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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

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The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." — Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." — Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.


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The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." — Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." — Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.

30 review for Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    I finished reading it for my comics/YA Graphic novels class this summer, 6/16/16 and now again, 8/8/17. I'll read this and use it to help people understand comics every year. It's the primary source though there are many good books coming out. What I have to add is that I had a fun conversation with my class about one insightful claim McCloud makes, that the simpler and more "cartoony" a comic representation is (i.e., a smiley face), the more universal it will be, the more we will say "that's me I finished reading it for my comics/YA Graphic novels class this summer, 6/16/16 and now again, 8/8/17. I'll read this and use it to help people understand comics every year. It's the primary source though there are many good books coming out. What I have to add is that I had a fun conversation with my class about one insightful claim McCloud makes, that the simpler and more "cartoony" a comic representation is (i.e., a smiley face), the more universal it will be, the more we will say "that's me." In fiction classes I was taught to be as specific and detailed as I could be about characters and places. McCloud says that realistic depictions of characters such as in superhero comics are actually less relatable than simple characters such as Charlie Brown or Nancy, or most manga. Less is more, in a way. That's like suggesting that minimalism (something like Raymond Carver's stories, or Ernest Hemingway's stories) invite readers in more because we as readers have more space to "be" the characters, to connect with them. Maybe this is less true for non-comics fiction, though. But McCloud is interesting. Review from before: I've used this book many times to teach comics basics. It's the best book I've found for doing this, and it's in a comics format, with McCloud as the cartoony and erudite "narrator". While thoroughly practical, it's also the most philosophical and thorough and at the same time efficient guide to the craft. McCloud also wrote Making Comics, for comics artists. This book is one of the classics of comic history, one of its great books for helping you understand and appreciate comics for their potential complexity as an hybrid art form, without question. If you want to know how comics are made in all its range of possibilities, and if you want to take see why this interrelated telling of visuals and words should be taken seriously as art and literature and cultural commentary and entertainment, this is the book for you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mon

