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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (The Comic Books #1)

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  65,400 Ratings  ·  1,414 Reviews
Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, this innovative comic book provides a detailed look at the history, meaning, and art of comics and cartooning.
Paperback, 215 pages
Published April 27th 1994 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Great book, but I'm too annoyed to give it four stars.

It's amateurish, but I believe if you're aware of how great a book is while you're reading it, it's not working at its best. You can go 'oh wow that's such a clever way to illustrate this idea, and the text is so effective', but it's a bit like reading an instruction manual, and nothing personal or particularly poignant. I guess the idea is to understand the basic structure and potential of comic art, but must it be so academic and dry? The
Miss Michael
Sep 28, 2008 Miss Michael rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: comics fans, artists (of all varieties), future comics fans . . .
Recommended to Miss Michael by: Matt. And Matt.
I really appreciate that this book exists. It's nice that something was created to help people understand the language of comics, what they are, what they can be, what makes them special, and so forth.

That said, there are parts which are a little convoluted (Chapter 2, I'm looking at you), and there are parts that are a little dated by now (such as the chapter on color, which I think has come a long way since the early '90s, particularly due to the use of computers). But there are so many parts
Aug 03, 2013 Oriana rated it really liked it
Holy shit! I'm starting a graphic novel book club!! This is our inaugural book and I'm so excited!!!

We had our first meeting today, and in addition to saying terribly intelligent things about comics and eating mini-cupcakes and laughing at my dogs, we also picked a name for our (accidentally all-female) group: Jugs & Capes. I know you're very jealous.

Anyway, I was extremely impressed by this book. I can tell that Scott McCloud thinks that he is terrifically important and probably a genius, b
Jun 22, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: disaffected college students
it's one of the best examples i've found of someone writing so specifically about a topic that the observations and implications become absolutely universal.

think about it: hamlet is completely consumed in his little world, and the stakes are all about what will happen to denmark and only denmark. and centuries later, we still perform the play and read it and think that that is us up there struggling with our problems, just with a different name.

this is what mccloud achieves here: he is so fixat
Mar 20, 2009 Imogen rated it it was amazing
Well, I also think this book was brilliant, just like everybody else. I was like, 'how could he possible have two hundred and fourteen pages of things to say about comics?' but then I'd heard it was brilliant for so long from so many people that I gave it a shot. And it is just theory! It's like reading Roland Barthes or somebody, but in comics, which makes it easier/more fun, which I think is in keeping with Mr. McCloud's idea that comics are the best thing in the whole universe. I mean, some o ...more
Oct 06, 2008 Christy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of comics and graphic novels
Recommended to Christy by: Matthew V and the GNL
I love the idea of this conversation more than I love the application--at least in this book. While I find the concepts themselves fascinating, I found the book tedious. The overall art and style employed by McCloud just wasn't compelling to me. I really struggled to finish this book.

But as I said, the conversation is a good one, and the concepts explored--particularly the role of the reader and the required brain work involved in reading comics--were interesting. I'm glad this book is out ther
Mar 17, 2008 Shark rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone -- not just comic book fans

I'd heard excellent things about this book ever since I got into comics way back in 1993, but never decided to sit down and read it until a few months ago. It took me a week to go through it (reading a bit every night before bed), but it's honestly a pretty quick read. Most people could probably get through it in a couple of hours.

What I found in the pages of this book is an excellent explanation of what happens to us as we read comics, how our mind interprets information and th
Aug 25, 2007 Inggita rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: comic lovers
amazing homage to an art form as old as the carved stories on borobudur temples and the papyrus scrolls of pharaoh - the unassuming geeky guide dissects the media format (worthy of mcluhan) and history of comic and walks us through its tiniest elements to be able to fully appreciate it as an art form - down to the technical and philosophical levels - not just comic but also how human mind works to allow the storytelling to happen through sequencing, line, and meaning... all the things we take fo ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or my personal favourite Michelangelo Merisi da Carav ...more
Nov 28, 2009 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best explanation of how a particular artistic medium works that I've ever seen. McCloud wrote this at a time when the artistic merit of comics/graphic novels was still in doubt in some corners, so clearly that animates a lot of the discussion. He really demolishes any doubt about their legitimacy, and in the process created quite a comic himself. Understanding Comics is one phenomenal piece of analysis and it's far more than just a treatise on one medium. His meditations on comic for ...more
David Schaafsma
I've used this book many times to teach comics basics. It's the best book I've found for doing this, and it's in a comic format. While thoroughly practical, it's also the most philosophical and thorough and at the same time efficient guide to the craft. He also did Making Comics, where he addresses comic artists primarily. This book is one of the classics of comic history, one of its great books, without question. If you want to know how comics are made in all its range of possibilities, and if ...more
Lois Bujold
Jan 14, 2013 Lois Bujold rated it it was amazing
A book that explains the forms and functions of the graphics media -- in the guise, naturally, of a comic book. A non-fiction comic book.

