite the look backwards, I actually enjoyed reading this part; along with the examination of the process of making, distributing and selling comics. 

As to the looking-to-the-future part, the author had one good idea:  Creating comics on-line, which he called "digital comics."  Mr. McCloud was certainly on the right track back in 2000, but I wouldn't exactly call him a visionary in this regard.  His concept of digital comics (now more commonly referred to as webcomics), seemed to favor a pay-per-view method for on-line consumption.  Fast forward to 2015, and this is a business model that doesn't work, at least for self-publishers.  (See my review of the Webcomics Handbook for more details).

The author's remaining ideas for revolutionizing comics calls for more gender, racial and sexual orientation diversity.  For folks living and working anywhere in the western world, these concepts have existed for quite some time, prior to the publication of Reinventing Comics--even in the tradition-heavy military.  Such calls for diversity in comics is therefore, blended into of the tapestry of modern life.

Some of the book's critics felt the author strayed into the realm of political correctness (PC).

And speaking of critics, Reinventing Comics has been nowhere near as popular as Mr. McCloud's seminal work Understanding Comics.  If reviews are anything to go by, Reinventing Comics has a mere 43 customer reviews, with an average 4.0-star rating, compared to Understanding Comics 263 customer reviews with an average 4.7-star rating. 

True, Understanding Comics was published in 1994, but Reinventing Comics has had 15 years to catch up.  Despite this disparity in ratings, Mr. McCloud is still considered by many to be the go-to guru of comics theory and application.

Overall, I liked the book, primarily for its historical content and peek into the business aspect of comics:  I give Reinventing Comics 3-stars.

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