    Great book, but I'm too annoyed to give it four stars. It's amateurish, but I believe if you're aware of how great a book is while you're reading it, it's not working at its best. You can go 'oh wow that's such a clever way to illustrate this idea, and the text is so effective', but it's a bit like reading an instruction manual, and nothing personal or particularly poignant. I guess the idea is to understand the basic structure and potential of comic art, but must it be so academic and dry? The Great book, but I'm too annoyed to give it four stars. It's amateurish, but I believe if you're aware of how great a book is while you're reading it, it's not working at its best. You can go 'oh wow that's such a clever way to illustrate this idea, and the text is so effective', but it's a bit like reading an instruction manual, and nothing personal or particularly poignant. I guess the idea is to understand the basic structure and potential of comic art, but must it be so academic and dry? The book doesn't limit itself to the conventional art theory, but rather ventures into fundamental epistemological and phenomenological debates. It's informative and eye opening, but not particularly relevant, like every single other art theory textbook. Except this one has pictures (or should I say, integrated with pictures?) Understanding Comics is a misleading title, perhaps How to and why you should appreciate comics would suit the purpose of the book better. Majority of people (in terms of an audience that is likely to pick up a comic-related theory book) has little trouble understanding the intention of the drawing and writing - we can feel the atmosphere, be moved by the characters and thrilled by the action. Appreciating the history, concept and techniques that help build it up are, however, often overlooked. Much like film and literature, comics require a lot of conceptual and aesthetic decision to make it effective and communicative, and McCloud tries hard to evaluate the general methods that are used to convey these expressions. It would work better if he utilise more specific works rather than general 'rules', and most of them only applicable to mainstream comics. The last chapter goes on about the importance of 'understanding', and how comics can serve as a great tool of communication. Frankly it is a bit arrogant to me. No matter what your medium - ink and paper, music, written words, motion picture, performance, construction, we as the audience give ourselves far less credit when apprehending these art forms. We are subjected to arbitrary education, test and criticism that are meant to 'guide' our 'understanding' of the creator's concept and execution - how to read them, how to properly experience them, how to get the most of it like the artist 'wants' us to. I feel as though McCloud is saying, 'I'm the creator, and you are the reader. Through these lines and colour, I'm telling you what is being expressed. Do you get it? DO YOU GET IT?'. Fuck this I don't have understand everything in order to appreciate it, have you never read Pynchon or seen anything David Lynch? Comic art is merely another form of story telling, it is equally capable of being as representational or avant-garde as any other art form. 'Understanding comics is serious business' - why is it serious? why not just go out and say 'respecting comics is serious business'. McCloud also comments on how the merit of comics lies in its ability to convey 'individual voices' through mass production - really now? If you want personal expression, why not read a few blogs, talk to strangers in the park, speaker's corner, open mic, go to a concert, underground gig, restaurant, flickr, public toilet, open market, join whatever radical societies there are out there? It is almost ridiculous to have to remind people that comics are capable of being expressionistic, and please don't try to say your choice of material expresses something more profound, original than the others or with more efficiency. Why the fuck should it be efficient? Aren't you arguing that comics can be art too? Then why should it be readable, straightforward and commercial like everything else? GAH I'm angry! What McCloud is saying is that as an artist you have more control over the output. But at least for me, I don't care if you came up with the entire concept or worked in a team as long as the outcome is insightful and fun. And then he started talking about the human condition and how we can fix the world with reading more comics. YEAH. And then there are angels reading comics, statues of bullied comic readers, massive yin yang symbol! montage of great art works! The world map! Epic lightening! 'THE TRUTH WILL SHINE THROUGH'! (real quote) That goes on for about 20 pages. Dear comic art - Don't overestimate yourself, not because you're insignificant. Yes you have a long history indeed, and we 'understand' you're not just some flat tone sexist superhero adventure, and that you can be as postmodern as any other art school asshole graduate. Message received. *Picture above: single panel from Moebius' 40 Days in the Desert I don't get it, but it's awesome.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Holy shit! I'm starting a graphic novel book club!! This is our inaugural book and I'm so excited!!! We had our first meeting today, and in addition to saying terribly intelligent things about comics and eating mini-cupcakes and laughing at my dogs, we also picked a name for our (accidentally all-female) group: Jugs & Capes. I know you're very jealous. Anyway, I was extremely impressed by this book. I can tell that Scott McCloud thinks that he is terrifically important and probably a genius, b Holy shit! I'm starting a graphic novel book club!! This is our inaugural book and I'm so excited!!! We had our first meeting today, and in addition to saying terribly intelligent things about comics and eating mini-cupcakes and laughing at my dogs, we also picked a name for our (accidentally all-female) group: Jugs & Capes. I know you're very jealous. Anyway, I was extremely impressed by this book. I can tell that Scott McCloud thinks that he is terrifically important and probably a genius, but, as often happens to me, I was willing to believe that at least he was smart enough to have earned the right to talk about all of this. So while there were a few points when I found him a bit condescending, a bit cloyingly didactic, on the whole I learned a lot about comics and how to think about them, and that was great. I though I was going to write about some of the things I learned, but it's late and I'm tired, and honestly one of the things he does best is really use the illustrations and the text in the best symbiotic way, enhancing and augmenting one another throughout, and so it seems like it would be reductive and dismissive for me to try to summarize his points with words alone. So read the book! And then you'll get it for yourself. (Oh but except for one thing, which is so cool I just have to share it. He talks a lot about how the reader is complicit in the telling of a comic story, because so much happens between the panels -- in the gutter, where the reader has to invent what is going on to connect one image to another. He uses as an example a panel with an axe-wielding man chasing another guy and shouting, "Now you're going to die!" Then the next panel is the outside of a building, with only an "Aieeee!!" screaming out. Anyway [see my point, how much extra describing I have to do just to get to what he does with like two pictures?], he then says: "To kill a character between panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths." See? Because each reader will make his/her own decision about when and how the axe falls, how much blood comes out, how many strikes are needed, the specific choreography of the death. Amazing!)

  4. 3 out of 5

    George

    Scott McCloud's love and understanding of comics is beautifully and simply expressed here. So much so that it increased my love and understanding of comics I read in the past and definitely comics I will read in the future. As I was reading other peoples reviews and discussions about this book I noticed that most people are intrigued with the idea that the simpler the character on the page is, the easier it is for the reader to identify with the character. This is something that I noticed myself Scott McCloud's love and understanding of comics is beautifully and simply expressed here. So much so that it increased my love and understanding of comics I read in the past and definitely comics I will read in the future. As I was reading other peoples reviews and discussions about this book I noticed that most people are intrigued with the idea that the simpler the character on the page is, the easier it is for the reader to identify with the character. This is something that I noticed myself long before I read this book, so it wasn't so revolutionary to me... BUT his chapter on time and expressing time in space in comics truly blew my mind when I read it. It made me see and truly understand so much about pacing in comics. It helped me form, what I like to call, my internal gear shift. As a reader I didn't focus on speed of my reading and over time the only speed for reading became as fast as possible, but in comics this can be a huge disadvantage especially when going through slower and more solemn scenes. Now when I see a comic page and take a look at the composition of the panels I know when the story demands of me to go faster or slower and I am grateful for this new found knowledge. This book is an excellent start for anyone who wants to learn about comics, and I certainly will continue my research on this topic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Miss Michael

