Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

by Scott McCloud


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The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication

"You must read this book."  Neil Gaiman

Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060976255
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/27/1994
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 35,670
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 10.30(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Scott McCloud has been writing, drawing, and examining comics since 1984. Winner of the Eisner and Harvey awards, his works have been translated into more than sixteen languages. Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) called him "just about the smartest guy in comics." He lives with his family in southern California. His online comics and inventions can be found at scottmccloud.com.

Table of Contents

Setting the Record Straight
The Vocabulary of Comics
Blood in the Gutter
Time Frames
Living in Line
Show and Tell
The Six Steps
A Word About Color
Putting it All Together

What People are Saying About This

James Gurney

"McCloud is the McLuhan of comics."

Will Eisner

"A landmark dissection and intellectual consideration of comics as a valid medium."

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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Major_Kelly More than 1 year ago
McCloud has written a perfect primer on the nature of art itself. How does art work? What is art? How do artists make artistic choices? What are the limits of art? How do you tell a story? McCloud's book is a fascinating primer. It would make a good textbook for an Art 101 class.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Scott McCloud is thorough in his research, elevating comics from their misconceived 'rubbish' to their rightful respect of 'juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.' It broadens the minds, while discouraging empty unoriginal creations. The book included: how our ancestors enjoyed comics, how it grew to be what it was 'termed', why there is such a strong bond between the reader and the abstract story on whatever medium, what happens in between the panels and how time is viewed, techniques used to fully live in the moment, how one goes about creating comics, and how they fit. It wasn't enough just to talk about comics. Scott McCloud let us enjoy them through the entire book as references, examples and in whatever sentence throughout the book. I highly recommend it. Not for comic addicts but for people with limited attention span, and those who need to break out of the typical book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. McCloud's ability to frame the history of both visual and written communication, and the potential for them to be used in tandem to create rewarding aesthetic and synesthetic experiences not found in any other art form, is nothing short of a brilliant accomplishment. This dissertation is disguised as a 'comic book', but don't be fooled! I wish this title had been required reading when I was in 'art skool'. IMHO, it would be especially insightful reading for those currently practicing, or aspiring to a career in art history and/or art criticism. From a creative's perspective, this work will bring hope and validation to those thousands of artists marginalized by the elitist ( and the general public's) thinking that 'comix' are the lowest form of art. With clarity, depth, and brevity this book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the arts, as long as their ego is in check! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This isn't your normal book. In fact, it's really a comic book. Which makes sense when you consider that it's a book trying to explain the art of comics. So you know, I read a lot of comics. After peaking volume-wise a couple year ago I have been reading fewer of them, but that doesn't mean that I still don't read a good number of them. I'm an adult, though, and I sometimes have a hard time explaining to people why I read comics. Do I like the art? Yes. Do I like the stories? Yes. (If I didn't, I wouldn't read them; I don't just collect the things) But it's the combination of the two that so captivates me, and it is this combination that Mr. McCloud gets into here. This book covers a lot of ground, discussing differences in styles among creators, the difference between iconic drawings and realistic drawings, the history of comics (in a very broad sense) dating back to ancient Aztec and Egyptian drawings, and so on. There were a number of things covered in the book that I had already figured out on my own, but there was at least as much, if not more, that were new revelations. I especially liked the comparisons between American, European, and Japanese comic traditions, and the things that affected each different (superior color printing in Europe, the lack of individual focus in Japanese comics, etc.). If you like comics, this book will help you gain a better understanding of the arts involved. If you think comics are 'just for kids,' this book will help you see that there is much more out there than you are aware of. That doesn't mean that the comics you come across aren't aimed at kids, but that isn't the only possible use of the medium.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book covers so much intellectual ground, and does it so clearly, so eloquently, and so entertainingly that I truly believe it should be a must-read for anyone entering the 'Visual Arts' field, either as a patron or as a creator. 'Understanding Comics' doesn't JUST discuss comics.. in elucidating the hows, whys, and wherefores of the 'comic book art form', it covers cubism, ancient cave drawings, and many of the authors personal experiences with the visual arts in general. It somehow manages to tie all these elements into a coherent WHOLE explaining exactly WHY comic books are one of the BEST methods of storytelling available to the individual artist, and what advantages and disadvantages comics have relative to it's two closest art forms, painting and literature. BUY MULTIPLE COPIES. Read one, give the others away to friends and family. I HAVE. :-)
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read comics, you should read this. If you create comics, you MUST read this. No exceptions!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is one of the best i have ever read. I never knew history could be so interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent book both for the veteran in comics, for those just starting and even for people who don't have an interest (but have friends who do). What better way to describe comics, the art, the history, the culture etc than to display it in that very media. Visually acute and theoretically intriguing.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nice overview of the properties of the form, which McCloud defines as juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence. I¿m increasingly amused by how people can define any medium as ¿cool¿ or ¿hot¿ in McLuhan-esque terms depending on how they characterize it, but McCloud has an interesting argument that realistic backgrounds and more iconic characters/foregrounds allow a balance of objectivizing (this represents the world outside) and subjectivizing (I identify with this).
freddiefreddie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This surprisingly in-depth look at comics is a must-read for those interested in art - not just comics. McCloud reaches back in history to trace the origins of comics, and gives his opinion about what comics, collectively speaking, is and isn't. Surprisingly heady and conceptual - but still a fun read.
mschaefer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Scott McClouds exploration of the world of comics as an art form. A theoretical text, visually argued. Impressive.
