Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud’s classic graphic textbook about comics


Although there are an uncountable number of comics and graphic novels out there, the amount of literature about the medium is woefully small. In this book however, Scott McCloud attempts to show us that comics are more than worthy of deeper study.


To call Understanding Comics a textbook would be somewhat ironic, considering it uses pictures as well as words to convey its message. But it’s essentially an academic work, using the standard tools of study and analysis – more usually applied to traditional arts and literature – to evaluate comics. With chapters ranging from the history of comics (were the ancient Egyptians the first graphic novelists?) to the language of the gutter (how our imaginations fill in the space between frames), there’s a mammoth amount of learned thought gone into its pages. Certainly, if we were to run a course on comics, this book would be high on the list of set texts.

Although its deconstruction of the medium arguably offers more value to comic creators than comic readers, enthusiasts of the form should still consider adding it to their library. It’s probably too dense for the casual reader but anyone with a passion for learning more will find something to enrich his or her appreciation within its covers.

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