    I really appreciate that this book exists. It's nice that something was created to help people understand the language of comics, what they are, what they can be, what makes them special, and so forth. That said, there are parts which are a little convoluted (Chapter 2, I'm looking at you), and there are parts that are a little dated by now (such as the chapter on color, which I think has come a long way since the early '90s, particularly due to the use of computers). But there are so many parts I really appreciate that this book exists. It's nice that something was created to help people understand the language of comics, what they are, what they can be, what makes them special, and so forth. That said, there are parts which are a little convoluted (Chapter 2, I'm looking at you), and there are parts that are a little dated by now (such as the chapter on color, which I think has come a long way since the early '90s, particularly due to the use of computers). But there are so many parts that articulate things that we as readers may have never realized we were doing (such as reading between the panels, as discussed in Chapter 3). I think McCloud did a great job of including all kinds of comics, from Schultz to Spiegelman to Lee/Kirby to Otomo, without placing more value on one than another. I also liked the parallels he drew between comics and other art forms, although he emphasized visual arts far more than literature, which in some ways makes sense but I feel it neglects the fact that these are comic books. Even in Chapter 6, which was dedicated to how language and words combine to form comics, I did not notice any analysis of how comics stand up to other forms of literature. However, in the chapter dedicated to the artistic process, I thought what McCloud had to say on the subject was so perfectly universal to all art, including literature. Overall, definitely an insightful read for anyone who enjoys "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence."

  6. 4 out of 5

    أحمد

    This is a book on art and philosophy disguised as a book on comics disguised as a comic book! A brilliant must-read for any fan of comics, art, philosophy and beauty! Ahmad Eddeeb May 2016

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    it's one of the best examples i've found of someone writing so specifically about a topic that the observations and implications become absolutely universal. think about it: hamlet is completely consumed in his little world, and the stakes are all about what will happen to denmark and only denmark. and centuries later, we still perform the play and read it and think that that is us up there struggling with our problems, just with a different name. this is what mccloud achieves here: he is so fixat it's one of the best examples i've found of someone writing so specifically about a topic that the observations and implications become absolutely universal. think about it: hamlet is completely consumed in his little world, and the stakes are all about what will happen to denmark and only denmark. and centuries later, we still perform the play and read it and think that that is us up there struggling with our problems, just with a different name. this is what mccloud achieves here: he is so fixated and clear in talking about comics that the scope of his thought travels to all corners of creativity, art, and human endeavor. this is not only a testament to the validity of comics as an artform and mccloud's mastery of it, but also to the microscopic differences between the various supposedly discreet arts and vocabularies thereof when viewed from the vantage of a close and sensitive read of any one of them in particular. a book that renews your faith in people's ability to communicate with (and 'understand?') each other.

