I’ve always been a fan of comics, both reading them and writing them. In fact, I’m still writing them into my adulthood. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud delves into the history of comics, explaining their origins and influences while also putting them forward as an artform as deserving of respect as any other. He does all this through a comic.
I found it all a very interesting read. Shamefully, I’d never truly thought about the origins of comics before, but I really enjoyed learning about them. Nicely, McCloud takes a very international approach to his comic, using examples from around the world and factoring in how they have all influenced the overall development of comics. It was nice to see specific examples that I recognised referenced throughout it.
Another aspect of it that I particularly enjoyed was the way in which it went into the actual mechanics of comics. He explained why certain things were done within comics and then went on to detail their impact on people and how different stylistic choices have been used to evoke different kinds of emotional responses. It was pretty fascinating stuff.
What was most impressive about Understanding Comics, though, was that it really made the most of the fact that it is a comic itself. A purely prose-based book on the same subject wouldn’t have been able to convey the information anywhere near as well. As a certain artistic technique is explained to you, it also happens before your eyes. As different art styles are explained, the style shifts to reflect each one. It’s very clever.
Plus, throughout it all, you have Scott McCloud himself as a character, taking you on a tour through the expansive world of comics, which gives it a very loose narrative and also provides opportunities for humour every now and then. It’s a wonderfully unique approach to non-fiction writing.
It’s a very charming read and I think that any fan of comics would get a lot out of it. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, it will help you to appreciate the medium more. Overall it’s educational and entertaining, which is about the most you can hope for from any piece of non-fiction.