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Understanding Comics [Paperback]

Scott McCloud
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 28.50
Price: CDN$ 17.87 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

April 21 1994
Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, this innovative comic book provides a detailed look at the history, meaning, and art of comics and cartooning.

Frequently Bought Together

Understanding Comics + Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels + Reinventing Comics
Price For All Three: CDN$ 54.54

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Product Description

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As all good card-carrying comic-book fans know, their sheer passion will never overcome narrow-minded critics and their baying cries of derision. There is far more to this perpetually underrated medium than a mix of art and prose. With this indispensable, spellbinding tome, writer/artist Scott McCloud rises to the challenge of dissecting what remains the most enigmatic of art forms. After all, says McCloud, "No other art form gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well". Over the course of 215 impeccably formed pages, McCloud joyously exposes and deconstructs a hidden world of icons in a most literate and valid manner. His charming guidance finds a place where Time and Space is effortlessly malleable and the reader is both a willing accomplice and necessary vessel for comics' singular magic. Cunningly presented in comic form, McCloud (or his comic equivalent) conducts a journey that spans thousands of years, taking in art from Prehistoric Man to the Egyptians to Van Gogh to Jack Kirby. Never has psychological and cultural analysis been so understandably clear, beautifully aided by clever visuals and his truly infectious love for the medium. By the end of this funny, charming, rare and exciting book, you'll not doubt the notion that a comic book "...is a vacuum into which our identity and awareness are pulled ... an empty shell that we inhabit which enables us to travel to another realm". A fine exchange for a little faith and a world of imagination. --Danny Graydon

Review

"A landmark dissection and intellectual consideration of comics as a valid medium." -- -- Will Eisner