  8. 3 out of 5

    Imogen

    Well, I also think this book was brilliant, just like everybody else. I was like, 'how could he possible have two hundred and fourteen pages of things to say about comics?' but then I'd heard it was brilliant for so long from so many people that I gave it a shot. And it is just theory! It's like reading Roland Barthes or somebody, but in comics, which makes it easier/more fun, which I think is in keeping with Mr. McCloud's idea that comics are the best thing in the whole universe. I mean, some o Well, I also think this book was brilliant, just like everybody else. I was like, 'how could he possible have two hundred and fourteen pages of things to say about comics?' but then I'd heard it was brilliant for so long from so many people that I gave it a shot. And it is just theory! It's like reading Roland Barthes or somebody, but in comics, which makes it easier/more fun, which I think is in keeping with Mr. McCloud's idea that comics are the best thing in the whole universe. I mean, some of his theories are a little wingnut- he basically argues that comics are the simultaneously the culmination of human achievement and the basis of it- but y'know I love me a wingnut theory. So. So yeah! I am going to be on the lookout for the next ones AND for McCloud's non-meta (is there a prefix that means not-meta?) comics.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    I love the idea of this conversation more than I love the application--at least in this book. While I find the concepts themselves fascinating, I found the book tedious. The overall art and style employed by McCloud just wasn't compelling to me. I really struggled to finish this book. But as I said, the conversation is a good one, and the concepts explored--particularly the role of the reader and the required brain work involved in reading comics--were interesting. I'm glad this book is out ther I love the idea of this conversation more than I love the application--at least in this book. While I find the concepts themselves fascinating, I found the book tedious. The overall art and style employed by McCloud just wasn't compelling to me. I really struggled to finish this book. But as I said, the conversation is a good one, and the concepts explored--particularly the role of the reader and the required brain work involved in reading comics--were interesting. I'm glad this book is out there. I just wish I personally enjoyed it more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    "Don't gimme that comic book talk, Barney!" McCloud surely must be smiling to himself every day to see just how far - in great part because of the publication of this endearingly idealistic visual essay in 1992- his beloved medium has come since then, both in terms of popular acceptance and artistic merit. Some respect at last!

  11. 3 out of 5

    Ярослава

    Жила-була і переклала. У серпні в мене якось сіли батарейки, працювалося крізь зуби, тож за весь місяць тільки і здобутків, що комікс на 4 авторські аркуші / 160 тисяч знаків. Зате дуже класний! Це - спроба осмислити, як працюють комікси як рід мистецтва (велика залученість читачів: додумування логічних зв'язків між панелями; різні способи передати, скажімо, час і рух у статичному медіумі, і т.д., і т.і.). Якщо ви в коміксі раніше ніколи доти не бачили семіотичної термінології, а хочеться, то ва Жила-була і переклала. У серпні в мене якось сіли батарейки, працювалося крізь зуби, тож за весь місяць тільки і здобутків, що комікс на 4 авторські аркуші / 160 тисяч знаків. Зате дуже класний! Це - спроба осмислити, як працюють комікси як рід мистецтва (велика залученість читачів: додумування логічних зв'язків між панелями; різні способи передати, скажімо, час і рух у статичному медіумі, і т.д., і т.і.). Якщо ви в коміксі раніше ніколи доти не бачили семіотичної термінології, а хочеться, то вам сюди :) Ну й єдиний комікс, який цитують у наукових статтях як партнера в діалозі, а не предмет дослідження. Детальніше розкажу, коли вийде переклад, але взагалі це класика-класика і дуже дотепно.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shark

    FASCINATING book! I'd heard excellent things about this book ever since I got into comics way back in 1993, but never decided to sit down and read it until a few months ago. It took me a week to go through it (reading a bit every night before bed), but it's honestly a pretty quick read. Most people could probably get through it in a couple of hours. What I found in the pages of this book is an excellent explanation of what happens to us as we read comics, how our mind interprets information and th FASCINATING book! I'd heard excellent things about this book ever since I got into comics way back in 1993, but never decided to sit down and read it until a few months ago. It took me a week to go through it (reading a bit every night before bed), but it's honestly a pretty quick read. Most people could probably get through it in a couple of hours. What I found in the pages of this book is an excellent explanation of what happens to us as we read comics, how our mind interprets information and the effect it has on our consciousness. I also feel that this book makes an excellent argument to anyone who looks down on comics as "something for kids" or overly "nerdy." McCloud explains that comics are a much more prevalent part of our culture/society than we may immediately recognize, and what ensues is evidence of the medium as an art form, ripe with theory and rich creativity. I feel that anyone who has an interest in philosophy/theory, filmmaking, history, painting, photography, or literature/writing should read this book. It's not just for "comic book nerds" -- it's for all who appreciate the arts and perhaps could do with some more open-mindedness. It really changes how you look at visual communication.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Inggita

    amazing homage to an art form as old as the carved stories on borobudur temples and the papyrus scrolls of pharaoh - the unassuming geeky guide dissects the media format (worthy of mcluhan) and history of comic and walks us through its tiniest elements to be able to fully appreciate it as an art form - down to the technical and philosophical levels - not just comic but also how human mind works to allow the storytelling to happen through sequencing, line, and meaning... all the things we take fo amazing homage to an art form as old as the carved stories on borobudur temples and the papyrus scrolls of pharaoh - the unassuming geeky guide dissects the media format (worthy of mcluhan) and history of comic and walks us through its tiniest elements to be able to fully appreciate it as an art form - down to the technical and philosophical levels - not just comic but also how human mind works to allow the storytelling to happen through sequencing, line, and meaning... all the things we take for granted (certain lines representing smoke or odor) - this is a guide as great as the subject matter, and also produced in the format of the subject matter: a combination of art and words to tell a story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alina

