- 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: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Understanding Comics Paperback – Apr 27 1994
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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
“If you read, write, teach or draw comics; if you want to; or if you simply want to watch a master explainer at work, you must read this book.” (Neil Gaiman)
“McCloud’s masterwork is not just an indispensable treatise on comics, it’s also the best primer around on visual literacy and the mechanics of storytelling. A must-read for anyone interested in narrative of any kind.” (Alison Bechdel)
“Cleverly disguised as an easy-to-read comic book, Scott McCloud’s simple-looking tome deconstructs the secret language of comics while casually revealing secrets of time, space, art and the cosmos! The most intelligent comics I’ve seen in a long time. Bravo.” (Art Spiegelman)
“Reading Understanding Comics blew my teenage mind, and gave me a toolbox full of ideas that I still use today.” (Raina Telgemeier)
“The best analysis of the medium that I have ever encountered.” (Alan Moore)
“BRAVO!! ... A landmark dissection and intellectual consideration of comics as a valid medium. ... Anyone interested in this literary form must read it.” (Will Eisner)
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If you want to write/draw comics, this is a must read.
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?
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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