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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Look at the Psychology, Physiology, and Effectiveness of Comic Strips and Books
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 them for over 50 years). While the library shelves are full of wonderful books that explain what traditional artists are trying to do and why they succeed, I've often found the books to be pretty...
Published on June 24 2008 by Donald Mitchell

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a neglected topic
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...
Published on Aug. 9 2000 by ltp1


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Look at the Psychology, Physiology, and Effectiveness of Comic Strips and Books, June 24 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Understanding Comics (Paperback)
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 them for over 50 years). While the library shelves are full of wonderful books that explain what traditional artists are trying to do and why they succeed, I've often found the books to be pretty boring. In recent years, such books have gotten bogged down into abstruse language that is much less appealing than the art which is the subject.

But in those years, I've never seen anything that was very helpful in discussing the rules of comic art, except some books about pop art when that was popular that examined how the pop art was different from comic art. Naturally, I was blown away when I found that Understanding Comics is a far more comprehensive, thoughtful, and accessible book about interaction with art than I have ever read. Although the subject is ostensibly comic strips and comic books, it's clear to me that that Mr. McCloud has a deep and powerful understanding of all art. Some of his conceptual displays of where different forms of art fall in different dimensions of choice (degree of realism, abstraction, and message) are unbelievably powerful.

I hope that some art historian will stumble on this book and recast the history of art to explain and relate different styles to one another using this book's methods. There would be a lot more art lovers if that were the case.

Ultimately, the book's main benefit is to help the reader appreciate that comic art can be a higher and more effective form of art than either pure images or written words by requiring a mastery of more elements . . . elements that are more powerful in grabbing attention and conveying meaning.

Yet the book stays in humble form, a comic book. The powerful ideas sneak up on you as Mr. McCloud deconstructs the elements of comic art expression into chapters on defining what kind of art comics are ("sequential art" for short); explaining where various comics fall on the spectrum of reality, story, and abstraction; the way we fill in the spaces around the lines and between panels with our minds, allowing us to participate in creating the story and the experience; how time is expressed in various ways; the role of lines in creating our understanding and responses; how words and images can interact; a conceptual look at creating comic art; the effect of color; and a synthesis of the book in historical and conceptual terms.

If you want to enjoy both traditional art and comic art more, read this book. It's the Rosetta stone for non-artists in appreciating the images, stories, and messages that artists want to share with us through these media. You'll never be the same . . . and the change will be good for you!

Bravo, Mr. McCloud!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a neglected topic, Aug. 9 2000
By 
ltp1 "ltp1" (Manchester, NH USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Understanding Comics (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
This review is from: Understanding Comics (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
By 
Jason N. Mical (Kirkland, WA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Understanding Comics (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. Whether you are interested in the ways Alan Moore tells a story, or want to deconstruct the use of movement in Dave McKean's artwork, or you want to learn why Spiegelman chose certain symbols and styles in his work, "Understanding Comics" gives the reader an excellent springboard to further study.
Final Grade: A-
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, Oct. 9 2002
By 
Glen Engel Cox (Columbus, Ohio) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Understanding Comics (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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5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody takes comic books more seriously than Scott McCloud, June 19 2002
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Understanding Comics (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.
This volume is divided into nine chapters: (1) Setting the Record Straight, which develops a proper dictionary-style definition of "comics"; (2) The Vocabulary of Comics, detailing the iconic nature of comic art; (3) Blood in the Gutter, establishing the different types of transitions between frames of comic art, which are the building blocks of how comics work; (4) Time Frames, covers the ways in which comics manipulate time, including depictions of speed and motion; (5) Living in Line, explores how emotions and other things are made visible in comics; (6) Show and Tell, looks at the interchangeability of words and pictures in various combinations; (7) The Six Steps, details the path comic book creators take in moving from idea/purpose to form to idiom to structure to craft to surface (but not necessarily in that order); (8) A Word About Color, reminds us that even though this particular book is primarily in black & white, color has its uses in comic books; and (9) Putting It All Together, finds McCloud getting philosophical about the peculiar place of comic books in the universe.
"Understanding Comics" works for both those who are reading pretty much every comic book done by anyone on the face of the planet and those who have never heard of Wil Eisner and Art Spigelman, let alone recognize their artwork. Which ever end of the spectrum you gravitate towards McCloud incorporates brief examples of some of the artwork of the greatest comic book artists, such as Kirby, Herge, Schultz, etc., as well as work by more conventional artists, including Rembrandt, Hokusai, and Van Gogh. "Understanding Comics" is a superb look at the form and functions of the most underexplored art form in popular culture.
I am using Spider-Man comic books in my Popular Culture class this year and will be using some of McCloud's key points to help the cherubs in their appreciation of what they are reading. If you have devoted hundreds of hours of your life to reading comic books, then you can take a couple of hours to go through this book and have a better understanding and appreciation of why you take funny books so seriously.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Comics as an Art Form., March 3 2002
This review is from: Understanding Comics (Paperback)
Scott McCloud has been called the Marshall McLuhlan of comic books, which comes as no surprise since McCloud seeks to do for comics what "The Father of Modern Media" did for television. Strictly an exploration of the language of "sequential art" (a term coined by legendary writer/artist Will Eisner, McCloud's direct predecessor in the study of comics as an art form) rather than a history of the medium or how-to guide, "Understanding Comics" deconstructs the iconographic imagery of comic art and how, when married with the written word and arranged methodically on the page, creates a unique mode of expression rivaling any other art form in terms of its potential for effectively communicating narrative, emotions and ideas.
Social perception of the comics medium has been always been marred by the fact that most of us rarely encounter the medium outside of perusing the "funnies" or leafing through the pages of "X-Men" and "Archie" while waiting in line at the supermarket. In the eyes of the public, comics are little more than lowbrow cultural artifacts designed as disposable entertainment for kids and those who don't like to read anything that isn't accompanied by pictures. But one only has to turn to works like Art Spiegelman's "Maus" or Joe Sacco's "Palestine" to realize the literary, artistic and even journalistic possibilities that exist within the confluence of words and images that defines "sequential art".
"Understanding Comics" is not, however, about passing judgment on the merits of any particular style or genre. Rather, McCloud contends that the format is merely a canvas offering the artist unlimited freedom to express his or her distinct vision. Everything from the use of style, composition, shading, juxtaposition, color, panel arrangement and the ever-critical notion that what is omitted from the page is every bit as important as what is included (hence the book's subtitle, "The Invisible Art") is brought together to characterize an exhilarating art form that deserves further study, exploration and, most of all, appreciation.
Early on in the book it becomes apparent that McCloud exhibits a true passion for the subject, and wants his readers to share that love and enthusiasm with him. It's hard to resist the friendly, conversational tone McCloud employs to persuade us to join him in his inner circle of insight and understanding about a medium few ever think to explore. It is only appropriate that "Understanding Comics" is itself presented as a long-form comic book that effectively demonstrates what it preaches. Some of the techniques McCloud uses to (literally) illustrate his points are simply brilliant. He opens the second chapter of the book, "The Vocabulary of Comics", with a real zinger: a cerebral sucker punch of sorts that completely unravels our perceived relationship with the printed page.