    3.5★ rounded up with indulgence for its (possible) usefulness If a book/work can be interesting and boring at the same time, than this was it! There were some fascinating parts, with interesting, new informations, but there were also enough parts that were boring, because of the too many details and obvious clarifications. However, it seems to me like an excellent initiative, as it could be extremely useful for those who are just getting acquainted with the comics' universe or for those who want t 3.5★ rounded up with indulgence for its (possible) usefulness If a book/work can be interesting and boring at the same time, than this was it! There were some fascinating parts, with interesting, new informations, but there were also enough parts that were boring, because of the too many details and obvious clarifications. However, it seems to me like an excellent initiative, as it could be extremely useful for those who are just getting acquainted with the comics' universe or for those who want to start creating in this field.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or my personal favourite Michelangelo Merisi da Carav I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or my personal favourite Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, but it is still art. To exclude comics as an art form would be like removing Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack or René Magritte from the art world because you 'don't get it'. Now that I have had a little rant about art, let’s talk about comics and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. This book is a graphical look into comics as an art form, exploring the history of comics and tries to explain the meaning behind the art. It starts off trying to define what a comic is, which I quickly realised was an impossible feat. McCloud ended saying “Comics are juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” but then went on to explain how problematic that definition can be. A highlight for me was found in chapter two where Scott McCloud explored the vocabulary of comics. The chapter begins with explain René Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images (1928-29), an artist I am a big fan of. I actually went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the hope to see The Treachery of Images, but it was currently on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago. What I liked about this chapter was how he took the meaning of this painting and expanded on it to help explain comics. He took something easy to explain and built upon that to the more complex ideas. Reading Understanding Comics makes comics sound like highbrow pieces of art and maybe that is how we should view them. Instead of thinking about comics as a lowbrow medium, it is about time we experience the art and what it can tell us. In this book six major ideas around the art. Idea/purpose, form, idiom/style, structure, craft and surface; explaining how they can all work together to make great pieces. There is a lot of information within Understanding Comics and I don’t think I have explored it all yet. It has equipped me with some new tools when reading and reviewing comics. The best thing about this book is the way Scott McCloud changes his art style and methods to explore the different ways you can execute the theories behind this book. I am glad he referenced all his work, especially when talking about other artists and how they write comics. The graphical representation of the art theory in the book helped me to understand comics a little better but there is just so much here that I will need to reread this a few times before it sinks in. This review originally appeared on my blog: http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

