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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Paperback – April 27, 1994
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"You must read this book." —Neil Gaiman
The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication.
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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“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
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 27, 1994)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006097625X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060976255
- Reading age : 13 - 17 years
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 10.1 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #11,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2022
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Top reviews from the United States
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But be aware that the Kindle edition, at least in my case, doesn’t show a two-page spread - you only get one page at a time. The two-page “splash” pages are rendered as one page, shrunk down so you’re going to need to zoom in on it. (I’m reading this on an iPad. I doubt it’d work on a Kindle device.)
I suppose the other pages don’t technically need a two-page spread, but that’s a pretty key part of comic design and is certainly part of how he designed the book.
I did not grow up with comics being ubiquitous, there were no comic book stores where I lived (I'm not originally from the US, came here as an adult) - however I did like reading comic books in my childhood and youth. The medium always fascinated me.
As and adult, now living in the US, access has become much easier, the range of what's available is staggering. This book can not only helped me understand the medium even better, it helped me create a deeper emotional bond with it. It also provides as a guide of sorts of prominent works, authors and artists that are worth checking out.
It has been published in 1993, but the points made and the content still holds up.
If you always thought comics was "just for kids", give this book a chance - it will not only change your mind - it will reveal the wonderful world you missed, and guide you through it.
If you always liked comics, but wanted to learn about it's evolution and history - this book will be a joyous ride that you'll want to revisit multiple times in the future.
If you wanted to understand what makes this medium different, what are it's strength, what are the struggles facing the world of comics (and it's industry) definitely read this.
I can't think of anyone who will not find this book fascinating.
When you're done, I highly recommend his next book, from 2000, Reinventing Comics.
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.
Top reviews from other countries
A great read, too.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on August 15, 2022
This book has given me a new appreciation for comics. I've read graphic novels completely differently since reading it. I now really notice the authors' styles, savour each frame, and I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the stories now than I would've before. I also appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a good comic and find it unfortunate that comics are generally not taken very seriously.
I will never look at comics the same way again, and in some ways I will never look at art the same way again either. This book is both for those experienced and very inexperienced with comics. Very thought-provoking but also an entertaining read!