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Comic visionary ponders art form's future

Everyone who can write a book today has opinions about the transforming powers of the Internet. Comic book creator and visionary Scott McCloud is one of the few who is actually implementing his ideas.

In his 250-page volume Reinventing Comics, McCloud uses the friendliness of the comic book form to reveal the state of the art, recount its history and offer a manifesto for its future. A follow-up to Understanding Comics, McCloud's study of the medium's aesthetics wrestles with the complex dynamic of art versus business and weighs the external limitations and boundless potential of "funnybooks."

A cartoony version of McCloud himself "hosts" the book, and he's as genial a guide as you could require. The topics may be heady, but McCloud has such an effortless command of facts and form that Reinventing Comics is never less than accessible and often surprisingly playful. The book's first half covers such topics as the industry's perpetual battle to shake off its juvenile reputation and the financial bust that followed the past decade's creative boom in graphic novels. While the comic book market has unique predicaments, the core issues aren't that different from those faced by musicians, filmmakers or any other kind of artist.

And if you have any interest in the phenomenon of the World Wide Web, the book's second half offers an excellent resource about the Internet and what it can do. McCloud provides a breezy, six-page history of the invention of the Net (Al Gore is not mentioned) and shows how e-commerce and online delivery has the potential to destroy the commercial barriers between artist and audience. McCloud acknowledges that the Internet is unlikely to offer a creative Utopia, but he has an infectious excitement at its possibilities.

McCloud has equally high hopes for digital comics, which can replace earthbound ink and paper with monitor screens of near-infinite dimension and design. Reinventing Comics offers lively experiments with online comics both through superhero serials and editorials. The book's author's note reflects both McCloud's relationship with the Internet and our own: "He lives in California with his wife and two children and on the Web at"


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