Everyone should read this elegant classic (and its two sequels), just for some basic 20th - 21st century cultural literacy. It does what the very best books do; makes you see the world differently, through changed eyes.

Ta, L.
Myke Cole
Jul 20, 2015 Myke Cole rated it it was amazing
A fabulous and totally unexpected delight. I came to this book after reading McCloud's The Sculptor, so I already knew that he had a firm grip on how to produce an outstanding comic.

I thought I was getting an Eisner or Kirby style How-To guide for the craft and business of comics writing, and instead was treated to a brilliant treatise on art history, human perception, the role of symbols in communication, and how we use art to communicate with one another.

Understanding comics *is* a How-To gui
Dec 05, 2008 Tara rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
this book was intriguing, but also annoying. a comic book about comics! what a great idea! i wanted it to be better than it was.

ultimately, i'm glad i read it, but only to the extent it identified a bunch of interesting topics/themes that i'm now inclined to think about on my own as i read more comics (and reflect on the ones i've already read)--i.e. issues of time, motion, panel sequence, reader perception, artistic style etc. but on the whole i was not thrilled with mccloud's own exposition an
Sep 29, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it
Understanding Comics is a pretty clever book, using the medium of comics to talk seriously about comics -- which is very likely to be dismissed by those who either insist comics should all be fun (and therefore if they're not interested in this, it's no good) or all comics are fun (and therefore have no serious value). That's a mistake. I hadn't heard of this before I started the Coursera course I'm doing on comics, but I don't need any prompting to take it seriously.

Possibly my favourite insigh
Jul 12, 2008 Russell rated it it was amazing
I have used this with my English 4 classes and will be using it next year with my Intro to the Graphic Novel course. This is a wonderful study in how the comic form of writing works. I think the graphic novel is going to become a more and more important form of literature. Just look at the movie scene lately and check out how many derived from graphic novels, and that is not just the superhero movies from Marvel and DC Comics.

McCloud deeply and thoughtfully explores how sequential art works on o
Feb 25, 2013 29alabs rated it it was amazing
Sería ridículo revisar Understanding comics como un comic cualquiera (demasiado meta para mí) pero lo que puedo decir es que es un excelente viaje por la conquista del sentido visual.

Scott te da mucha perspicacia no solo en lo que a la historia de los comics se refiere sino a todos los contrastes que el medio sufre (hasta 1994) y un gran análisis de todos los "gimmicks" que un artista /escritor debe usar para transmitir su mensaje , y lograr que sea universal, McCloud intenta también darle esper
Apr 23, 2011 Osvaldo rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics-related
This is an indispensable and fundamentally exhaustive exploration of the comics medium presented in the medium itself. While it presents some fairly complex ideas of "how comics work" McCloud uses the medium itself to good effect to demonstrate his meaning.

I, do however, have to take issue with his strangely vociferous insistence that one panel cartoons are not comics - while I loathe the Family Circus as much as the next thinking person, I think McCloud is too hung up on the literal need for se
Jul 18, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: graphic novel fans
Shelves: graphic-novels
Even if you're not interested in comics and graphic novels, McCloud's book might get you interested. Rather brilliantly, McCloud uses the medium of comics itself for a philosophical meditation on the nature and possibilities of comics. He does reflect a little bit on the prehistoric and pre-modern origins of comics, but this is not a history lesson. Rather, he explores the specific nature of comics as sequential art and the potential of the form to explore new modes of expression. It's really su ...more
Mar 10, 2016 Renay rated it really liked it
I appreciated the concepts here much better my second time through. My favorite chapters were on lines and time, and how we use gutter space between panels to do our own world building and characterization of the people we're reading about. He covers a little bit about Japanese manga, too, which becomes revelatory when compared to mainstream US comics.

(But the gender essentialism and implicit sexual assault cartoon at the end of the book were still pretty gross.)
Much better than I thought it would be. It's not the end all be all of comic book philosophy, but it actually does introduce a lot of useful ideas with terminology. It explained why I always prefer 'simple' (abstract) art over detailed, photo-realistic art.
Dec 01, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-and-read
Holy crap that's a lot to take in. I've been reading comics again as an adult for a decade, and reading them critically since I got my GoodReads account (6? years). I've followed comics critics on comics sites, blogs and podcasts, followed the ebb and flow of popularity of creators and their styles through all my fellow reviewers here... and I *still* have a hard time taking in all of McCloud's thoughts from this book.