  16. 3 out of 5

    Tara

    this book was intriguing, but also annoying. a comic book about comics! what a great idea! i wanted it to be better than it was. ultimately, i'm glad i read it, but only to the extent it identified a bunch of interesting topics/themes that i'm now inclined to think about on my own as i read more comics (and reflect on the ones i've already read)--i.e. issues of time, motion, panel sequence, reader perception, artistic style etc. but on the whole i was not thrilled with mccloud's own exposition an this book was intriguing, but also annoying. a comic book about comics! what a great idea! i wanted it to be better than it was. ultimately, i'm glad i read it, but only to the extent it identified a bunch of interesting topics/themes that i'm now inclined to think about on my own as i read more comics (and reflect on the ones i've already read)--i.e. issues of time, motion, panel sequence, reader perception, artistic style etc. but on the whole i was not thrilled with mccloud's own exposition and analysis of those topics. i simply don't agree with a lot of the conclusions he draws. he makes a lot of unjustified analytical leaps that just strike me as really reaching for something deep and i just wasn't buying it. also, i was really put off by his tendency to go out of his way to say "but this is just my opinion--feel free to disagree." it just comes off as defensive. i was annoyed by his whole process of trying to define what "comics" are. and i completely skipped the chapter on "the six steps" because i could tell it was going to annoy the crap out of me. i think this sequence of comments pretty well represents the irritation i experienced at the beginning of this chapter: "Even today, there are those who ask the question, 'can comics be art?' It is--I'm sorry--a really stupid question! But if we must answer it, the answer is yes. Especially if your definition of art is as broad as mine!" despite all that, it's definitely a worthwhile read for comics aficionados. i just wasn't crazy about it. EDIT: okay, i felt bad so changed my rating to three stars. it really has a lot of interesting stuff in it... it was just a combination of his slightly annoying tone, and it being 15 years old, that made me like it less. it's a good read for comics lovers.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    A book that explains the forms and functions of the graphics media -- in the guise, naturally, of a comic book. A non-fiction comic book. Everyone should read this elegant classic (and its two sequels), just for some basic 20th - 21st century cultural literacy. It does what the very best books do; makes you see the world differently, through changed eyes. Ta, L.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Perhaps the best explanation of how a particular artistic medium works that I've ever seen. McCloud wrote this at a time when the artistic merit of comics/graphic novels was still in doubt in some corners, so clearly that animates a lot of the discussion. He really demolishes any doubt about their legitimacy, and in the process created quite a comic himself. Understanding Comics is one phenomenal piece of analysis and it's far more than just a treatise on one medium. His meditations on comic for Perhaps the best explanation of how a particular artistic medium works that I've ever seen. McCloud wrote this at a time when the artistic merit of comics/graphic novels was still in doubt in some corners, so clearly that animates a lot of the discussion. He really demolishes any doubt about their legitimacy, and in the process created quite a comic himself. Understanding Comics is one phenomenal piece of analysis and it's far more than just a treatise on one medium. His meditations on comic forms and how they're created and received could more often than not be applied to any other artistic endeavor. This is clearly the work of someone who's done some heavy intellectual lifting, and the medium is lucky to have him as it cheerleader.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    I found this book to be, in roughly equal measure, charming and irritating as hell. When McCloud was dealing with the nuts and bolts of how comics work, it was illuminating and the decision to write the book as a comic really came into its own. There were all sorts of clever ways in which he could use the very medium of his exposition to offer insight into comics. But when he launched himself into generalities about the importance of comics, the nature of artistic creation, language and meaning, I found this book to be, in roughly equal measure, charming and irritating as hell. When McCloud was dealing with the nuts and bolts of how comics work, it was illuminating and the decision to write the book as a comic really came into its own. There were all sorts of clever ways in which he could use the very medium of his exposition to offer insight into comics. But when he launched himself into generalities about the importance of comics, the nature of artistic creation, language and meaning, etc., it felt piously conventional and not sufficiently analytical. And there, the decision to write the work as a comic was annoying - it obscured the shallowness of the content.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Caro M.

    Absolutely great. Informative, funny and interesting. A must-read for every comic books lover and a great introduction into comics for the hesitating non believers.

  21. 3 out of 5

    29alabs

    Sería ridículo revisar Understanding comics como un comic cualquiera (demasiado meta para mí) pero lo que puedo decir es que es un excelente viaje por la conquista del sentido visual. Scott te da mucha perspicacia no solo en lo que a la historia de los comics se refiere sino a todos los contrastes que el medio sufre (hasta 1994) y un gran análisis de todos los "gimmicks" que un artista /escritor debe usar para transmitir su mensaje , y lograr que sea universal, McCloud intenta también darle esper Sería ridículo revisar Understanding comics como un comic cualquiera (demasiado meta para mí) pero lo que puedo decir es que es un excelente viaje por la conquista del sentido visual. Scott te da mucha perspicacia no solo en lo que a la historia de los comics se refiere sino a todos los contrastes que el medio sufre (hasta 1994) y un gran análisis de todos los "gimmicks" que un artista /escritor debe usar para transmitir su mensaje , y lograr que sea universal, McCloud intenta también darle esperanza al medio, para que deje de ser un nicho y pierda su estigma de que sólo niños pueden disfrutar el medio (se que a principios del siglo XXI esta perspectiva ha cambiado definitivamente) Y aunque a ratos Scott describe demasiado el manga, lo entiendo por ser un género desconocido en los países angloparlantes, a fin de cuentas creo que aquí en México tuvimos un poco de esa influencia oriental un poco antes. Con mucho gusto recomendaría Undestanding comics para cualquier fan de los comics, y para los no-fans que su corazón es de piedra.

