Friday, July 30, 2010

Understanding Comics

Grade: F
Title: Understanding Comics
Author AND Artist (oh yeah double-whammy): Scott McCloud

I know what you're thinking: this looks cheesy. At least, that's what I thought when my friend's older brother told me to read this comic book. However, since I wanted to get to know comics better I thought that it might be a little useful, and so I read it.

(admit it - that intro made you smile). However, I couldn't have underestimated this comic book more. To make a small digression, one thing I want you to understand (since this is my first grade of a "F' that I have given) is that I don't think the work is perfect (for example, in this book I dislike how he always undermines his own arguments with "at least to me" etc. qualifiers, and I think he simplifies the complexities and connectedness between the medium and the message too much - just to name a few). Rather, the piece moved me, made me think in a way I should have been thinking, revealed true beauty or something similar. Basically, I expect it to be something I can literally call "life-changing." This is precisely what I found in Understanding Comics. It helped me to break through the preconceived notions I had for comic books.

McCloud's comic book highlights one hugely important "detail" about comics that I want to clear up right now. Comics are NOT literature! Yes, at one time - after I had just "discovered" them - I used to try and argue that they were, but after a year and a half, a conversation with a good friend, and reading this book (took a lot, didn't it) I finally understood that there is no way they ever would be - no more than movies are theater. Comics are their own separate medium. Seems obvious to me now, but at that time I would have argued till I was blue in the face that they were literature because, of course, what I was really trying to argue was that they should be respected and read not disregarded and ignored.

Anyway, Understanding Comics is excellent because it, quite cleverly, uses the very medium that it is illuminating. McCloud focuses on several aspects of comics that prove helpful in order to be a better reader and help in grouping the more abstract aspects of comics for easier understanding (for example, the chart breakdown he provides of the different artists who vary from realistic to abstract to symbolic, making a triangle - though a little too simplified - is not only fascinating but quite helpful in grasping all of the comics in existence).

Thus, this book is one of the most helpful for those who are skeptical of the comic book medium or simply want to learn more. It tremendously helped me to finally look beyond misconceptions I had about this art form that I didn't even realize were there.

I really loved this comic book, and highly recommend it to everyone, especially because I believe it will make anyone who reads it want to read more comic books (which is my goal in life). Until next time; go enjoy some art!

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