Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics

The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication"You must read this book." — Neil GaimanPraised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through...

Details Understanding Comics

TitleUnderstanding Comics
Release DateJan 1st, 1993
PublisherWilliam Morrow Paperbacks
GenreSequential Art, Comics, Graphic Novels, Nonfiction, Art, Design, Graphic Novels Comics, Language, Writing, Reference, Comic Book, History

Reviews Understanding Comics

  • David Schaafsma
    I finished reading it for my comics/YA Graphic novels class this summer, 6/16/16 and now again, 8/8/17. I'll read this and use it to help people understand comics every year. It's the primary source though there are many good books coming out. What I have to add is that I had a fun conversation with my class about one insightful claim McCloud makes, that the simpler and more "cartoony" a comic representation is (i.e., a smiley face), the more uni...
  • Mon
    Great book, but I'm too annoyed to give it four stars. It's amateurish, but I believe if you're aware of how great a book is while you're reading it, it's not working at its best. You can go 'oh wow that's such a clever way to illustrate this idea, and the text is so effective', but it's a bit like reading an instruction manual, and nothing personal or particularly poignant. I guess the idea is to understand the basic structure and potential of c...
  • Dan Schwent
    Understanding Comics is a comic about comics by Scott McCloud.I remember when this book came out in 1993. My fifteen year old self scoffed. "I've been reading comics for years. What can this book teach me?" Twenty five years later and a thousand comics later, on the heels of rereading Zot!, I decided to finally give it a shot. I was apprehensive at first since you really have to scrape to find a negative review of Understanding Comics. Did so man...
  • أحمد
    This is a book on art and philosophy disguised as a book on comics disguised as a comic book!A brilliant must-read for any fan of comics, art, philosophy and beauty!Ahmad EddeebMay 2016
  • Oriana
    Holy shit! I'm starting a graphic novel book club!! This is our inaugural book and I'm so excited!!!We had our first meeting today, and in addition to saying terribly intelligent things about comics and eating mini-cupcakes and laughing at my dogs, we also picked a name for our (accidentally all-female) group: Jugs & Capes. I know you're very jealous.Anyway, I was extremely impressed by this book. I can tell that Scott McCloud thinks that he is t...
  • George
    Scott McCloud's love and understanding of comics is beautifully and simply expressed here. So much so that it increased my love and understanding of comics I read in the past and definitely comics I will read in the future. As I was reading other peoples reviews and discussions about this book I noticed that most people are intrigued with the idea that the simpler the character on the page is, the easier it is for the reader to identify with the ...
  • Miss Michael
    I really appreciate that this book exists. It's nice that something was created to help people understand the language of comics, what they are, what they can be, what makes them special, and so forth.That said, there are parts which are a little convoluted (Chapter 2, I'm looking at you), and there are parts that are a little dated by now (such as the chapter on color, which I think has come a long way since the early '90s, particularly due to t...
  • Ryan
    it's one of the best examples i've found of someone writing so specifically about a topic that the observations and implications become absolutely universal.think about it: hamlet is completely consumed in his little world, and the stakes are all about what will happen to denmark and only denmark. and centuries later, we still perform the play and read it and think that that is us up there struggling with our problems, just with a different name....
  • Imogen
    Well, I also think this book was brilliant, just like everybody else. I was like, 'how could he possible have two hundred and fourteen pages of things to say about comics?' but then I'd heard it was brilliant for so long from so many people that I gave it a shot. And it is just theory! It's like reading Roland Barthes or somebody, but in comics, which makes it easier/more fun, which I think is in keeping with Mr. McCloud's idea that comics are th...
  • Alina
    3.5 rounded up with indulgence for its (possible) usefulnessIf a book/work can be interesting and boring at the same time, than this was it! There were some fascinating parts, with interesting, new informations, but there were also enough parts that were boring, because of the too many details and obvious clarifications.However, it seems to me like an excellent initiative, as it could be extremely useful for those who are just getting acquainted ...
  • Christy
    I love the idea of this conversation more than I love the application--at least in this book. While I find the concepts themselves fascinating, I found the book tedious. The overall art and style employed by McCloud just wasn't compelling to me. I really struggled to finish this book. But as I said, the conversation is a good one, and the concepts explored--particularly the role of the reader and the required brain work involved in reading comics...
  • Tristan
    "Don't gimme that comic book talk, Barney!"McCloud surely must be smiling to himself every day to see just how far - in great part because of the publication of this endearingly idealistic visual essay in 1992- his beloved medium has come since then, both in terms of popular acceptance and artistic merit. Some respect at last!
  • Shark
    FASCINATING book!I'd heard excellent things about this book ever since I got into comics way back in 1993, but never decided to sit down and read it until a few months ago. It took me a week to go through it (reading a bit every night before bed), but it's honestly a pretty quick read. Most people could probably get through it in a couple of hours.What I found in the pages of this book is an excellent explanation of what happens to us as we read ...
  • Inggita