  22. 3 out of 5

    Russell

    I have used this with my English 4 classes and will be using it next year with my Intro to the Graphic Novel course. This is a wonderful study in how the comic form of writing works. I think the graphic novel is going to become a more and more important form of literature. Just look at the movie scene lately and check out how many derived from graphic novels, and that is not just the superhero movies from Marvel and DC Comics. McCloud deeply and thoughtfully explores how sequential art works on o I have used this with my English 4 classes and will be using it next year with my Intro to the Graphic Novel course. This is a wonderful study in how the comic form of writing works. I think the graphic novel is going to become a more and more important form of literature. Just look at the movie scene lately and check out how many derived from graphic novels, and that is not just the superhero movies from Marvel and DC Comics. McCloud deeply and thoughtfully explores how sequential art works on our minds and what techniques comic writers have to explore the possibilities of the form. If you want to truly appreciate the comic form, and even how art works, read this book.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Nikki

    Understanding Comics is a pretty clever book, using the medium of comics to talk seriously about comics -- which is very likely to be dismissed by those who either insist comics should all be fun (and therefore if they're not interested in this, it's no good) or all comics are fun (and therefore have no serious value). That's a mistake. I hadn't heard of this before I started the Coursera course I'm doing on comics, but I don't need any prompting to take it seriously. Possibly my favourite insigh Understanding Comics is a pretty clever book, using the medium of comics to talk seriously about comics -- which is very likely to be dismissed by those who either insist comics should all be fun (and therefore if they're not interested in this, it's no good) or all comics are fun (and therefore have no serious value). That's a mistake. I hadn't heard of this before I started the Coursera course I'm doing on comics, but I don't need any prompting to take it seriously. Possibly my favourite insight from it is about the idea of closure -- the space between panels during which the reader has to figure out what's happening -- and how that makes the reader complicit in every act in a comic.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Paula Cruz

    Como disse um professor querido meu no intercâmbio: "if you're interested in... life in general, you should read this book". E é bem isso mesmo, porque este livro perpassa a temática teórica dos quadrinhos e arte sequencial. Fala sobre arte, nossa relação com imagens e como imagens se comportam. Vocês simplesmente P R E C I S A M ler este livro!

  25. 3 out of 5

    Vanessa

    As you may gather from the title, this is less a history of comics (although there is some of that) and more a thesis statement about what they are and how they work. McCloud is an engaging narrator, although the first chapter is a little dry. He's defining what comics "are", so that probably can't be helped. As some other reviewers have noted, the technology has advanced since McCloud wrote this in the early 90's (particularly, I'm guessing, when it comes to color), but the ideas are still cont As you may gather from the title, this is less a history of comics (although there is some of that) and more a thesis statement about what they are and how they work. McCloud is an engaging narrator, although the first chapter is a little dry. He's defining what comics "are", so that probably can't be helped. As some other reviewers have noted, the technology has advanced since McCloud wrote this in the early 90's (particularly, I'm guessing, when it comes to color), but the ideas are still contemporary. A few of the things I learned, or what I learned to look at with new eyes: --How different types of lines can convey different emotional states --What closure is (how we automatically fill-in the narrative gaps between panels) --The space between panels, btw, is called "the gutter" --The different types of transitions between panels, e.g action-to-action, aspect-to-aspect, et cetera. McCloud has a great graph selection in chapter three breaking this down. Manga, for instance, is very big in the aspect transition. --Some of the differences between Western and Japanese comics, both in terms of artistic and narrative choices. Try as I might, I can't get into anime or manga, but this was fascinating. I like how McCloud sets out to link comics to "higher" arts here and seriously, you can never go wrong with name-dropping Kandinsky. I haven't read Eisner's book on the subject, but I think most comics readers will find something new here. I know I'm going to read my latest comic book score with new eyes. On the subject of being out of date, McCloud has written two more recent books on this same subject: Reinventing Comics and Making Comics.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Myke Cole

