Understanding Comics

I just completed a very intriguing book called Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. In this fascinating graphic novel, McCloud (who, it turns out, lives near me or at least used to, according to the mailing address at the back of the book) ruminates on the way that we should view the development of comics as an important chapter in the development of art, and how little attention is given to it.

McCloud really engages the reader on many levels through his use of comics to tell his story. One area of interest for me, anyway, was his understanding that media would become more interactive (this book was first published in the early 1990s) and he wondered whether comics would integrate this turn of events (I don’t think it has yet).

This is what he writes (in comic form but I am using it as prose here):

For now, these questions (of whether stories need to be linear) are the territory of games and strange little experiments. But viewer participation is on the verge of becoming an enormous issue in other media. How comics addresses this issue — or fails to — could play a crucial part in defining the role of comics in the New Century. Time will tell.” — from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

That remark holds true for so many areas of publishing and writing and reading these days that I thought it was worth sharing.

Peace (in frames),

  1. Perfect timing. I’m playing in Joon Toon at this very moment. And I haven’t yet read too many graphic novels. Perfect.

  2. In my undergraduate English courses, I took an interesting class called Texts and Context: Movies, Novels, and Comics. Basically, it was a critical theory class that discussed what defines the genre of literature.

    McCloud’s book acted as a kind of textbook for the comics portion of the class… really opened my eyes to the possibilities of comics. While I don’t believe there are many comics that reach the realm of “literature” (maybe Speigleman’s Maus), it certainly opened a new realm of understanding for me.

    Thanks for the reminder about this book. I’ll have to see if it’s buried on my bookshelves somewhere or whether I tried to sell in back for a couple bucks at the end of the semester.

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