"McCloud is the McLuhan of comics." -- -- James Gurney, Dinotopia

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a neglected topic Aug. 9 2000
By ltp1
Format:Paperback
McCloud sketchily reviews comics history, dissects the anatomy of comics, and meditates on human thought and visual perception. There's something here for lots of people.
His analyses of, say, the components of the creative process, might be debated -- but he invites discussion. Comics readers will learn a thing or two. Comics disparagers or ignorers would be enlightened if someone kindly left this book where they'd scan it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More people should read this! March 23 2003
Format:Paperback
Scott McCloud does a fantastic job explaining the history, potential, and inner workings of comics as a medium. I was especially impressed with his concise descriptions of visual theory and its particular applications to comics. Occasionally I felt that McCloud's treatment of a topic could have been more fleshed-out (the chapter on color, for example, or his concluding idea of comics as a particularly good form of communication) or that he made some unnecessary generalizations (his definition of art was a bit trite and even misleading). On the whole, though, McCloud's ideas are sophisticated and he is able to communicate them with surprising eloquence to both the art historian and the general public. In fact, though I am an art historian, I learned a good deal from this book.
McCloud's decision to use the comic format to present his ideas is ingenious, and I doubt that prose alone would have been able to deliver his messages with such clarity. The one drawback to the format is that I fear it will only appeal to those who already value comics, and that as a result those who most need to hear what McCloud has to say never will!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to Serious Comic Study Oct. 31 2002
Format:Paperback
Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics," a creation that sits roughly between comic book and historical literary criticism, is an indispensable work for anyone interested in studying funnybooks seriously. Along with Will Eisner's seminal works on the subject (which I have not read all the way through), "Understanding Comics" uses the graphic-text art form to dissect one of the most rapidly growing trends in both art and literature. In an accessible, readable style, McCloud takes the reader through the history of comics, the definition of comics as a sequential art form involving symbols, and examines several major trends in modern comic-dom.
While there's plenty here for both the casual reader and someone interested in more scholarly study. While it's more of an introduction than an in-depth exploration of comic study, McCloud provides enough resources for someone to continue study on his or her own, and enough seeds to begin sprouting ideas about the funnybooks. Occasionally, he misses the mark - his definition of art, for example, is a little broad - and "Understanding Comics" isn't nearly as well-cited as it could be, but these are easily overlooked flaws.
Especially beneficial is his comparison of Japanese Manga comics with traditional American graphic storytelling, because the two are basically the same medium but evolved almost entirely independent of each other, until the last 15 years or so. I wouldn't recommend it for the Sailor Moon fans, but those that enjoy anime and Manga will find much useful information here, in particular the comparisons between the two comic forms (not so much in any actual study of Manga in and of itself).
I highly recommend "Understanding Comics" to anyone who wants to - well - understand comics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Oct. 9 2002
Format:Paperback
A very unusual book from McCloud, the writer/artist of the comic Zot! In fact, I'm amazed that McCloud doesn't have a more extensive bibliography, given the wealth of information and insight presented in this volume. Succinctly, this book explains how comics work. Not how they are made, per se, but why the sequential images of a comic are an art form different from books or TV. And McCloud accomplishes this using the very medium he is examining.
I'm a comics fan that stopped buying them because they were putting me in the poor house. McCloud here explained to me how I was initially sucked in by the medium and why I kept reading some of the "worst" examples even while my artistic tastes were changing in other media. While I doubt that I could recreate the same Glen Cox who once wrote letters to comics, I can now reconcile myself with the Glen who still enjoys Howard the Duck and Cerebus (not to mention Zot!).
My friend Phil Yeh has been on a literacy campaign for over five years now, and he gives the following reason for why he dedicated himself to it. He said that he saw the literacy figures for America, and the downward trend, and realized that he was losing more and more of his audience. He felt that the American disdain for comics was missing the point--children who read comics are still reading. Although McCloud makes a strong case for the comic being different from prose, I don't think that he would disagree. And, if the interplay between words and pictures keeps a child reading, what is wrong with that?
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By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I like to take things apart and figure out how they work, except instead of doing internal combustion engines or pocket watches I like to play with books, movies and television shows. In "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art," Scott McCloud not only takes apart comic books, he puts them back together again. Certainly comics are a neglected art form. Put Superman, Batman, Spawn and Spider-Man on the big screen and there will be some cursory comments about the actual all-in-color-for-a-dime, and names like Stan Lee and Frank Miller will get kicked around, but nobody really talks about how comics work (the exception that proves the rule would be the Hughes brothers talking about adapting the "From Hell" graphic novels). Part of the problem is conceptual vocabulary: we can explain in excruciating detail how the shower scene in "Psycho" works in terms of shot composition, montage, scoring, etc. That sort of conceptual vocabulary really does not exist and McCloud takes it upon himself to pretty much create it from scratch.
That, of course, is an impressive achievement, especially since he deals with functions as well as forms. To that we add McCloud's knowledge of art history, which allows him to go back in time and find the origins of comics in pre-Columbian picture manuscripts, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Bayeux Tapestry. Topping all of this off is McCloud's grand and rather obvious conceit, that his book about the art of comic books is done AS a comic book. This might seem an obvious approach, but that does not take away from the fact that the result is a perfect marriage of substance and form.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars arrived in good quality
the book arrived sooner than i expected! i'm really glad that it did because it was a gift for a friend for christmas. didn't get a chance to look at it closely.
Published 6 months ago by Zeyang Chai
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good. Simple and effective
This is a must read for everyone who has every wondered "why comics?" or even "why pictures?"
Simply and effectively drawn and read.
Published 7 months ago by Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical/artistic overview of comic books
If you want to understand the comics as an art form, this is a must. It's also gets you thinking on storytelling in general, whatever the medium. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2010 by Richard Poulin
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Look at the Psychology, Physiology, and Effectiveness of...
This is an important book that everyone should read. I would give it twenty stars if I could.

I've long been interested in both art and comic books (I have collected... Read more
Published on June 24 2008 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars The Comic as both Art and Science
Disregard the Sanchez Review. If it is not fiction, Mr. Sanchez has no interest in it. This is a most interesting book that adds to the legitimacy of the comic book as literature... Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by Jeff
4.0 out of 5 stars The best text book on comics around.
This was required reading in the cartooning program at the School of Visual Arts and with good reason. Read more
Published on April 19 2004 by Michael J. Vuolo
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enlightening Read
Even as a lifelong reader of many types of comics (superheroes, Asterix, underground, manga, etc.) this book was a revelation. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Comic Fans
Understanding Comics is about so much more than just understanding comics. It is an excellent work on Symbolism in many forms. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2003 by Joel A Shults
2.0 out of 5 stars What is everybody talking about?
I don't know what everyone is talking about, but this book was an absolutely dull nightmare of a read. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2003 by Luis A. Sanchez
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Impressive
Sure, I have taken Art 101 courses, but none of those held my interest as much as this author. I had never really taken comics seriously, but I certainly will give them more heed... Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2003 by Randy Given
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