    amazing homage to an art form as old as the carved stories on borobudur temples and the papyrus scrolls of pharaoh - the unassuming geeky guide dissects the media format (worthy of mcluhan) and history of comic and walks us through its tiniest elements to be able to fully appreciate it as an art form - down to the technical and philosophical levels - not just comic but also how human mind works to allow the storytelling to happen through sequenci...
  • Russell
    I have used this with my English 4 classes and will be using it next year with my Intro to the Graphic Novel course. This is a wonderful study in how the comic form of writing works. I think the graphic novel is going to become a more and more important form of literature. Just look at the movie scene lately and check out how many derived from graphic novels, and that is not just the superhero movies from Marvel and DC Comics.McCloud deeply and t...
  • Lois Bujold
    A book that explains the forms and functions of the graphics media -- in the guise, naturally, of a comic book. A non-fiction comic book.Everyone should read this elegant classic (and its two sequels), just for some basic 20th - 21st century cultural literacy. It does what the very best books do; makes you see the world differently, through changed eyes.Ta, L.
  • Michael
    I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or ...
  • Tara
    this book was intriguing, but also annoying. a comic book about comics! what a great idea! i wanted it to be better than it was.ultimately, i'm glad i read it, but only to the extent it identified a bunch of interesting topics/themes that i'm now inclined to think about on my own as i read more comics (and reflect on the ones i've already read)--i.e. issues of time, motion, panel sequence, reader perception, artistic style etc. but on the whole i...
  • Joseph
    Perhaps the best explanation of how a particular artistic medium works that I've ever seen. McCloud wrote this at a time when the artistic merit of comics/graphic novels was still in doubt in some corners, so clearly that animates a lot of the discussion. He really demolishes any doubt about their legitimacy, and in the process created quite a comic himself. Understanding Comics is one phenomenal piece of analysis and it's far more than just a tr...
  • Jennifer
    Even if you're not interested in comics and graphic novels, McCloud's book might get you interested. Rather brilliantly, McCloud uses the medium of comics itself for a philosophical meditation on the nature and possibilities of comics. He does reflect a little bit on the prehistoric and pre-modern origins of comics, but this is not a history lesson. Rather, he explores the specific nature of comics as sequential art and the potential of the form ...
  • Simon
    I found this book to be, in roughly equal measure, charming and irritating as hell. When McCloud was dealing with the nuts and bolts of how comics work, it was illuminating and the decision to write the book as a comic really came into its own. There were all sorts of clever ways in which he could use the very medium of his exposition to offer insight into comics. But when he launched himself into generalities about the importance of comics, the ...
  • Kaśyap
    A clear overview of the form and structure of comics. Scott McCloud's deep understanding of the history and functions of art makes this an insightful and informative read.
  • Caro the Helmet Lady
    Absolutely great. Informative, funny and interesting. A must-read for every comic books lover and a great introduction into comics for the hesitating non believers.
  • Vanessa
    As you may gather from the title, this is less a history of comics (although there is some of that) and more a thesis statement about what they are and how they work. McCloud is an engaging narrator, although the first chapter is a little dry. He's defining what comics "are", so that probably can't be helped. As some other reviewers have noted, the technology has advanced since McCloud wrote this in the early 90's (particularly, I'm guessing, whe...
  • Eric
    This one's a classic, of course. There were many eye opening moments to me in here. The part about the cartoon face being a representation of how we see ourselves really blew my mind, especially that when we see two dots and a line that, not only can we make a face out of it, we have to. And how the more simplistic the representation, the more universal it is to the reader. I also like how he illustrated how our minds fill in the space between pa...
  • Myke Cole
    A fabulous and totally unexpected delight. I came to this book after reading McCloud's The Sculptor, so I already knew that he had a firm grip on how to produce an outstanding comic.I thought I was getting an Eisner or Kirby style How-To guide for the craft and business of comics writing, and instead was treated to a brilliant treatise on art history, human perception, the role of symbols in communication, and how we use art to communicate with o...
  • Osvaldo
    This is an indispensable and fundamentally exhaustive exploration of the comics medium presented in the medium itself. While it presents some fairly complex ideas of "how comics work" McCloud uses the medium itself to good effect to demonstrate his meaning.I, do however, have to take issue with his strangely vociferous insistence that one panel cartoons are not comics - while I loathe the Family Circus as much as the next thinking person, I think...
  • Nikki
    Understanding Comics is a pretty clever book, using the medium of comics to talk seriously about comics -- which is very likely to be dismissed by those who either insist comics should all be fun (and therefore if they're not interested in this, it's no good) or all comics are fun (and therefore have no serious value). That's a mistake. I hadn't heard of this before I started the Coursera course I'm doing on comics, but I don't need any prompting...
  • Ray
    Every few years I find I must return to McCloud's famous essay on the ultimate art form, and seek inspiration. Rereads very well. Recommended for any and all fans of every medium of art, visuals, storytelling, and humanity.
  • Mike
    Holy crap that's a lot to take in. I've been reading comics again as an adult for a decade, and reading them critically since I got my GoodReads account (6? years). I've followed comics critics on comics sites, blogs and podcasts, followed the ebb and flow of popularity of creators and their styles through all my fellow reviewers here... and I *still* have a hard time taking in all of McCloud's thoughts from this book.I took three months to pick ...