|This article relies on references to primary sources. (November 2011)|
|Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art|
Cover of the original Tundra Publishing edition of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
|Preceded by||Zot!: Book One|
|Followed by||Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form|
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a 1993 non-fiction work of comics by American cartoonist Scott McCloud. It explores formal aspects of comics, the historical development of the medium, its fundamental vocabulary, and various ways in which these elements have been used. It expounds theoretical ideas about comics as an artform and medium of communication.
Understanding Comics received praise from notable comic and graphic novel authors such as Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Garry Trudeau (who reviewed the book for the New York Times), and was called "one of the most insightful books about designing graphic user interfaces ever written" by Apple Macintosh co-creator Andy Hertzfeld. Although the book has prompted debate over many of McCloud’s conclusions, its discussions of "iconic" art and the concept of "closure" between panels have become common reference points in discussions of the medium.
Understanding Comics was first published by Tundra Publishing; reprintings have been released by Kitchen Sink Press, DC Comics' Paradox Press, DC's Vertigo line, and HarperPerennial. The book was edited by Mark Martin, with lettering by Bob Lappan. The title of Understanding Comics is an homage to Marshall McLuhan's seminal 1964 work Understanding Media.
- Tundra (1993): ISBN 1-56862-019-5
- Paradox Press (1993): ISBN 1-56389-557-9
- Kitchen Sink (1993): ISBN 0-87816-243-7
- HarperCollins (2004): ISBN 0-06-097625-X
Author McCloud has written two follow-up books in the same format: Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form (2000), in which he suggested ways for the medium to change and grow, and Making Comics (2006), a study of the elemental methods of constructing comics.
Topics discussed in Understanding Comics include:
- Definitions, history, and potential
- Visual iconography and its effects
- Closure, reader participation between the panels
- Word-picture dynamics
- Time and motion
- The psychology of line styles and color
- Comics and the artistic process
The Six Steps
In the book's seventh chapter, "The Six Steps", McCloud outlines a six-part process of artistic creation (Idea/Purpose, Form, Idiom, Structure, Craft, Surface). He also notes that artists tend to fall into two classes, depending on which of the first two steps they emphasize more. Those who emphasize the second step "are often pioneers and revolutionaries — artists who want to shake things up", while those who emphasize the first are "great storytellers, creators who ... devote all their energies to controlling their medium ... to convey messages effectively." With these ideas, McCloud anticipates the artistic theory of David Galenson, which divides all artists into two groups with qualities similar to those McCloud notes.
Awards and honors
- Understanding Comics entry at ScottMcCloud.com. Accessed April 5, 2011.
- Horrocks, Dylan. "Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud's Definition of Comics" The Comics Journal #234 (June 2001).
- McCloud, Scott, commenting on his own message board. "Journal: Archive: The Influencing Machine": ScottMcCloud.com (May 18, 2011): "... my book's name was indeed a nod to Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media ..."
- McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, Inc., 1993. 162-84.
- McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, Inc., 1993. 179.
- McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993. p. 180.
- McCloud speaks at TEDtalks about Understanding Comics
- Understanding Comics entry at ScottMcCloud.com