Scott McCloud: how technology has transformed comic creation

It is inarguable that the advancement of technology has changed the nature and creation of comics. McCloud explains that not all comic artists have been welcoming of computers as the main means to produce comic art. McCloud writes: “While many younger artists now see acquiring computers as the first rung on the ladder to power…veteran artists of earlier generations [feel unsettled].” McCloud illustrates three groups which represent attitudes of artists towards digitized comics, varying from “they’ll make me a star” to “they’ll make me a living” to “they’ll make me extinct.” While some artists see the computer as the ideal tool for digitalized art, others see themselves as a slave to it, unable to get ahead in society without it. In this way, there are varying attitudes towards the changing nature of comics and to art in general.

McCloud explains that using computers to aid in the creation of art is a concept that dates back nearly to the invention of the computer itself. In the early stages, many artists were resistant to the introduction of technology preferring to rely on the expression of non-computerized, hand-drawn art. The computer felt unnatural in a such a creative process. In some ways, the relationship between hand-drawn images and words is more straight-forward. The hand can’t produce what computer programs are now capable of. However, I would argue that seeing printed comics is a more intimate experience, and that hand work is more expressive than computerized work. I feel that computerized lettering detracts from the intimate reading experience. That said, printed comics can now be digitalized, although I would argue this changes the feel of the comic itself. If a user sees traditional, printed comics posted on the web, they will appear unimpressive compared to more innovative comics that can be 3-D, etc. Will more traditional comics lose their meaning with the changing nature of comics?

Thinking forward to the advantages of digitalized comics, they can be  3-D, moving, or changing in color. Digitalized comics can take many  forms and are generated to a larger audience for a much cheaper cost. I do wonder, though–what has been lost and changed about art itself with our increasing dependence on computer-producing capabilities? Are we as artists on the way to being replaced? McCloud warns against the “door beyond which the human artist ceases to matter” when the computer replaces the human artist. Is this the direction that we are heading in? What is the extent of the changing nature of comics? Is there a limit to how far it can go?

Over time, artists have become increasingly dependent upon the computer as an essential tool in the creation of comics without enough reflection upon the potential negatives of this decision. One reason this change seems natural is that the computer has become an essential tool in many other aspects of our lives as well. McCloud draws on the early history of the radio, television and language to explicate this point. All of these technologies have been updated time and time again to new and improved versions. It is always about having the latest new thing. I believe that comic art will continue to change in accordance with updates of technology, and, specifically, the computer.

McCloud contends that the features of comic computer programs could have been “addressed long before computer-generated art become widely available.” However, he points out that the nature of comics could not have made such a sharp change without the computer, because it would have taken “a bewildering variety of traditional tools” to do the same job. On the other hand, digital tools allow for all of these possibilities to be featured and available in a “single location” and “single work environment.” In a computer program, art can be thought of as “intrinsically limitless,” changing the nature of traditional art that is hand-drawn and confined to a book. Importantly, the internet changes the nature of comics by allowing for many more artists to circulate their work in vast quantities and to a large audience. It also means that comics don’t have to be reviewed before publication, which is arguably either a good or a bad results of the internet.

The nature of digitalized comics has changed with updates in technology. Comic artists strive to make comics “come alive” and so finding the newest and best technology is important. Thinking back to McCloud’s seven word-image relationships, I would argue that they are easier to implement in digitalized comic creation. Digitalized comics can be presented and “take virtually any size and shape,” allowing for a vast number of relationships between words and images. In this way, digitalized art has come a long way since the early CD rom, changing the nature of traditional comics which follow a more predictable panel pattern.

McCloud explains that many people feel uncomfortable about the changing nature of comics because ink-on paper comics is more traditional. It is what people are most “comfortable” calling comics. The utilization of computers in creating comics is scary to some people because it allows for comics to “exist as pure information.” The entire philosophy of comics then changes. McCloud offers some comfort by explaining that many online comics are simply “repurposed print.” McCloud contends that the supreme goal for comics will be to “find a durable mutation that will continue to survive and thrive well into the new century.”

The nature of comics will continue to change as comics adapt to both its digitalized environment and the “needs and desires of its potential audiences.” This said, I think that the digital comic reader plays a crucial role in the comic message. Importantly, the artist is making his/her comics available to a much larger audience by putting it on the web. The web opens up many new avenues of publication/distribution, and their message needs to cater to a larger audience. In other words, their comics have to adapt to the ever-changing realm of the internet. For example, artists may change their message depending on feedback from their followers, as demonstrated in our last class in the case of the web page with 3,000 links. In this way, individuals should take comfort that they have some control over digitalized comics because their opinions can be easily communicated and perpetuated online.

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