On History: McCloud Speaks

By | Tuesday, February 17, 2015 Leave a Comment
Lynne M. Thomas and Scott McCloud
Lynne M. Thomas and Scott McCloud
Scott McCloud is currently winding down his The Sculptor US book tour, and I got a chance to see him at The Chicago Humanities Festival this past Friday. Despite having seen/heard interviews with him numerous times in the past, this was the first time I'd heard him speak in person.

The event actually started with a performance/reading by local artist Lyra Hill. I was only able to catch the last couple of minutes of that due to some terrible traffic (apparently, there was also a Blackhawks game that night) but I've seen Hill's work before, so while I was disappointed to miss this particular piece, I was grateful that her opening prevented me from missing anything McCloud had to say. I heard a couple of people who hadn't seen her before say they were impressed.

My understanding is that McCloud had asked to be interviewed by a wide variety of people for each of the stops on his tour. I believe his wife interviewed him at one location, and here in Chicago, he was interviewed by Lynne M. Thomas, the Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University and winner of several Hugo awards (primarily for her editting). And I have to say that she did a phenomenal job!

McCloud, of course, has shown that he's been very thoughtful and reflective on comics for decades now; Understanding Comics is proof of that. And, if you've read both that and The Sculptor, it's easy to see how and why he was able to implement many of his theories and ideas into practice. But what the talk fascinating, and where I give Thomas a great deal of credit, is that she was able to bring to the table questions that had ideas behind them which McCloud had not really considered. From the simple description of the title character gaining the superpower to "art really hard" to the armchair psychoanalysis of the lead character that seemed to strike McCloud as an epiphany. I'd be really curious to see if he picks up on these ideas in future talks.

McCloud had a prepared set of slides that spoke to his creation process for The Sculptor but most of the talk was extemporaneous, based on Thomas' questions. And she deftly shifted from discussing the current book which he's obviously trying to promote to his older works for which he's best known, without doing much rehashing of the typical questions McCloud often gets asked. They even discussed the Creator's Bill of Rights, which I think rarely gets brought up as an actual point of discussion any more. The result was an egagement in which, when it ended, everyone (including the well-read comics academics who are at least as familiar with the material as I am) said they could easily have listened for another hour.

The event ended with a book signing, but the line quickly wrapped around the entire auditorium. So I went along with Gene Kannenberg (whose photos I'm using for this post) and Brian Cremins for a quick dinner across the street, followed by a trip over to Quimby's. So, all in all, a great evening!
I don't believe McCloud has many stops left on this tour, but if you have the chance to see him, I highly recommend it. Particularly if he has a knowledgeable and studied interviewer like Thomas!
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