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4.9 out of 5 stars82
4.9 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 19 May 2004
There are precious few books around that really treat the comics medium seriously, or fully explore what is and may be possible in that medium. Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" is one of the few and - for me - is the best of the bunch.
This book has tonnes of things going for it: McCloud's enjoyable and accessible cartoon-style delivery, which is itself a brilliant demonstration of how powerful a communication tool comics can be ... the infectious passion he has for his subject ... the bountiful results of his serious research and scrutinization ... I could go on.
Perhaps the best thing about "Understanding Comics", though, is McCloud's sheer imagination. When it comes to comics, he has a way of thinking and seeing that is almost completely uninhibited by any preconceptions. The result: he's constantly chucking ideas at you that surprise you and make you re-think about comics, writing, art and perception. You might not agree with everything he says, but the point is you're thinking about something you'd never have considered before. It's a truly eye-opening piece of work.
For readers and writers of comics alike, "Understanding Comics" is invaluable in helping you to appreciate 'sequential art'. For those who have never considered comics worth bothering about ... I urge you to get this book and read it. I guarantee it will make you think again, about comics in particular and art in general.
One final note: as I'm sure Scott McCloud himself would say, don't stop here. Check out other works such as "Comics and Sequential Art" by Will Eisner, or Alan Moore's essay "Writing for Comics". And any sequential art you can lay your hands on!
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on 26 September 2004
A colleague who produces comics recommended this book to me as the definitive guide to the subject, and he was right. McCloud uses comic-strip techniques as elegant proof of the fact that comics really can get a message across to their audience. Apart from its obvious how-to value, this book is also a handy defence against the intellectual snobs who deride the medium (yes, that was me, once upon a time) because of its thoroughly researched and - dare I say it - scholarly approach. It's a surprising, enjoyable and educational guide by someone who clearly loves his work. I'll never see comics the same way again.
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on 26 March 1997
One of the highest functions -- and the most difficult -- of mankind is communication. The ability to translate concepts into pictures and symbols that accurately relate the substance of your thoughts -- this is the challenge.

Scott McCloud has created a triumph of communication. You, the reader, are easily and instantly transported into his universe, where you will journey on a wild, thought provoking tour of not only comics but all venues and dimensions of visual art.

In its own way this is a book as significant as Doug Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach" but MUCH more accessible through its simple graphic novel format.

Even if you've never read a comic before and have no plans to start, you will still be captivated by this journey through history, art, and creation.
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on 1 December 2002
This is one of the true necessities for anyone serious about cartooning and what Eisner calls "sequential art". It is NOT a how-to-draw book. Rather, it discusses the nature of drawing and cartooning, and how concepts are depicted through the pen - all with a very personal touch, the author speaking directly to you through the medium of cartooning. McCloud also examines the evolution of true comics from basic drawing, and how the "language" of cartooning has come to differ in different cultures. This book will make you think long and hard about the subject and what you do in it yourself.
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on 27 January 2011
I bought this because I thought it would help me understand my own fascination with comics. I am not a comic geek, have never collected them, never furtively shuffled through first editions in a gloomy back-street shop. I do have a thing for cartoons, especially the old ones. I guess I was hoping for some insight into how both art forms somehow (for me) manage to slip under the emotional radar of everything artificial and grown-up and appeal to something more human and universal underneath.

Other reviewers have covered the book's mechanics in fine detail so let me just add that it did all I expected and more. In attempting to explain comics this book opens up debates on the many social, artistic and metaphysical tributaries that add to the form, or that the form contends with in order to perfect radar avoidance. It changed the way I think about comics but also added to an understanding of how it's possible to utilise the ideas in other areas.

And did I say it's fun? Every page is crafted with a delicate economy of storytelling (which is kind of the point I suppose) that makes it both profound at times and always effortlessly readable.

One of those books that will just get read over and over again.
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on 12 May 1997
Scott McCloud has entertained readers with his wonderful comic, _Zot!_ Now he informs his readers in this, one of the greatest books on the psychology of comics ever written.

