Understanding Comics

The invisible art
By Scott McCloud
Report by Mary J. Anderson

but in the pictures as well. etc. not legitimate reading material. I myself find that comics are very expressive and enjoyable to read and look at. trash. and some of course think of stand up comedians.Introduction Comics tend to have a bad rap as being simple. The message is more than just in the words. Most people I talk to when they hear the word comics. they think of Sunday paper cartoons. Scott McCloud wants to show how comics are much more than that. I thought this book was perfect for me as I do believe comics are an art form. . low brow faire. So as someone who loves reading graphic novels. or Marvel comic books like Superman or Spiderman.

This not only helps the reader understand what he is trying to get across. it is impossible for me to share it all in this report. it is just a more enjoyable way to read about the world of comics (at least to me).Overview Scott McCloud illustrates his explanation of how comics are written using the elements of design which are used in other art forms such as paintings. Hopefully. This book will make you rethink two questions. I can share enough to entice you to read his book in its entirety. • How do you define art? • How do you define what makes a comic? . music or film by writing in comic book style to demonstrate his points. There is so much wonderful information in this book.

My 1979 Webster dictionary that I have had since childhood. intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer. He came up with “ juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence. relating to comedy.Chapter 1-Setting the Record Straight The author starts out by trying to develop an accurate definition of what comics are in his words. his is much more accurate in my opinion. defines comics as “a comic cartoon or strip of cartoons.” After reading this book. .” This made me think what the “real” dictionary defines comics as.

Another example he showed was a tapestry from France depicting the battle of 1066. It is 70 meters long. These are only 2 small pieces of the tapestry that hangs in France. . once you discovered they don’t read left to right as we do but bottom to top in a zigzag motion. in a clear progression of actions from one picture to the other. Scott shows examples of a manuscript discovered by Cortez in 1579 describing in pictures the battle and conquest by a ruler named 8 deer “Tiger’s Claw”. Even Egyptian paintings in tombs can be seen as comics as they also to tell a sequential story. the Norman Conquest.Chapter 1-Setting the Record Straight Comics have a long history believe it or not.

words. shapes and pictures. may draw his characters in very simplified manner to avoid the reader focusing on the details of the drawing in the character than on what the character is doing. By design the artist can determine what you will focus on by how he or she draws out the background details or what the focus is in the frame. He shows how that artists who want to emphasize a particular idea or meaning.Chapter 2-Vocabulary of Comics He begins his discussion by defining the vocabulary of comics which includes symbols. The crux of this chapter really comes back to Germane load we learned in the last unit. “he moved quickly” .

Interesting! At least I thought so. the parts that make the face). What do you see? A face.Chapter 2-Vocabulary of Comics I found it fascinating his point how we as humans are very self-centered in one way that we see ourselves (at least our face) in just about anything. :-) <-. We get rid of all the extraneous information (all the other details of the front of the car such as color or grill type) and see the germane load (just the right amount of information. Think about it. look at a electrical socket. I would bet. Anywhere you see two dots or small lines with another line or curve or dot beneath them. front of your car.see the face? Do you see a face? .

.Chapter 3-Blood in the Gutter Chapter 3 is about closure. but your mind fills in all the moments in between.” Sound familiar? This is the Gestalt Theory as discussed in our textbook page 66 (Lohr) where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You see just pieces of the battle. then in the next frame you see the ball going out of the park. the space between frames in a comic. In the gutter. actions are not drawn one piece at a time. Generally in a comic. McCloud defines closure as “the phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole. He discusses this as he explains the use of the gutter. You may see the start of someone swinging a bat. or white space your imagination filled in the action of hitting the bat and the ball beginning its journey into the air.

. Time passes between the gutters. yet it’s the artist that has to help us with the amount of time passing or we will fill that in ourselves based on possible previous experience in a similar situation or have knowledge of. Some of the ways. He describes the many ways artists can show the passage of time in a comic story. time passage can be shown is with words or character actions. They also can use lines or blurred images to show something moving past.Chapter 4-Time Frames His next chapter discusses the use of time in comics. The panels or the space that holds each piece of the story (usually rectangular but could be other shapes). As our eyes pass over one to the other we perceive the passage of time as one moment leads to another. each represents a moment in time. This battle can last as long as the reader wants.

Below the jagged lines and the all capital letters help to show the intense emotion of someone yelling. Dark jagged lines could portray angers. For example how strong lines and shapes might provide for strong emotions.Chapter 5-Living in Line Chapter 5 discusses how shape can be used to represent not only emotions but how to use show other senses. Above. while thinner softer shapes show simpler emotions. the thin lines help show fast motion. taste. and sound through the use of our visual sense. He showed how lines have come to show if something smells by drawing small wavy lines coming up from a pile of something. or from their eyes to show sadness. while thinner curvy lines used could be used to convey contentment. . such as smell. Small teardrop shops falling from someone’s brow could show nervous.

Word combined with pictures can be used in many ways.Chapter 6-Show and Tell The next chapter discusses the use of words with the pictures. or simply give more detail to a scene than the picture does. or maybe the picture is an illustration of the words. Here the combination of words and pictures allow you to see a moment through someone’s thoughts verses having the character talking out loud. but it can convey passage of time. words can not only give dialogue to the character. Most people think of either words being a caption to a picture. We would bring in our item (show) and use words to describe our object (tell). He equates this with the Show and Tell of our childhoods. . set a mood. As in comics. show sound.

Chapter 7-Six Steps He explains how art goes through 6 stages. idiom. McCloud’s 6 steps ACE Idea/purpose Analyze Form Idiom Structure Create Craft Surface Evaluate . idea/purpose. The create phase covers structure and craft. The Evaluate phase is equal to Surface from his model. His 6 steps run parallel with the ACE design process as discussed in Chapter 4 of our textbook (lohr). form. The Analyze phase covers ideas. surface. form and idiom. structure. craft.

Light blue can show calm.Chapter 8-Color The last component he discusses is color. It was economic more than artistic style here in America. Yellow can be used for happy. . Apparently in Europe they had a different way of printing in color so their artists were able to use more colors and therefore do more with color. How color can express various moods as well as environments and define characters was very important in comic development. But color comics was an expensive proposition. Red can show anger. so that is why most comics used just 4 basic colors.