Understanding Comics

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Visual Closure

A seminal work by Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics frames comic books as “Sequential Art” and shows their power, usefulness, and artistic significance. I just reread it from cover to cover. It was quick, I highly recommend it to anyone who works in visual media of any sort.

The argument isn’t quite as direct as Ways of Seeing, since Berger’s scope is much narrower and the split between words and images is given. But the value of Understanding Comics is that it isn’t just about funny books: the scope quite wide, dealing with “iconography” and representation on basic semantic levels. And the fact that it explains the artistic merit of the comic book as a medium means it is successful in double duty.

Pretty much every conceivable element of sequential art is covered in detail, from the flow of time and its representation to the emotive possibilities of line. To stress though – the most valuable part is that it isn’t just about comics, the ideas in Understanding Comics can be extended, by the perceptive reader to apply to all visual media, and to visual / language mixed-media.

One unsaid thing that is clear is the idea of the page as “virtual” space. This allows almost-infinitely flexible storytelling, and re-imagining of the possibilities of representation and narrative.

Even if you have never been a comic book fan – especially if you actively dislike the medium – read this.

If any book will show the true value of what is often (mistakenly) considered a “lowbrow” medium, Understanding Comics is that book.

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2 Comments

  1. […] in search of inspiration for the possibilities of the “Sequential Art” genre, I picked up his collaboration with Grant Morrison, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Billed on […]

  2. […] in search of inspiration for the possibilities of the “Sequential Art” genre, I picked up his collaboration with Grant Morrison, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Billed on […]


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