June 04, 2005

Understanding comics: The invisible art/ Scott McCloud

What better way to understand comics than to have a book done in the comic artform. It could have been easily titled "The world of comics, according to Scott McCloud" (p. 214).

Alan McKenzie's "How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books" was focused on the practical aspects of comic strips. This book by Scott McCloud focused more on the concept and theory of comic art. Like a textbook on comic theory. But far more engaging than the typical textbook.

NLB Call No.: 741.5 MAC - [ART]
Click here to check for item availability.
(ISBN: 006097625X)

Chapter 1: Setting the Record Straight
Tries to define what is "comics". Very interesting overview on the history of comics -- including interpretation of a pre-Columbian picture manuscript, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman conquest, an Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics
I understand this chapter as trying to say that comics can convey meaning using icons, symbols and pictures, rather than just words. That "visual iconography" being the vocabulary of comics.

Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter
Explains the concept of "Closure" in comics (its grammar). I liked this particular quote:
Every act committed to paper by the comic artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as the reader.

I may have drawn an axe being raised... but I'm not the one who let it drop or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime. Each of you committing it in your own style.
Explains various types of sequences (e.g. "moment-to-moment", "aspect-to-aspect"). Analyses the differences in styles from different countries. Pages 84 and 85 show how scenes can be cut and still retain the story in different perspectives.

Chapter 4: Time Frames
Shows how time sequences can be depicted using single panels or a series of panels, or repeat scenes, or even the length of the panel (something I in comics all the time but don't necessarily pay them any attention). Also motion lines etc. There's an interesting panel layout on P105, where reading it from any possible direction would tell you a different story.

Chapter 5: Living in Line
How lines rendered in different ways can convey different meanings.

Chapter 6: Show and Tell
Piecing together the words, pictures, panels, and sequencing to convey the story. Pages 157 to 160 shows how a simple storyline of a person going out of the apartment to buy ice-cream could be depicted in different ways.

Chapter 7: The Six Steps
Details the six steps (or aspects) to be considered in comic art: Idea/ purpose, Form, Idiom, Structure, Craft, and Surface. I found this chapter very theoretical.

Chapter 8: A Word About Color
Short chapter on the concept of color in comics.

Chapter 9: Putting It All Together
Well, as the chapter says, it sums all the previous chapters... Quote (p.199) on understanding comics:
The first step in any such effort is to clear our minds of all preconceived notions about comics. Only by starting from scratch can we discover the full range of possibilities comics offer.

A word to describe this book -- Wow (apparently, Tinkertailor felt the same way too).

This was like an undergrad course on comic art. It's precisely that the theory and concepts were conveyed via the comic artform that it makes it all so convincing.