(Click sketch for larger view.) I was only able to make it to one scheduled event in the LA Times Festival of Books this year. (Family constraints.) Normally I go to a few, at least, getting my tickets for the panels in advance and going along and listening to authors, writers, editors, and other book-related people having a discussion about some topic or other. If I’m honest, for about 80-85% of such panels or interviews I come away wondering why on earth I went because everyone said the standard things I thought they’d say. But that 10-15% can be great, and you never know where it’ll show up – which event, which writer, during which Q&A… So for that reason I come expecting to get good extra value from listening to the conversations around me in the line and in the audience, and of I course bring my sketchpad and try to see if there’s someone interesting to sketch while I listen.
As usual, for panels involving graphic books or comics, there’s almost always someone in the audience who is working on a sketch of some sort. People who appreciate that form often find value in sketching and often do it (or some sort of doodle) themselves as a pastime, and that’s a great thing. If I’m not the only one and if I’m sitting at the right angle, I often get the fun opportunity to sketch a sketcher, and that is what happened during the interview of Scott McCloud on Sunday (he was interviewed by Ben Blacker). So that’s the sketch above, which came out interestingly.
Oh, the interview? It was good. It was mostly nice to get a chance to put a face/personality to the person I know from his writings about comics, and his own works of fiction. He was talking a lot about his book “The Sculptor” which came out last year which I read when it first appeared. I like it a lot. Of course, his classic, “Understanding Comics”, came up a bit too. That is a truly excellent book. I’ve given away many copies of that book to friends in order to help them appreciate the comics form at more than a superficial level.
On a side note, I don’t know if it has helped to try to get people to read it, to be honest. (I don’t force anyone… just make people aware of it once they express an interest). This is not McCloud’s fault, and also, it may be just my own odd crowd of friends. Generally I think that the people who appreciate “Understanding Comics” most are usually the people who really need not have read it (including of course people interested in writing and narrative for its own sake), and then they’re really excited that some of the internal logic and rules they’d figured out by just reading the things over years are being acknowledged by an external authoritative source… As for other people, I wonder if it might be that if they are already going to take time to step out of their comfort zone and read a comic or graphic novel, they just want to read one, and not read a comic about how to read one. So usually I don’t hear back from such people about whether they found it useful or not. I hope that this is not a universal experience – I’d love to get lots of responses from people saying that book changed their life and opened up a literary form that they’d never have appreciated otherwise… but I actually never have.
Anyway, it was a fun conversation – no big surprises or insights I’ve not encountered before – but I’m glad I went. Scott McCloud seems like a really nice guy, who thinks through things a lot, which I (as you might guess) appreciate, so I was glad to hear his thought about his motivations, process, etc.
And I found a generous dollop of time to do a sketch as well. So… yay!
P.S. Oh, the title? Yes, it’s a little in-joke from back when the cloud computing thing was about to go mainstream. See for yourself: