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Understanding Comics Paperback – Apr 27 1994

4.8 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Understanding Comics
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  • Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels
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  • Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 27 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006097625X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976255
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.5 x 26 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 " 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


"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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I could spend a long time writing about this book and telling you what the book is actually about and what is included, but that is not my purpose. Rather I'm here to tell you whether the book is worth reading. What the book is about is self-explanatory as the title says it all in very plain language. Written in 1992, I had wondered whether this much-lauded book was worth reading as I thought it might be out-dated and irrelevant by this time. It is certainly worth reading and probably required reading for anyone who considers themselves more than just a casual comics reader. It is outdated in some parts when the author talks about comics in the present and future as that was twenty-five years ago and during that time comics have come a long way as McCloud predicts they might. The outdated parts are immaterial though as much of the book is about the history, appreciation, comprehension and techniques of comics. (both the writing and reading of). One thing I really enjoyed was that the author takes into account the difference between North American/European comics and Japan. Japanese comics evolved in a totally different manner due to their isolation for many years, but at the time of writing the Western world was just starting to employ some of the Asian techniques and now, of course, manga is translated into English (and other languages) and widely read throughout the world. At first I thought the book could do with a second edition updating the nineties content and continuing the story to modern times but I have since found that Mr McCloud has written two more books on this topic, one in 2000 and the other in 2006, which I assume will fill that hole and I'm quite anxious to read them now. Understanding Comics is a must-read for anyone even slightly serious about comics.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to create comic books, or even if you simply want the knowledge to appreciate them better as an art form, Understanding Comics should be the first book you purchase. Scott McCloud lays out the fundamentals of the medium with great depth and clarity.
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Format: 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.
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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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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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