Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Rating: +

Scott McCloud

Drawn as a comic book, this is actually a researched book on comics as an art form. McCloud surveys the various forms comics have taken historically using an art history-style analysis. Using comparison to other art forms, primarily visual art, he also shows the many choices that a comic writer has to make and the effect those choices have on the reader.

I've personally never read many comics, and the few I read I didn't appreciate very much. They seemed to go by too quickly without enough content. Part of my problem with comics, I was aware, was that I just read the words and had to consciously force myself to remember to look at the pictures as well. But something that this book pointed out was that I also didn't have an understanding of what to look for in the pictures. Just as word choices have connotations beyond their pure dictionary meaning, graphic style, image boundaries, and degrees of detail all have nuanced impact on the story a comic is telling. Because there often is less language than in a traditional story, all of these factors take on the roles that various grammatical and linguistic features would play in a non-graphical setting.

Having read this book, I'm not sure that I'll start reading comics, but I did learn a lot about the processes of reading and creating comics. I enjoyed the expositions of the connections of comics to both literature and to pure visual art, and the ways that comics draw from both art forms. The comic book format was very well done, keeping the book engaging and fun, as well as giving in-line examples of each of the properties of comics that were discussed. Even if you aren't a comics fan, and don't plan on becoming one, I'd highly recommend this book. A big '+'.


Review written May 2001.


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