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  • Published: Northampton, MA : Kitchen Sink Press, c1993.
  • Year Published: 1993
  • Description: 215 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Graphic Novel

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 006097625X
  • 0878162445

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Understanding comics

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Where To Find It

Call number: Teen Graphic Novel / Understanding, Teen 741.597 McC

Available Copies: Downtown Teen, 1st Floor, Malletts Teen

Additional Details

Cover title of paperback edition : Understanding comics : the invisible art.

Community Reviews

A dense, clever examination.

Scott McCloud explores the form, history, and potential of comics for consumers and creators, speaking to the reader via a flexible, clever cartoon avatar.

I was expecting something both intelligent and fluffy, but WOW, is this dense. There's a lot (by my standards) of art history, comics history, even some anthropological history. McCloud covers an abundance of fundamental concepts and illustrates them beautifully.

Concepts and definitions:

Author's working definition of "comics": juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.

The masking effect--use of simple, cartoonistic characters against more realistic backgrounds, allowing readers to "mask" themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world.

Universality of cartoon images--A photoreal picture represents a specific person; a cartoonish picture represents all. The more cartoony a face, the more people it describes.

Closure--The phenomenon of observing parts but perceiving the whole (eg object permanence); the phenomenon of filling in the space between panels to connect the panels.

Six kinds of panel transitions: 1. moment-to-moment 2. action-to-action 3. subject-to-subject 4. scene-to-scene. 5. aspect-to-aspect 6. non-sequitur.

Bleeds--When a panel runs off the edge of the page. Expands time, conveys timelessness.

Polyptych--A moving figure or figures imposed over a continuous background.

"The longer any form of art or communication exists, the more symbols it accumulates. The modern comic is a young language but it already has an impressive array of recognizable symbols. Stink lines, x-eyes, sweat beads"

"The art form of comics is many centuries old, but it's perceived as a recent invention and suffers the curse of all new media:the curse of being judged by the standards of the old."

Types of picture/word combinations:
1) Word specific--Text-heavy, pictures are merely accents.
2) Picture specific--Illustrations tell the story; words merely add a soundtrack.
3) Duo specific--The words and illustrations are redundant.
4) Additive--Words and pictures amplify one another.
5) Parallel--The words and pictures are not obviously related.
6) Montage--Words are part of the picture.
7) Interdependent--The most common type. Words and pics go hand in hand to convey what would be impossible alone.

Entertaining and educational

If you ever read comics or graphic novels (or if you have kids who do), this is an insightful look into the history, what, why and how of "sequential art."


I feel as if it was an interesting glimpse into art theory in regards to the industry of comics. I also love how the delivery was in graphic novel form, which is a feat when you are describing something philosophical.

Really helpful

After reading this, I feel like I understand comics a lot better. Recommended for comics readers and writers alike!

Understanding comics

This book was great.

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