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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud

A very unusual book from McCloud, the writer/artist of the comic Zot! In fact, I’m amazed that McCloud doesn’t have a more extensive bibliography, given the wealth of information and insight presented in this volume. Succinctly, this book explains how comics work. Not how they are made, per se, but why the sequential images of a comic are an art form different from books or TV. And McCloud accomplishes this using the very medium he is examining.

I’m a comics fan that stopped buying them because they were putting me in the poor house. McCloud here explained to me how I was initially sucked in by the medium and why I kept reading some of the “worst” examples even while my artistic tastes were changing in other media. While I doubt that I could recreate the same Glen Cox who once wrote letters to comics, I can now reconcile myself with the Glen who still enjoys Howard the Duck and Cerebus (not to mention Zot!).

My friend Phil Yeh has been on a literacy campaign for over five years now, and he gives the following reason for why he dedicated himself to it. He said that he saw the literacy figures for America, and the downward trend, and realized that he was losing more and more of his audience. He felt that the American disdain for comics was missing the point–children who read comics are still reading. Although McCloud makes a strong case for the comic being different from prose, I don’t think that he would disagree. And, if the interplay between words and pictures keeps a child reading, what is wrong with that?

[Finished 6 April 1994]


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