Shunning the usual nostalgic tone of most books written about comics, McCloud uses the comic format to discuss not the history of the X-Men, but rather the method of storytelling in which such characters are presented. He writes on a vast list of subjects, ranging from the meaning of the word "Comics" to the use of blank space between panels. The art style is simple where it needs to be and complex where it is required. The message comes across in panel after panel of information that is stated simply enough for everybody to understand, if they will only open their minds to these "Funny Books."

Scott McCloud's book is an invaluable resource. It allows you to stop merely reading comics, and start understanding them.
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on 30 June 1998
I know my one-line summary might seem a little grandiose,but this truly is *THE* best book I've ever read on comics. It's one of the few texts out there willing to regard the comic strip as an art form (and make no mistake, it *is* art; author Scott McCloud proves that beautifully) and give an indepth analysis of the very fiber of comics, with everything covered from Japanese "masking" techniques to the nonsensical but strangely fluid senses of comic timing. Comics.. or shall I say "sequential art.." garner a whole new level of respect and praise through McCloud's efforts.
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This is an important book that everyone should read. I would give it twenty stars if I could.

I've long been interested in both art and comic books (I have collected them for over 50 years). While the library shelves are full of wonderful books that explain what traditional artists are trying to do and why they succeed, I've often found the books to be pretty boring. In recent years, such books have gotten bogged down into abstruse language that is much less appealing than the art which is the subject.

But in those years, I've never seen anything that was very helpful in discussing the rules of comic art, except some books about pop art when that was popular that examined how the pop art was different from comic art. Naturally, I was blown away when I found that Understanding Comics is a far more comprehensive, thoughtful, and accessible book about interaction with art than I have ever read. Although the subject is ostensibly comic strips and comic books, it's clear to me that that Mr. McCloud has a deep and powerful understanding of all art. Some of his conceptual displays of where different forms of art fall in different dimensions of choice (degree of realism, abstraction, and message) are unbelievably powerful.

I hope that some art historian will stumble on this book and recast the history of art to explain and relate different styles to one another using this book's methods. There would be a lot more art lovers if that were the case.

Ultimately, the book's main benefit is to help the reader appreciate that comic art can be a higher and more effective form of art than either pure images or written words by requiring a mastery of more elements . . . elements that are more powerful in grabbing attention and conveying meaning.

Yet the book stays in humble form, a comic book. The powerful ideas sneak up on you as Mr. McCloud deconstructs the elements of comic art expression into chapters on defining what kind of art comics are ("sequential art" for short); explaining where various comics fall on the spectrum of reality, story, and abstraction; the way we fill in the spaces around the lines and between panels with our minds, allowing us to participate in creating the story and the experience; how time is expressed in various ways; the role of lines in creating our understanding and responses; how words and images can interact; a conceptual look at creating comic art; the effect of color; and a synthesis of the book in historical and conceptual terms.

If you want to enjoy both traditional art and comic art more, read this book. It's the Rosetta stone for non-artists in appreciating the images, stories, and messages that artists want to share with us through these media. You'll never be the same . . . and the change will be good for you!

Bravo, Mr. McCloud!
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on 24 December 1997
Not just another book about the History of comics. Not just another book about "How to draw comics". This book opens your eyes. It helps you to really understand comics and not just watch them. "Understanding Comics" is adequate for the comics artist, the mass-media researcher and anyone interested in understanding this century culture. If you read this book, you'll never read comics the way you used to.
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on 24 October 1996
Don't be mislead by the fact that this book is a comic book. In simple language and simplistic illustrations, McCloud conveys complex and exciting ideas about why and how art works. The resulting comic book is at once both profound and lucid. For anyone who has struggled to define the boundaries between literature and art, or between art and non-art, this book is an absolute must. Whether your favourite reading material is usually Batman comics or Noam Chomsky, "Calvin and Hobbes" or Calvin and Hobbes, you are guaranteed to be excited by this book!
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