The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

NYCC 2008: Scott McCloud and Doug Rushkoff

Written by: Ron Bricker

ImageScott McCLoud and Doug Rushkoff join forces for a session of commentary and debate.

Conversation with Scott McLoud and Douglas Rushkoff

Below you’ll find a conversation that moved back and forth which such pace that was unbelievable.  I was only able to pick up on a slight glimpse of the intriguing conversation that followed.  Enjoy the ride on theory beneath.  They even manage to discuss, briefly, the goodness of comics because they are on paper.  The threat of comics going digital always seems to loom over the industry, and Scott and Doug discussed their love for the physical over the digital.

Doug:  Separating things between linear narratives (which he hates as they are so uniform) and enjoying stories based on their connections yet not their conclusion.  Comics, for him, bridged these two worlds: forming a narrative while enjoying connections.  He then read Understanding Comics.  Scott has his whole thing about how the movement of comics happens in the gutters, so Doug made his narrative about “the gutter.”

Scott:  He basically said “thanks.”

What has held up over time?

  Understanding Comics holds up the best.  He claims that he purposely never addressed any specific “medium” or “format.”  Scott feels that he actually does belong to the “linear narrative” cloud… Understanding Comics investigates what principles connect the medium, and boiling comics down to their essence… which he admits may have been a bad thing; once he’s done there will be nothing left.  McLoud also alluded to his critics, he recognized that his definition was and will never be final, and he said that all he did was add to the definition.

Doug:  It’s great in function, but when people try to apply those definitions it goes a bit crazy.  Comics are born in the gutter, not like other media, “it’s read in the blankets with a flashlight at night.”  Comics are the underdog, and those resilient to this sense of “permanence.”  He feels that pop industry and commerce is starting to hurt comics as a medium.  He hopes that comics will be the solution, instead, to those that look to digest comics with their blank stares.

Scott:  He claims that there is a buffer, tribalism, between those that are legitimate and those that want legitimacy.  Comics are underground and mainstream and excepted.  “You’re gonna have… your rebels… but you’ll also have your undergrounders.”  Things will move in different waves.  It’s all an ecosystem.  He then moved on to deflate Doug’s hope that comics will solve pop culture…

Breaking the machine is possible, but you’ll have to get in first.  Like The Simpsons.

Doug:  Kids that grow up in a world dominated by The Simpsons don’t get that The Simpsons is counterculture.  The message is lost.

Scott:  They may not get it with youth, but when they are older it will dawn on them that the Simpsons is SO counterculture.

Doug:  The web “disturbs him……”  With magazines, there is a hand to hand connection.  It’s there and in front of you, and you have a connection with everything that they exist in.  That’s why comics are so great, because they are solid and they hold value.

Scott:  Scott discussed the slow movement of things before computers.  Now, the feedback is instant.  Over the web, the connection is more profound.

Doug:  The creator should be living alone in the gutter, turning up once a year pale-skinned and emotionless… that’s the point.


Scott:  I never thought that I was going to make comics on paper; I was just going to make comics.  Paper only became visible when there was an alternative (computers), it wasn’t something you noticed beforehand.  Well in order to be beautiful, things must be physical.  But now cartoonists are able to know almost everything about other cartoonists (the web, blogs).
To him, there is such a better connection now because of the web.

Doug:  It’s still an ecosystem, that’s why it works.  The web is there and so is the real world.  So it’s okay.  But corporations are losing track of flesh and blood reality…

Mod: Doug, you’re a serious blogger, I don’t buy that you hate the internet… you seem disappointed, but I don’t buy it.

Doug:  Two things.  From 1984-1995, when I turned off the computer I felt more alive and more connected… but now when I’m on the net I feel like everything’s more connected but I feel drained.  That’s one… the other is…the internet is so big and broad and general, but what matters is local.  And the internet only supplies what is global.  The connections are temporary and not permanent.  The social connection is distanced.  I’m not against the internet, but I’m interested in the bias of the internet:  it’s shifting away from contact of the people and towards contact of the content.

Scott:  TV brought us to a place of community without interactions; the web is helping that alone.

Doug:  I’m not saying no to the internet, I’m saying no to corporatism.  What I’m worried about is the possibility for comics to go mainstream and kids in the future think that they have nowhere to go to be weird.

Scott:  I’m not worried; there will always be a counterculture.  The counterculture will always exist.

Mod:  What are you both working on currently?

I’m going to do another comic, but I can’t talk about it or they will yell at me.  But I am writing a book about corporations… investigating the concept that corporations always have to be brought down instead of seeing one’s self as a corporate object.

Scott:  A few things; 400 page graphic novel that I want to do.  It’s been in my mind for 20 years.  It takes place In New York.  Can’t tell you anything else… I’m also putting together a collection of Sellout, 500 pages or so.