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25 years after an artist friend recommended this book I finally found it at the thrift store for a quarter this week. In the ensuing years it has become the ur text for college courses on comic books and has extended its influence to art mediums like the internet. It remains a timely and worthwhile read, especially for us comics enthusiasts.

Mr. McCloud had the wonderful idea of turning his text into a comic book itself, narrated by the character Scott McCloud. This decision allows him to illustrate his points from within the text and makes for an organic presentation. When he is explaining a concept he is, or his words are, in an example of the very concept. Pretty neat.

As a threshold matter, he presents a definition of what he means by comics: “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.” This deliberately wide definition allows him to include ancient examples, like the Bayeux Tapestry and build towards the sorts of forms which we more traditionally think of, with pictures presented frame by frame. One of the most appealing ideas in the book and a source for his subtitle is the way our minds fill in the space between the frames. Similarly fascinating is the methodology artists developed to show motion within a frame, so that a few bold strokes convey the idea that the hero is swinging his fist and our minds do the rest. Another way that the "limitations" of the form became a strength was cost, which lead to books being printed on newsprint with a limited palette of bold colors, producing the distinctive look of classic comic book characters.
From the clever concept for the book to these sorts of insights to McCloud's delightful illustration, it's well-worth spending real money on...


Grade: (A)


Scott McCloud Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Scott McCloud
    -WIKIPEDIA: Understanding Comics
    -TEXT: Understanding Comics
    -VIDEO: Scott McCloud: Understanding comics (Scott McCloud, Jan 14, 2009, Ted Talk)
    -BOOK SITE: Understanding Comics (HarperCollins)
    -PROFILE: The serious business of comics: Scott McCloud explains how they can promote a new way of seeing (Brett Milano, October 1, 2018, Harvard Gazette)
    -INTERVIEW: Scott McCloud on the Secret of Humor: The writer draws inspiration from Art Spiegelman's Breakdowns, "a toolkit to think about humor using comics." (Joe Fassler, February 4, 2015 , The Atlantic)
    -INTERVIEW: Scott McCloud (Interviewed by R.C. Harvey, The Comics Journal #179)
    -ESSAY: More "Seriously Visible" Reading: McCloud, McLuhan, and the Visual Language of The Medium Is the Massage (Kevin Brooks, september 2009, College Composition and Communication)
    -ESSAY: Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud’s Definition of Comics. (Dylan Horrocks, June 2001, Comics Journal #234)
    -VIDEO: Understanding Comics Part I (Dan Koch, YouTube)
    -VIDEO: Speech Bubbles: Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud (99% Invisible)
    -VIDEO: Scott McCloud Discusses the Making of The Sculptor,/a>: Scott McCloud, award-winning author of Understanding Comics, talks with Hillary L. Chute, Comics and Literary Scholar, about the the process behind McCloud's first graphic novel, The Sculptor. (WGBHForum, Mar 1, 2015)
-VIDEO: A Conversation with Scott McCloud: This conversation followed the lecture “Visual Storytelling, Visual Communication” by Scott McCloud, a 2018–2019 Dean’s Lecture in the Humanities at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. (Radcliffe Institute, Oct 12, 2018)
    -VIDEO: Scott McCloud: Comics, Superpowers & "The Sculptor" (Chicago Humanities Festival, Feb 24, 2015)
    -PROFILE: Understanding Scott McCloud, Comics’ Great Teacher (John R. Parker, June 10, 2015, Comics Alliance)
    -ESSAY: What Scott McCloud Taught Us About Internet Storytelling: He Had This Figured Out 25 Years Ago (Sarah Rosenthal, February 25, 2019, LitHub)
    -Interview: Scott McCloud on artistic frustration, optimism, and evolution in 7 comic books (Oliver Sava,2/02/15, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (Publishers Weekly)
    -VIDEO REVIEW: of Understanding Comics (Stuart MacMillen, You Tube)
    -REVIEW: of Understanding Comics (Shaun Huston, Pop Matters)
    -REVIEW: of Understanding Comics (Aaron Muszalski , Laughing Squid)
    -REVIEW: of Understanding Comics (John Pistelli)

Book-related and General Links: