#CBR4 Cannonball 20: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics: The Invisible ArtUnderstanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was never into comics as a kid. Part of that was because I didn’t have any money to spend on them, so I never had access to them. And, as I got older, I dismissed them as the trappings of pre-adolescent boys bound for lives of solitude and obesity.

I’m still not really into traditional comics, but I’ve grown a certain appreciation for graphic novels. When this post was published on Pajiba, it was right after I started using Goodreads, and I promptly added all of Seth Freilich’s recommendations to my reading list. It was a great introduction to the medium, and I’ve been steadily working through the list. I like to alternate between graphic novels and traditional novels, since it does feel a little like cheating, sometimes. It’s never taken me longer than a day to read through any one graphic novel (although I do take volumes a volume at a time).

Now that I have a few graphic novels under my belt, I’m glad that I had a chance to read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. The book is clearly a labor of love, and McCloud uses many clever illustrations (both literally and figuratively) to demonstrate the power of combining images and words into a single art form.

understanding comics

McCloud touches on the history of comics, and then proceeds to explain and demonstrate how the mind interprets images, which makes the comic book an especially powerful medium. Some of his examples really blew me away, and it’s clear that he gave a lot of thought to how to present his material. It’s really inventive throughout, and makes me think that kids would learn a lot more about all kinds of different topics if textbooks were presented as graphic novels. Some people (like me) are just visual learners, and we remember what we see a lot better than what we hear.

This book is a must-read for comic book lovers, and for anyone who thinks comic books are derivative and childish. There are some comics that are derivative and childish, but others are quite creative and moving. Understanding Comics is one of the best ones.

View all my reviews


  1. […] you think graphic novels and comics are just for kids and socially stunted man-children, read Understanding Comics before making up your mind. This graphic novel is a thoughtful and inventive look at the art of […]

  2. idleprimate Said:

    McCloud has several realy awesome books in this vein.

    you mentioned the notion of graphic novel textbooks for children. children’s textbooks do often utilize illustration and characters who wpeak in speech bubbles. As well, i took a german class a while back, and at the end of each chapter in the textbook there was always a two-three page comic story portraying people in conversation using whatever was covered in the chapter. We were then supposed to acti it out. None of that is all that sophisticated, compared to rich potential McCloud describes.

    The closest I have seen to that is there were two book series popular in the nineties, usually with the college set. One was Introduction to ‘X’ and the other was ‘X for Beginners, where ‘X’ was a science, philosophical concept, -ism or important thinker or historical figure. These books were presented in graphic novel form, comic illustrations and shorter bursts of text. They used dramatic tableaus, humour, spectacle, etc. They were immensely readable and digestable. and they were not misleading or oversimplified. In short, they were excellent introductions and jumping off points for a wide range of exciting areas of study.

    i don’t usually comment, but I have been enjoying your book reviews. I read a lot of everything, and I am also a huge fan of the comics/graphic novel medium.

    and I am always grateful that comics never made me obese ; p

    • Jelinas Said:

      HAHA!! idleprimate, that zinger at the end made me snort. And that Introduction to X book sounds fascinating. I love learning that kind of stuff; would you happen to remember who wrote or published those series?

{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: