Life being what it’s been, it’s taken me a while to finally finish reading Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. This had been recommended to me by several reliable sources, like GuestGeekBrian, and Kazu Kibuishi. And how long it took me to get to and read it should be no comment on this book either for how important it is nor how good it is.[tweet https://twitter.com/compgeeksdavid/status/608305527031013377]
Because it is quite simply one of the best, most important books I have ever read.
In short, this 1992 book attempts to explore the art form of comics at the very core. What it is about comics that make them comics, and not just drawings, or picture books, or illustrated literature, or really any other medium or thing – they are their own thing, described in the singular and plural as “comics.”
Along the way, he argues against any thought that comics are intended for only a specific genre or genres; the comics are only for a specific age group; or that comics are not art. He also takes an international approach, with the most specific and compelling difference being Japan and manga (see also: Tezuka). He also takes a historical approach, defining comics back far enough in time that he hit on a topic near and dear to my heart: but more on that below.
I feel like I could talk for a long time about this book, but it would be far more efficient for you to just go and read it! Hopefully like it was for me (or for Kazu before me), this book should be available at the library. Of course, I only had to get it at the library because I finally returned Brian’s copy to him, unread… And I won’t need it from the library again, because I’m definitely buying this one to reference later!
But anyway, allow me to briefly hit on some of the major definition points of comics, hit on that historical connection with my own research, and finally speak a bit about how this book informs discussions on this blog, and in my own life.