Scott McCloud Takes His Show On The Road

Tue, September 5th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

Here's one thing Scott McCloud left out of his new book, "Making Comics": Sometimes, you have to stick the entire family in a gray 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan and crisscross the country for 12 months to promote your book.

"We are actually on the road," McCloud said at midday last Wednesday. "We're in Vegas. We're at the Aladdin Hotel, actually. We're not staying here; we had breakfast here."

Car troubles had delayed the McClouds' planned earlier departure and they had only finished packing the last remnants of their Thousand Oaks, CA home into storage at 3 a.m. the night before.

"Then I thought, you know, the apartment's empty, the studio's empty, maybe we drive two hours and just find a place to sleep," the writer said. "And Ivy looked at me with a straight face and says 'I thought we could do 500 miles.' I looked at her and thought she had literally lost her mind."

Welcome to the Making Comics Fifty State Tour: One part family togetherness, one part determination, one part madness.

"We're going to drive all the way to - our best guess is Beaver, Utah," McCloud said, looking ahead to the rest of Wednesday's travel plans. "It has the best water in America. We were told this by a very proud waitress.'

"We're going straight from California to Manhattan," he said. There's a deadline for the family: "We gotta be in Manhattan by September 5, that's our launch date."

The book, "Making Comics," which constitutes a trilogy of sorts with McCloud's previous books, "Understanding Comics" and "Reinventing Comics," has an official launch that includes an interview on National Public Radio in Manhattan. And being officially launched yesterday means that their journey to New York doesn't count as part of the 50 state tour.

Putting four people in a minivan and staying in hotels for a year might seem expensive - especially with current gas prices - but remember, the McClouds were paying rent in Southern California until one week ago.

"We could stay in a hotel every night and still save money."

Sky and Winter McCloud, 13 and 11, will be home-schooled on the road, as Sky was last year.

"We're totally drafting the kids, although they're rising to the challenge in a great way." Sky gave a presentation at Comic-Con International in San Diego about the tour this summer.

"She's going to be doing that at a lot of stops," including such prestigious colleges as Carnegie-Mellon and Northeastern. "She's really great, she shows me up."

Of course, this much togetherness would strain many familial bonds, but McCloud thinks the family is up to it.

"I think it really is a bond or die sort of mandate. We really have to get along. Like any family, we have our fights and arguments," he said. "I found that, on our six-week test run trip (which was Minneapolis and San Diego), we bonded really well."

Readers can track the McClouds' journey online at his Web site, including a special tour blog written by the family and, soon, podcasts from the road.

By Friday evening, the family was in Omaha, and had discovered the peacemaking power of Nintendogs - "It's spawned some arguments, but it's saved us." - and the minimalist joys of the Great Plains.

"It's darn flat, but you start to notice the little variations," he said. "When you're out on the plains, you'll be driving for a while and then you're like 'oh, wow, a tree!'"

The family was trying for Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday and was looking forward to autumn in New England on the far side of the Great Lakes.

"We're ready for a little humidity and cool weather heading back east," McCloud said. "We've lived long enough in Southern California that we're interested in different climates."

But less than a week into their journey, although "we luckily haven't had anyone open up the door and try to jump out," madness was beginning to set in and the kids had already named every electronic gadget the gadget-loving McClouds had brought with them on the road.

"Already three days in, we're starting to lose our minds. Kind of like Tom Hanks, with that soccer ball in 'Castaway.'"

New York-area comic readers were able to catch McCloud on WNYC Monday. In the end, everything went according to plan.

New York area residents have a number of opportunities to catch McCloud this week. This Thursday, September 7th, he'll appear at the School of Visual Arts for a classroom Q&A. Friday, September 8th, he'll be at Midtown Comics Times Square location for a signing between 5:00 and 7:00 PM. And this Saturday, September 9th, McCloud and family will stop by Rocketship in Brooklyn for a book release party that begins at 8:00 PM.

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