In defense of Scott McCloud

So, in an unrelated comics thread commenting on an article linked to by Joe Staton, I praised the work of comics visionary, and one time college buddy of mine, Scott McCloud.

In response, old school comics hackmeister Marty Pasko took issue with my praise of Scott. He said:

"Sorry, Mr. Madigan, but I'd be willing to invest some time in trying to persuade you that your fealty to Scott O'Clude and his "Obfuscating Comics" is both regrettable and misguided.

I have zero interest in stirring up controversy for its own sake, and part of me would almost be grateful if this comment would go unnoticed, but I can't let some of the ignorant nonsense being bandied about here go unchallenged and yet sleep well tonight.

I've always had the utmost contempt for Scott Whatsisname's presumption in trying to set himself up as some sort of authority on the grammar of comics and the fundamentals of graphic storytelling, partly because his own work -- the silly, pointless, empty and creatively-bankrupt "Zot!" being the principal indictment of his fraudulence -- indicts his own credibility. The careful reading of his half-baked, supposedly knowledgeable texts by one who is a serious student of both the history and the current state of the form, AS WELL AS a seasoned practitioner of one of its disciplines, yields a strong conviction that Mr. O'Clude's primary claim to fame is as an egregious example of the principle of "Those Who Cannot Do, Teach."

I regret the fact that space, and the limited attention span of the readership I'd most want to reach, forbid my going into greater, more specific detail. It is my hope to be able to deconstruct, and savage, line by line, Mr. O'Clude's wrongheaded pomposities, as part of a highly personalized, one-on-one writing coaching service in both comics and animation storytelling that I'll be offering between now and this year's San Diego ComiCon, at which I'll be a guest.

Does that sentence mean I'm seizing an opportunity to try to sell you something? Yeah. You bet your ass, baby -- welcome to America. I have a bunch of majorly valuable experience and hard-won knowledge that I can download to you, you aspiring storyteller, you, that will give you a competitive advantage in securing paying gigs.

Watch this, uhm, space for further details...and a link to the site, now under construction, where it's gonna happen."

To which I responded as follows:

"Mr. Pasko -

No reason for you to give a shit, and certainly it shouldn't change your opinion. I'm a fan of Scott in great part because I know first hand that he's pretty much a genius; I had the privilege of being part of the same college clique he hung out with at Syracuse University. I learned a great deal from the best; him and Kurt Busiek. Kurt and I are no longer even remotely friends, but I know Kurt is a gifted writer (with some unfortunate limitations) and I know Scott is, well, a genius, both as an artist and as a comics analyst. Scott is a true visionary; one of the very few people I've ever met who can actually think originally and truly create new things.

And beyond that, where I would never say this about Kurt (unfortunately) I also know that Scott is a class act and a helluva fine human being. There's nothing mediocre about him. Only a terminal mediocrity would ever even think to associate that word with him.

I'm not going to discuss what I think about your writing over the years because it's not germane; I'm simply going to say, I've personally known far, far better writers than you, and been privileged to learn from them. In my opinion, of course. For what little it's worth. (Certainly as much as yours, though.)

ZOT! had some problems until the main character got stuck on our mundane Earth; the book needed that central conceptual contrast to really take off. Scott is, as I've mentioned, a genuinely innovative and original thinker and creator, which is a great deal more than I can say for you. Sorry, but I've read at least as much of your work as I've read of Scott's (or, for that matter, of my other college mentor, Kurt Busiek's) and you simply aren't in their class. Your denigrating words towards Scott strike me as insecurity at best and probably rank jealousy at worst... but either way, they are simply inaccurate.

I realize you're not going to hear/read this well... who would? And I realize you had no idea you were talking shit about someone I regard as a personal friend, mentor, and as one of the very few truly Great People I've ever actually met. And I also realize that probably makes me not at all unbiased about his work. But one of the many, many reasons I admire and respect Scott is not simply that he's a good friend and a great person, but also that he's an enormously talented artist.

Obviously, you can hold whatever opinion you want about whatever you want, and express it wherever you want. But any tiny vestigial respect I might have had for your judgment regarding creative matters or comic books is now utterly gone. I don't expect you to care about that... who the fuck am I, after all? A failure and a wannabe, I'm absolutely aware. But Scott McCloud is so far superior to you as a comics creator, analyst, and visionary, and, as far as I know, as a human being, that honestly, it's just pointless to even make the comparison. That you'd end a several hundred word bitch slap at a far, far better man by trying to get me to buy something of yours is just the final underscore on how much class you lack.

If I seem angry at your absolutely unmerited rudeness, well, you seem astonishingly boorish, avaricious, and opportunistic, so I guess we're even."

There was absolutely no need for Pasko to jump into that comment thread and shit all over Scott. The level of personal vitriol he spewed was completely unwarranted, and, again, I can only assume motivated by some kind of intense, nearly obsessive personal jealousy. Maybe Marty Pasko once had a huge crush on Scott's delightful wife Ivy, I don't know. Whatever the case, his actions were completely out of line, and for him to say that he has "a bunch of majorly valuable experience and hard-won knowledge" is about the most egregiously self serving and, obviously, utterly false to fact statement I've seen since the last Republican stump speech.

Pasko's writing has always been mediocre at best. Now I know why... he's a mediocre at best human being who is apparently eaten up with jealousy regarding a far, far better person than he will ever be.


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