To grasp the slippery correlation between the written word and the iconographic image, to understand the many ways that time can be represented by space on the page, to recognize the relationship between the real and the representational... these are the moments of pure joy that the reader can look forward to experiencing throughout the course of the book. In "Understanding Comics", McCloud has created the perfect primer on the subject of "Comics as an Art Form". It's an accessible, intelligent and entertaining work that will provide a wealth of insight to regular readers of comics as well as convince the uninitiated to take a closer look at this fascinating medium.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If you like comics, you need these books., Dec 6 2001
This review is from: Understanding Comics (Paperback)
Understanding Comics is a chronicle of the infinitely weird connection of words and pictures that is comics. It tells usabout the heart of the concept of moving your eyes across panels, looking at the pictures, reading the words, and perceiving them all as a unified, flowing entity. It told us how and why the concept of reading and creating comics works.
Reinventing comics, on the other hand, focuses more on the public's attitude toward comics, the comic industry, and the varied possibilities of new ways of creating, distributing, marketing, purchasing, and reading comics. It contains many of Scott's theories as to how comics are and could be influenced by the internet and the new way of thinking it has brought us.
These are two very different books with two very different subject matters. However, they link hand in hand to aid us in viewing the medium of comics as a whole. If you liked Understanding Comics, you may or may not like Reinventing Comics. If you liked Reinventing Comics, you may or may not like Understanding Comics. But if you want to view the authors opinions and ideas on everything and anything that did, does, and will apply to Comics, I advise you get them both.
(...)
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful and Thoughtful Book..., May 4 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Understanding Comics (Paperback)
How better to discuss comics than through the use of comics? And who better to discuss this art form than artist/writer, Scott McCloud who is the creator of Zot!. In addition to this, he also has a website @ [...]
It is obvious that Mr. McCloud spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the evolution and the mechanics of comics (check out the statistics in Chapter 3, "Blood in the Gutter"). In his discussion of the development of comics, Mr. McCloud takes us through a timeline beginning with ancient civilizations and ending in the modern age. In this exploration, he also stops at Japan where a different way of creating comics developed in isolation from western influences. A broad overview of comics is given to help the reader understand and appreciate the importance of comics and its place in history.
The mechanics of comics are analyzed --from cartoon bubbles, to frames, to what's going on between the frames and to composition. From reading this book, there's a definite sense that there's more to comics than mere picture-making and words. Other factors and talents are needed such as pacing, which can be found in the realm of movie making,, and composition and line quality, both of which are tools of the sensitive artist.
Pacing and frames are devices employed in film/animation. But exclusive to comics is how it is portrayed in a 2-dimensional fashion. Time is visual and moves forward within a defined space. With film, there are frames take up the same space, rendering the film animate. Time and mood are defined within a two dimensional space through the artistic use of layouts. Psychological factors such as closure is also discussed in the context of the use of gutters.
Color and lines can be found in the general world of art and have been explored, researched and discussed in depth by many fine artists. Both are expressive, conveying mood and feeling. For those who scoff at the comic artist because they believe that (s)he is not capable of great art because they draw "simple pictures", Mr. McCloud talks about an important, but perhaps little thought of, device called "iconic representation" which plays a role in helping to render a character more universal among other things.
McCloud takes a complicated subject and through the use of an art form which clearly communicates these ideas, drives them home to the reader. With all the work and history that goes behind creating comics, comics is definitely an under appreciated art form.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Real Eye-Opener, Feb. 18 2001
By 
Stefan Högberg "Ingstrand" (Gothenburg, Sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Understanding Comics (Paperback)
"Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud is a real eye-opener. I have spent as much time reading comics as the next guy, but I have never thought of the theories and principles behind the medium. The book takes the reader on a spectacular journey through the underlying structure of comics, and although I don't share all of McCloud's views I have certainly gained a whole new awareness of this structure.
One can always nit-pick, of course. McCloud seems to have a closer relationship to pictures than to words, and his analysis of the pictorial component of comics is much more thorough than that of the literal one. He also claims that no other medium makes its receiver into such an active co-creator, since the reader of comics must fill in the "blanks" between the panels, but I believe that the reader of prose is even more active - when there are no sounds or pictures AT ALL, the receiver has to imagine EVERYTHING himself. There are a few obscurities as well, as when McCloud says "language" but seems to mean "writing system". These and other complaints are all about details, however, and doesn't alter the fact that the work as such is very good.
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Understanding Comics
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (Paperback - April 21 1994)
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