alicebentley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my most favorite reference books. When introducing the book to new people, I like to open to the double page spread on pgs 24 and 25, which I think nicely encapsulates some of the techniques McCloud uses.
Katya0133 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know what I can say about this that hasn't already been said. It's a foundational text for anyone interested in comics, pop culture, or narrative structure. Go read it.
peajayar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a late-comer to comic/graphic novel reading, I found this book useful in understanding how the medium works and how to 'read' the layouts and ways of using the panels and the spaces between. Has given more depth to my reading of books in this form
Steve55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a remarkable book. Its subject matter may not at first appeal to you. As Scott McCloud explains, in many cultures the `comic¿ is regarded as a third rate communication medium reserved for children. However what Scott provides here is an engaging and compelling exploration of the challenge of communicating ideas, from the lifeless sheet of paper to the readers mind, in ways that energise the reader. What I love is the way the book matches form with function, It is written as a comic and demonstrates the power of the form as it explains it. The description of Magritte¿s painting `The Treachery of Images¿ is wonderful, and in common with the book as a whole will help you rethink your approach to communication.
librarianbryan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mostly wonderfulness, it definitely deserves its place as a contemporary classic. I enjoyed the parts specifically about comics more so than his pseudo-philosophizing about the nature of art in general.
-Eva- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I don't agree 100% with McCloud's ideas, this is still an unsurpassed introduction to comic style and narration, its history and its future. Finally, a work which takes comics seriously! Anybody interested in the artform should pick this up.
qgil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably the book I have recommended to more people. Anybody in the media industry should ready. Actually anybody exposed to media and willing to learn something will have fun with it.
JasmineW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Understanding comics is a graphic novel that goes through the journey of comics. The graphic novels tries to explain what comics are and what it consist of. It has 9 chapters that begins with setting the record straight, vocabulary, gutter, time frames, lines, show and tell, six steps, color, and putting it all together. Furthermore, it begins talking about comics being a sequential art like Eisner's comic. Bayeux Tapestory is an example of showing details of the Norman Conquest of England in chronological order. Since it is 230 feet long, some may disqualify this as a comic. Finally, Understanding Comics continues to explain, describe, and justify our perceptions and ideas of what we "think" comics are hoping to change our mind by the end of the novel. The first idea I have is for my students to read another comic graphic novel. They can chose any comic graphic novel they would like to read. I want the students to pay attention to lines and color. After reading their novel, the next day at school we will go over what they have found out about the differences and similiarities of the lines and colors used in their graphic novel. The second idea I have is for my students to make a 3 page graphic novel of their own. The student will write out a story of their chosing told through comics. I must see that the student understands line and color now that we have studied this. Don't worry, you do not have to be an artist. You can print pictures, hand draw, make collages, use magazines pictures or whatever you need to complete your 3 page graphic novel. Include a cover with a title of your novel. We will share them in class. Good luck guys.I enjoyed reading Understanding Comics because it goes through trying to explain to us what comics are. We tend to judge graphic novels and not even give them a chance. With this novel, I think by it explaining comics, it really helps me become more open to reading comics and graphic novels for pleasure. If I was just introducing graphic novels to my students for the first time, I would let them read this first just so they can get some background knowledge of comics. I think my students would enjoy it. I rate it 3 stars.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A theoretical vocabulary for comics! Callooh callay! in some ways this should have been called "Making Comics", with the heavy focus on the creative process and creative integrity, especially in the later chapters (I see McCloud has a later book actually called that, so I guess it's clear he continued to think in those terms). But the first chapters almost have a claim to style themselves "Understanding the Protagonist" or even "Understanding the Self", with all the stuff about masking and seeing other people as photorealistic but keeping the image of the self suspended as a cartoon. It's true, I say. And I like the way he can be theoretical like that and still break it down for us on topics like panel transitions in anime v. western comics, or the origin of the four-colour process in technological and price constraints. Overall this makes me wish I'd never read a comic, so I could pick one up and see what it'd be like to go in fresh, armed only with this as a manual.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Briefly put, this book is a comic book about comic books. The book goes through a brief history of comics and then describes the technical aspects of the medium to explain how comics function and why they appeal to us. There¿s some pretty interesting nuggets in there, particularly the idea of closure he describes in detail, although sometimes I think McCloud is a bit difficult to understand or just off the mark a little. I appreciate that he takes a broad definition of comics, so he includes Lynd Ward¿s works in comics history, among other works not generally considered to be comics. I take some issue with the subtitle ¿the invisible art.¿ I get McCloud¿s argument that comics ask readers to fill in a lot that isn¿t actually on the page (although I disagree that only comics do this), but ¿invisible art¿ sounds negative, so I would prefer if he used a different term. Overall, it¿s an interesting (and relatively quick) read, of interest for anyone who likes comic books (and arguably, even for those who don¿t).
theforestofbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For some reason I was expecting this book to open up my understanding of comics, to reveal a mysterious unknown way of appreciating the medium. Sadly although the book was interesting and enjoyable it wasn¿t quite the holy grail I was expecting. I did enjoy the way the book was presented, laid out in panel format, with the author and his speech bubble informing the reader. Very clever. Perhaps a book to be appreciated on a second read. It might be I¿m disappointed because I was expecting a different book.
Murdocke23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I heard good things about this book, but it was still much more than I expected. A masterful use of using the medium itself to illustrate the ideas and concepts around comics. But the ideas are not limited to comics, but also reach into pyschology, art history, and more. Awesome book.
EvilJohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very cool look at the art form of comics.
msrhodes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Using the medium of graphic illustration, Understanding Comics creates a one two punch for understanding and using the medium known as comic books. It explains not only time, space, storytelling, art, but also does so compelling one to understand that comics are the eight form of media!