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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Paperback – April 27, 1994
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A comic book about comic books. McCloud, in an incredibly accessible style, explains the details of how comics work: how they're composed, read and understood. More than just a book about comics, this gets to the heart of how we deal with visual languages in general. "The potential of comics is limitless and exciting!" writes McCloud. This should be required reading for every school teacher. Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman says, "The most intelligent comics I've seen in a long time."
“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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This is a great book for anyone who is even remotely interested in comics. It is more than a how-to guide, and in fact has very little in terms of actual instruction. Rather, this is a thorough deconstruction of how comics as a medium work. And, presented in the very medium it is addressing, which is both a novel idea, and serves to show the author's grasp of the subject matter.
Entertaining and informative, this is a must read for any budding cartoonist or visual storyteller.
The first chapter in Understanding Comics is great because it discusses the history of comics, and some great activities can be done having students think about and search for comics in the real world and instances of comics in history. This chapter really validates the fact that comics are interesting and useful, rather than just being treated as a 'fake' art or a 'not really real' subject.
Chapter three is excellent because it breaks down transitions not only in American comics, but European and Asian comics as well, and explains his thoughts as to why these differences exist. This allows students to compare the differences and broaden their understanding of how different cultures think differently. This chapter also discusses how comics are subtractive, and lends itself to an excellent lesson whereupon students can draw comics with many pictures, then keep subtracting and combining pictures until they have the miminum number of pictures that tells the gist of their story.
In other chapters: Chapter two discusses word choice and flow in comics, four discusses time, chapter five discusses displaying emotion by using different types of lines (and similarities and differences between comics from different cultures), chapter six discusses how words and ideas complement each other in comics, and chapter seven discusses six steps to making comics.
In my opinion, each book is worth its weight in gold alone for a comic class, but they have a synergistic effect when used in tandem with each other. Concepts from one book flow into the other book, and vice-versa, giving the students in-depth knowledge of both how to make comics and how to understand comics from other authors better. All of the concepts from the chapters can be seen easily in comics online or from newspapers, and so each week I first do the lecture, then use a few examples on the overhead that I have found from other comics, then give the students homework pertaining to the concepts discussed.
Through use of the two books, the students' work is really improving, and it is fun to see them working specifically with each comic element. Each of the concepts discussed in the chapters is a great starting point to get the students' creative juices flowing. I would recommend this book to any teacher or lecturer interested teaching comics at almost any level and to any audience.
The comic book method of combining words and pictures to convey a message was amazingly effective in this book. It's a book about how to understand comic books, and it is itself a comic book. What opened my eyes was just how powerful a medium it is.
The medium hasn't even remotely been explored completely. It's wide open. This book is itself an amazing poster child for the art itself. McCloud's artwork is beautiful, and absolutely effective in every line. His range of capabilities is astounding. It's a pleasure experiencing this book. When my kids get older, I want them to read it and I hope they'll get excited about drawing.
Anyway if you're interested in creating comic books of your own, or are interested in learning about comic books themselves, this book is a must read. It is certainly McCloud's best work. The drawings are clearly drawn by hand with pen and paper. McCloud's later work is clearly done on computer, and something precious is lost in the translation. I'm sure the computer saves a great deal of time, but the end result is...just not the same. This book spoke to me in a very profound way. Get a copy for yourself.