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The REAL Future of Comics

New York based Raina Telgemeier recently blogged some adorable photos of school and library visits she did here in California on behalf of the terrific “dental drama” Smile. I defy anyone to read the post and not smile just as widely as Raina and her growing family of young readers.

Reading it drove home for me again (see previous post) what an enormous opportunity every cartoonist has to translate their own experiences and interests into comics and find or even create new readers, based on the subject of that work.

One reader emailed me from a Therapy Center simply because she’d heard there was a comic explaining Crohn’s Disease (there is; it was a 24-hour comic by Tom Humberstone who suffers from the condition). Crohn’s disease affects between 400,000 and 600,000 people in North America alone (thanks, Wikipedia). Why the Hell WASN’T there a comic about Crohn’s disease until now??

Whole markets can be created out of thin air when the right subject strikes. Gan Golan (one of my 2003 seminar students at MIT) made a name for himself collaborating on the political parody Good Night Bush in ’08. Now he’s now teamed up with several other great talents to create Unemployed Man and he’s had no trouble getting coverage on CNN and a zillion other press outlets—not because of some surge in interest in the comics artform—but because Gan and co-creator Erich Origen have zeroed in on a topic with a potential target audience in the millions.

The beauty of this kind of outreach is that it only adds to the base of comics readers, and rarely do these efforts cannibalize each other. Barry Deutsch’s fantastic orthodox Jewish adventure Hereville isn’t competing for readers with the Bertrand Russell stories in Logicomix, or with XKCD, or with Persepolis. Each one is its own little community of readers, some of whom may have never read a comic before, but ALL of whom are now one comic deeper into this medium we’d all like to see grow.

Are you a cartoonist?

Are you passonate about something? Anything?

Are there others that share your passion?

Do those “others” number in the thousands?

Tens of thousands?

Millions?


Discussion (16)¬

  1. John says:

    Actually, at my doctor’s office they give away a comic book titled “Pete Learns All About Crohn’s and Colitis,” but I’ve never actually gotten a close look at it and I suspect it’s not exactly the kind of thing you’re thinking of.

  2. AKMA says:

    With all appreciative respect to comics artists, there are also innumerable storytellers who can’t draw a stick figure, who would be thrilled at the opportunity to work with an artist toward a comic of long or short arc.

    I’m just saying….

  3. i’m an agoraphobic, i made a short comic about it, and OCD and anxiety, (linked it here on the website bit of this form) tohugh it was a short version and barely begun, one day i hope to turn it into a longer story- or at least find the courage to write a simmilar story one day. i’m not much of an artist, but i hope i can find ways of writing about it so that maybe someone on the internet at least can relate =)

  4. None of my comics tend to fall into an area where they would cannibalize readers from other comics, mostly because they are odd parable like tales… I do follow this crazy idea I read once that comics can be about anything.

  5. Matt says:

    hey, it’s an art form that people love, and they’ll keep doing it in a variety of subjects, styles, and genres despite the economy and all that.

  6. oliver east says:

    Anyone interested in this post should probably read Darryl Cunningham’s Psychiatric Tales from Blank Slate Books here in the UK and Bloomsbury next year in the former colonies. Reading this post to me was like it was pretty much a preamble to a review of that book. i think you’d probably enjoy it.

    It will be comic of the year over here, mark my words. Buy it now so you can pretend you were down all along.

    As an aside, i have included short skits, as part of bigger works, in past books of mine which deal with my stammer. i would also be interested in reading similar work.

  7. santi says:

    hey scott, is this comics? i just found it (via interactive fiction queen emshort.wordpress.com) and i think it’s great:

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-of-cake.html

  8. [...] McCloud very nicely mentions Hereville on his blog. (I’d urge y’all to read Scott’s comics, but I assume you already have, right? [...]

  9. Will Curwin says:

    But is there such a thing as being to honest?

  10. Nate Cook says:

    I believe Jeffrey Brown did some autobio stuff about having Crohn’s. It’s collected in “Funny Misshapen Body.”

  11. Fabiola says:

    I was born with cloacal extrophy and am intolerant to lactose and gluten, so reading the Crohns Disease comic seems very familiar. Though its probably not as common, i do get similar symptons sometimes.

  12. Emma says:

    I’m a college freshman from Florida who has always loved reading graphic novels. In high school my friend and I wanted to try making comics (me writing, her drawing) but we didn’t know what the story should be about. Then a family friend who worked at the county Migrant Education office told me they were having problems with teenage migrant workers coming over from Latin America and not knowing basic things like not to drive drunk and how to eat healthy. So, we put the two together and created a comic for teen migrant education on health and safety issues that was printed and distributed by the county Migrant Education office. We even got to present it at a national conference! It was cool to realize that being creative and helping people are not mutually exclusive.

  13. tensaimon says:

    I’m not any kind of artist by real profession – I’m a schoolteacher who’s developed some pretty heretic ideas about the school thing (goooogle John Taylor Gatto if you want to know how heretic). Stumbling around trying to find a way to vent these ideas, I tripped over the idea of a comic and the idea kept snowballing. But I have regular days when I worry that I’m writing a comic with a readership of one (“at least you’ll always have one loyal reader” lol), Scott’s post today has reassured me that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get more than one, maybe lots more. Thanks, I feel better about my project now!