    A fabulous and totally unexpected delight. I came to this book after reading McCloud's The Sculptor, so I already knew that he had a firm grip on how to produce an outstanding comic. I thought I was getting an Eisner or Kirby style How-To guide for the craft and business of comics writing, and instead was treated to a brilliant treatise on art history, human perception, the role of symbols in communication, and how we use art to communicate with one another. Understanding comics *is* a How-To gui A fabulous and totally unexpected delight. I came to this book after reading McCloud's The Sculptor, so I already knew that he had a firm grip on how to produce an outstanding comic. I thought I was getting an Eisner or Kirby style How-To guide for the craft and business of comics writing, and instead was treated to a brilliant treatise on art history, human perception, the role of symbols in communication, and how we use art to communicate with one another. Understanding comics *is* a How-To guide, but the camera is at 30,000 feet, providing a strategic and conceptual understanding of how comic book art and writing work, and how an artist/writer can position themselves to not only make great art on a one-off basis, but over the course of a career. It also provides a reader with no aspirations to create with a deep and rich understanding of the medium and its importance in the world of art and literature. I will never look at a comic book the same way again, and assure you that you won't either. McCloud has an exhaustive knowledge of comics history and a true and sober appreciation of the importance of the genre. Even if you're not a comic fan at all, this book will leave you with a better appreciation of art and how we use it to know we're not alone.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Even if you're not interested in comics and graphic novels, McCloud's book might get you interested. Rather brilliantly, McCloud uses the medium of comics itself for a philosophical meditation on the nature and possibilities of comics. He does reflect a little bit on the prehistoric and pre-modern origins of comics, but this is not a history lesson. Rather, he explores the specific nature of comics as sequential art and the potential of the form to explore new modes of expression. It's really su Even if you're not interested in comics and graphic novels, McCloud's book might get you interested. Rather brilliantly, McCloud uses the medium of comics itself for a philosophical meditation on the nature and possibilities of comics. He does reflect a little bit on the prehistoric and pre-modern origins of comics, but this is not a history lesson. Rather, he explores the specific nature of comics as sequential art and the potential of the form to explore new modes of expression. It's really super smart art and literary criticism made fun and digestible through using comics. I highly recommend for everyone, even if you've never thought about picking up a graphic novel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    kaśyap

    A clear overview of the form and structure of comics. Scott McCloud's deep understanding of the history and functions of art makes this an insightful and informative read.

  29. 3 out of 5

    Eric

    This one's a classic, of course. There were many eye opening moments to me in here. The part about the cartoon face being a representation of how we see ourselves really blew my mind, especially that when we see two dots and a line that, not only can we make a face out of it, we have to. And how the more simplistic the representation, the more universal it is to the reader. I also like how he illustrated how our minds fill in the space between panels to create our own continuity. With comic art b This one's a classic, of course. There were many eye opening moments to me in here. The part about the cartoon face being a representation of how we see ourselves really blew my mind, especially that when we see two dots and a line that, not only can we make a face out of it, we have to. And how the more simplistic the representation, the more universal it is to the reader. I also like how he illustrated how our minds fill in the space between panels to create our own continuity. With comic art becoming more and more realistic, I think about his argument that comics is more about a marriage of art and writing with it's own language, than about an artist and writer going off in their own directions, creating the ultimate in their fields, then coming together to do a comic. I wonder how much this is true. I remember when I read the first Ultimate Fantastic Four, the photo realistic art felt stiff and alien to me at first, but I think over time it grew on me. Now that I think of it, maybe he wasn't talking so much about the art style as the layout and flow of the page. It definitely gave me a new appreciation of comics and peeled back the layers to see what's going on subconsciously. Stuff that's innately human. I think that's why this book is so universal and would be more widely read if our culture could get past the stigma of comics.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    This is an indispensable and fundamentally exhaustive exploration of the comics medium presented in the medium itself. While it presents some fairly complex ideas of "how comics work" McCloud uses the medium itself to good effect to demonstrate his meaning. I, do however, have to take issue with his strangely vociferous insistence that one panel cartoons are not comics - while I loathe the Family Circus as much as the next thinking person, I think McCloud is too hung up on the literal need for se This is an indispensable and fundamentally exhaustive exploration of the comics medium presented in the medium itself. While it presents some fairly complex ideas of "how comics work" McCloud uses the medium itself to good effect to demonstrate his meaning. I, do however, have to take issue with his strangely vociferous insistence that one panel cartoons are not comics - while I loathe the Family Circus as much as the next thinking person, I think McCloud is too hung up on the literal need for sequential panels for something to be a comic. There is an implied sequence to one-panel cartoons - an imagined before and after - that make them work, much in the way that the gutter between panels in more conventional comics imply a connecting action that the reader actively engages with in order to fulfill (and go beyond) the promise of static images. It seems to me that the one-panel cartoon functions exactly in the way that McCloud asserts all comics do, it is just that everything else but that panel is the gutter.

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