understanding comics


PURPLE TREE BOOKS REVIEW: Out of all the books that are published every year, why would you spend your time reading pictures? I advocate for graphic novels because it is a fascinating and irrefutable visual experience like no other. Still considered a somewhat up-and-coming genre of literature (though it has been around since the mid-1800s) graphic novels are not just superhero stories. Consider, for example, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which details Spiegelman’s attempt to understand the events of his father’s horrific concentration camp experience and how it affected their whole family. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics gives a fantastic explanation of this type of literature for those who have or have not experienced it.

BOOK SUMMARY: This is a rare and exciting work that ingeniously uses comics to examine the medium itself. McCloud (who wrote a comic-book series called Zot!) conducts a genial, well-researched and funny tour of virtually every historical and perceptual aspect of comics, which he calls “sequential art,” that is, art that consists of sequences of words and pictures. Beginning in the 11th century with the Bayeux tapestry, he examines pre-Columbian picture languages and the printing press, presenting a quick survey of the historical development of early sequential pictures into the specialized visual language of comics. But it’s McCloud’s accessible and quite amusing discussion of realism, abstraction and visual perception that forms the heart of this survey. He dissects the vocabulary of the medium, cheerfully analyzing the psychological power of comics and their central role in our ultra-visual culture. McCloud attempts to place comics within the tradition of serious western art. His black-and-white drawings are a delight, ranging from simplified cartoons to parodies of classic comics and fine art, all the while manifesting every theory and comics trend discussed.

9780060976255 – PAPERBACK $22.99 – WILLIAM MORROW

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