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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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Top Customer Reviews
On a meta-level, the book is also a stunning work of art in its own right and an amazing essay on determination, hard work, craftsmanship and creativity. The chapter on the subject of 'what is art' may well be the best description of the artistic process - be it related to writing, music, programming, whatever you like - that I have ever seen.
In a word, stunning.
Get it, absorb it, and then keep it forever as reference. If you take these lessons to heart, you WILL be a better artist.
The thing that really strikes me about this work is that it is clearly a product of McCloud's experience with comics. He offers some really good points about why comics work, why they are popular, and what they say about us humans. With the writing style Scott employs, there is a healthy dose of comedy and knowledge, and he easily strings along the reader throughout the comic. We become familiar with some of the deepest mechanics at play in comics and the different regional variations. In truth, the fact that the book itself is written in comic form is partly why it is so effective. The reader learns about the medium while getting used to reading it in its natural format.
The insight McCloud gives about art in particular is something that really stuck with me. His interpretation was something new for me, and, upon further reflection, highlights why this comic is so enjoyable. It is polished, well-founded, fun, and a true learning experience that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. A must have for any person who enjoys comics, graphic novels, etc.
My personal favorite part is the chapter on panels, where McCloud introduces "blood in the gutter," the choice to have action happen between panels, rather than straight-up show it. He gives the example of having an ax being raised in one panel, and a scream in another. He points out that every reader is sort of an "accomplice" in the violence; we all had to imagine the crime in our own way, since we didn't get to actually SEE it happen.
Or as McCloud puts it, "Each of you held the ax and chose your spot. To kill a man between panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths."
You ever just have to stop and read something again because it you had to make sure it was really that awesome? That chapter right there, that BLEW my MIND when I first read it. And the whole book is like that.
Buy it. Borrow it. Whatever, just read it. If you've ever read a comic book in your life, this should be required reading.