Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" is touted by many as one of the seminal works about the comics medium itself. The writer/artist followed up with "Reinventing Comics," and rounded out the trilogy with "Making Comics." In 2006, McCloud and his wife, Ivy, and two daughters, Sky and Winter, embarked on a 50-state tour to promote the release of "Making Comics." The McClouds documented the journey in-progress right here on CBR. Last Saturday, the McCloud family's year-long journey came to an end where it began, in Southern California, specifically at a wrap party at Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood, and CBR News was on the scene.
Dozens of fans packed into the world-famous comic book store to get their copies of McCloud's books signed by the man himself. Before the signing, proprietor Ryan Leibowitz moderated a Q&A about the McCloud family's trek.
McCloud estimated that he and his family hit 20 to 25 comic book stores across the country, but they made appearances in other venues as well. "A lot of universities, some libraries, we did do some corporate stuff," McCloud said. "Actually, we were in Northern California, we spoke at Adobe, eBay and Google a couple of weeks ago."
"And Google has the greatest food ever," interjected Sky, McCloud's eldest daughter. "I'm not kidding."
When asked how long the trip had been in the making, McCloud said the journey was one his wife Ivy had wanted to take for a long time. "She wanted to see all 50 states, but we could never make it work, it wasn't practical," McCloud said. "And then the new book came out, and we realized, 'Wow, we could actually make this happen, and sort of do it as a promotional tour, book tour.'"
"All the stars aligned this year," Ivy McCloud confirmed. "The book was coming out at a perfect time with school and the lease was up on the apartment. Everything that we needed was fitting perfectly so that we could take a year off."
"And we survived it, which was really impressive," Sky McCloud said.
Ivy McCloud said one of the most exciting things about the trip for her was seeing the state of comic book stores today. "Even the very worst store we went to during the whole trip was so much nicer than stores even 10, 15 years ago."
The family then singled out a few places on their trip where they had particularly good experiences. "I really loved Alaska," Scott McCloud said. Portland, Toronto and London numbered high on his list as well. "Also, let's not leave out Savannah. Savannah is a real comics town now, because of Savannah College of Art and Design," which famously offers a curriculum in sequential art.
McCloud said some of his favorite places were the towns that were more than just cookie-cutter slices of Americana. "There were certain places in America that don't look like anywhere else," McCloud explained. "Like West Liberty, West Virginia does not look like anywhere else. White River Junction, Vermont; these places aren't generic, it's not just that they have a Subway and a Wallmart and an Applebees, they just look like this unique place."
Winter, McCloud's youngest, who up to this point had been entertaining herself off to the side playing a card game called Fluxx, chimed in to relate an amusing anecdote about a run-in with a particularly uptight border-patrol guard. "On our way back from Canada, my Dad got a call from his agent right before we went over the water and my Mom was in the driver's seat, and he was in the passenger seat," Winter McCloud said. "And the border guard came and started badgering my dad for being on the phone. He was all like, 'You cannot be on the phone.'
"He was saying that we could be exploding a car in front of us," Sky McCloud explained. "And I was thinking, 'What idiotic terrorist would drop a bomb as they were crossing the border?' You would have to be really stupid."
"As we finished crossing, Sky realized she had left her glasses in the hotel," Ivy McCloud said. "And we were like, 'No, we're not going back for them.'"
One fan asked Scott McCloud what he thought of creators making revisions to their earlier work years after the fact. "If I started to seriously revise my early comics like 'Zot,' I'd go completely mad, because it would never be good enough, and I'd spend the next 10 years of my life doing it," McCloud admitted. "I have a hundred projects that I really want to do, and I know I'm only going get to like six of them before I'm dead. And the idea of delaying one of them while I'm busy toiling away making changes or improvements on the old ones, I think that would be a little bit sad.
"But you know, my idol, Will Eisner, he did actually go back and make a lot of changes to the original 'Spirits,' when they were reprinting that stuff for Kitchen Sink Press back in the '80s," McCloud continued. "If I remember correctly, I've heard that he did actually make a lot of changes, because he wasn't satisfied with the way the art looks."
When the 50-state tour began, it was the family's original intention to select a new place to settle down when all was said and done. But it didn't take Scott and Ivy McCloud long to realize their children were dead set on returning to Southern California, where all of their friends lived. "But, as soon as they're away at college, Ivy and I have decided that we're going to be gypsies," McCloud said. "We're just going to move all over the world. We want to spend a couple of years in Fairbanks, Alaska, because we want to try out a really long winter with the long nights. We like London. We're definitely going do Portland, which I think is the most livable city. Vancouver, even though they broke into our car, it's still a lovely city. Toronto is fantastic. We think Savannah is a beautiful town, we might spend a little time down there."
Ivy McCloud, who grew up just outside of New York City, said she'd also like to spend some time living in the city proper.
"Why should we ever settle down, necessarily?" Scott McCloud said. "Maybe we'll just be citizens of the world."
McCloud then took a moment to speak about his next project, which is decidedly epic in scope. "My next project is going to be a graphic novel," McCloud said. "It's based on a story that I've had in mind for the last 20 years or so. It's going to run for three or 400 pages. It's a self-contained story. It's not with any character you've ever seen before. It's pretty intense, fairly operatic, and it's going take a really long time to draw. And I just need to figure out a way to make it practical for me to sit on my ass for three years and make it happen. After talking about how comics work all these years, I thought it was important to really try to actually make one. And hopefully make one that people will really like and remember."
McCloud's books are narrated by an illustrated avatar of himself, perpetually wearing a "Zot" T-shirt in reference to one of McCloud's first comics works. Unbeknownst to the McClouds, Golden Apple's Ryan Leibowitz had made a limited number of "Zot" T-shirts and handed them out to fans.
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