BOOK REVIEW - McCLOUD, SCOTT – UNDERSTANDING COMICS – THE INVISIBLE ART. 1992. Harper/Collins.
This is much more than a comic about the history and nature of comic book art. It is actually a philosophical study of the nature of perception and an excellent media study. McCloud discusses how easily we get absorbed in comics to the point at which we fail to register that the comic book image is a two dimensional illusion. In drawing himself into the book as a simplified comic book guide, McCloud constantly reminds the reader that he is merely an abstraction. He plays games with our assumption that he has legs when he is drawn as merely a disembodied head. Of course, we know that McCloud as writer, is real, and so the comic-version of him acts as a channel to the real person behind the image drawn, which only amplifies the very illusion that he manipulates in telling his story. He discusses the importance of the gaps and spaces between comic book panels, which help to convey a sense of movement for us, just as moving film images, do in the cinema. He argues convincingly that comic book art predates written word history, and uses prehistoric cave art and Egyptian hieroglyphic images to illustrate this point. His casual chatty approach plays games with the reader. He shows how even the most simple shapes become faces with addition of any kind of an eye. He defies us to draw any image with an eye. It proves to be impossible. The book explodes into colour only when McCloud explores the importance of colour in comic book representation. He clearly favours black and white and simpler graphics, though he is capable of much more. He deconstructs the meaning of speech bubbles, lines denoting speed, and shows the extraordinary range of themes and issues addressed by comic books, including Art Spieglemann’s Maus, and its exploration of the Holocaust, McCloud shows that comic books are not just about Batman any more, and in fact, never were. http://www.scottmccloud.com/
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