I took three months to pick away at this book - dense as it is, I found I coul
Sep 14, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing
This one's a classic, of course. There were many eye opening moments to me in here. The part about the cartoon face being a representation of how we see ourselves really blew my mind, especially that when we see two dots and a line that, not only can we make a face out of it, we have to. And how the more simplistic the representation, the more universal it is to the reader. I also like how he illustrated how our minds fill in the space between panels to create our own continuity.

With comic art b
Abdyka Wirmon
Jul 09, 2010 Abdyka Wirmon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abdyka by: Wirotomo Nofamilyname
Oke teman-teman, bersiap-siaplah untuk sebuah review yang berlebihan :)

Untuk diketahui sebelumnya Komik ini diperuntukkan untuk semua lapisan masyarakat, semua tingkatan pendidikan dan semua jenjang kecerdasan, jadi ga harus openmind koq hehehe.. :P

Komik ini seperti judulnya "Memahami Komik" dan benar, komik ini membuat saya paham. sangat-sangat paham.

komik ini akan memberi penjabaran panjang dan sangat lebar terhadap bentuk sebuah komik, sejarah, filosofi, pengertian, pembentukan komik, struk
Elizabeth A
Dec 28, 2015 Elizabeth A rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphix, 2014, non-fiction
Reading this book is like taking a class on Comics History, and like any good class, there are parts that are a bit of a slog and parts that blow the top of your head off. There is something magical about learning about Comics in a book written as a Comic. I took my time with it, reading slowly and letting the ideas sink in, and you know what? It has enhanced the way I read graphic novels!

I have long felt that Comics can often convey many concepts better than prose, and I've struggled to unders
Rajen Anderson
Jan 05, 2016 Rajen Anderson rated it liked it
I first read "Understanding Comics" in college while I was taking a Comics & Animation class. One of our readings for the class was an excerpt from the book, but the professor, Dr. Don Ault, cautioned against taking what Scott McCloud too much to heart. After rereading it recently, I have to agree with Dr. Ault - while I admire what McCloud is trying to do with this book and found it mostly enjoyable to read, I think some of his arguments are off the mark and don't quite fully capture the pr ...more
Jan 07, 2012 Nnedi rated it it was amazing
i understand comics a lot more now! lol. awesome ideas conveyed awesomely. in itself, it is a testament to the brilliance, innovation, and uniqueness of comics. a very very cool book and a must read. it's also a FUN read, which was nice.
Sep 01, 2015 kaśyap rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, sequential-art
A clear overview of the form and structure of comics. Scott McCloud's deep understanding of the history and functions of art makes this an insightful and informative read.
Sep 05, 2015 Αλέξανδρος rated it it was amazing
Εξαιρετική δουλειά σε σχέση με την κατανόηση των κόμικς κι όχι μόνο. Πέρα από όλα τα διαφορετικά πράγματα που μπορείς να κάνεις με μερικές γραμμές, από όλα τα διαφορετικά μηνύματα που μπορείς να περάσεις μέσα από συνδυασμό εικόνων και λέξεων, ο συγγραφέας και σκιτσογράφος δείχνει έννοιες και στάδια από τα οποία περνάει κάθε καλλιτέχνης μέχρι να ολοκληρώσει το έργο του, αλλά και τι συμβαίνει όταν δίνει μεγαλύτερη έμφαση σε κάθε στάδιο. Θέτει ερωτήσεις όπως γιατί δημιουργεί; Ένα βιβλίο που πρέπει ...more
Apr 05, 2011 Terry rated it really liked it
A professor who actually uses graphic novels in her class --gasp!! innovation!?!?--recommended this book to me. I enjoyed it quite thoroughly, although my one tiny quibble is that it is almost twenty years old and thus clearly does not address twenty years' worth of graphic art and novels and their popularity around the world. Time for a new edition! Separate from that, this is a very serious work of literary theory, really. Well, a blend of literary theory and visual art theory. I could see thi ...more
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Scott McCloud (born Scott McLeod) is an American cartoonist and theorist on comics as a distinct literary and artistic medium.
More about Scott McCloud...

Other Books in the Series

The Comic Books (3 books)
  • Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form
  • Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels

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“Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction.” 20 likes
“...when you look at a photo or realistic drawing of a face, you see it as the face of another . But when you enter the world of the cartoon , you see yourself.” 8 likes
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