it's because I'm here in the San Francisco Bay Area and I get
to watch all the high-paid web drones go to work in their computer
sweat shops and listen to how insanely happy they are about writing
code. Maybe it's because in this brave new world I have been derided
as a mere "content provider." But whatever the reason, I used
to be an Internet cynic, completely skeptical about the "new economy."
Computers are neat, sure, but I didn't see a revolution the way
everybody else seemed to. Then Lars Ulrich testified before the
Senate Judiciary Committee, and it was like someone had dragged
my world view into the recycle bin.
Internet can make Metallica, who brought us such anti-authoritarian
anthems as Master of Puppets and Justice For All, go to Congress
for help, then the question is no longer what can it do, but what
will it do next?
web is the biggest collaborative positive effort in recorded history,
and there's every reason to think that it's still in its infancy.”
are the hot topic now, but behind the music it's all just intellectual-property
rights, the age-old question of ownership. New technologies are
already making this an issue for the television and movie industries,
and despite all the legal wrangling, the only thing holding back
the flood gates of simulacra are download times and hard drive space.
But for those of us not already involved in those industries or
currently on the cutting edge of compression tech, it's a done deal.
In five years, probably about the same time the technology will
be getting up to speed, the executives, lawyers and money-men, Metallica
included, are going to have it all worked out. The legal shakedown
is already going down.
so, I ask, what's next?
enough, the answer may be contained in a new comic book by Scott
McCloud called Reinventing Comics.
about to enter a world in which the path from selling ten comics
to selling ten thousand comics to selling ten million comics is
as smooth as ice. An economy in which consumers' interests are
served directly, not merely guessed at and in which the creator's
work can rise or fall on the strength of that interest and not
on any other reason ever again.” --Scott McCloud
Comics covers a lot of ground, from the recent history of comics
to the rapidly changing ways they are connecting with audiences
to grand visions of a not too distant digital utopia. And the implication
of McCloud's lengthy discussion of comics goes way beyond comics.
After all, many media combine words and images in sequence. But
no medium has been more ready for marriage to comics than the Internet,
which is itself a sequential art form of hyperlinked pages.
half of Reinventing Comics is dedicated to the issues surrounding
computers and comics. In his effort to explain computer comics'
potential, McCloud includes some information on computers that the
tech savvy will already be familiar with, but presents it in such
a form that even they will enjoy the refresher. Besides, it's all
just a jumping board for his dive into the future, a future he is
very, very optimistic about.
a sensibility of ink drawing will always be relevant to works
reproduced in ink--and even art destined for the screen can benefit
from the study of old masters--but to choose computers as one's
primary art-making tool is to choose an almost superhuman palette
of options--and to devote it to merely imitating their predecessors
is a bit like hunting rabbits with a battleship.” --Scott McCloud
hurt that McCloud is so good at explaining himself, featuring a
caricature of himself narrating his thoughts in style of a TV documentary.
Those familiar with Reinventing Comics' prequel, Understanding
Comics (1993), will recognize the his style immediately. At
once a historian and visionary, McCloud somehow manages to produce
comic book philosophy with an academic's rigor and a stand-up's
flair for humor. McCloud is a fine artist, whose pictures can contain
complex ideas economically and examples from other artist's works
are used throughout the book to illuminating effect.
McCloud is no slouch when it comes to computers. You can check out
his innovative experimental inventions at www.scottmccloud.com.
There he has crafted a glimpse of things to come, including comics
that grow depending on how you click and comics that stretch off
in weird directions. A featured speaker on the "ONLINE COMICS!"
panel at the ComicCon International in July, McCloud is quickly
becoming one of the experts in the comics field on new technologies.
the ultimate goal for comics--as for any art form--will be to
find a durable mutation that will be to continue to survive and
thrive well into the new century.” --Scott McCloud
describes the comics medium as undergoing twelve revolutions, nine
of them oriented around a traditional method of distribution, the
comic book, and three of them oriented around computers. If you're
only interested in what McCloud has to say about the Internet, then
you may want to start on page 136, where McCloud begins to describe
the revolutions in Digital Production, Digital Delivery and Digital
Comics. It is these section that McCloud reveals what I think is
the most potent truth in McCloud's book. After the engineers have
done their stuff, the real potential for the future is in the hands
of the content providers.
you're making music, comics, literature, film, still photography
or dynamic web pages, it will be up to you to make the Internet
a place worth visiting.
Comics by Scott McCloud is available starting August, 2000
from DC Comics and Harper Perennial Books.)
Copyright © 2000 Jeremy Russell. All Rights
is a freelancer writer, editor and illustrator living in Berkeley,
California. His writing has appeared previously in *spark-online,
as well as at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, New York
Press and Bad Subjects, among many others.
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