Reading Understanding Comics

August 9, 2020

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while, so I was pleased to see it come up as reading material for this program.

The value of the book was immediately apparent from the first chapter. The author explains the art of comics in a way that is incredibly enlightening and easy to understand. It’s rare for a medium to explain and justify itself so well.

All that being said, the chapters I found most interesting were 2 and 3. The idea of the picture plane is something I’ll likely be thinking about for the rest of my life. Chapter 2 also discusses the limits of human perception, McCloud’s explanation of received vs perceived information articulated some thoughts I hadn’t been able to put into words. As artists, or designers, we need to be aware of the cognitive load we’re placing on the viewer / user, and being conscious of the balance of received and perceived information is a large part of that.

The third chapter dealt with a topic that is perhaps closest to the essence of comics: the gutter or the idea of closure. The human mind is actually pretty good at filling in blanks and bridging gaps between images and concepts. Playing with closure in an artistic way opens up entire galaxies of possibility, and is something we can play with in many other mediums.

I can’t really think of another medium that has a corresponding material. I’m sure there are a lot of movies about making movies, but are they easy for beginners to understand, fun to watch and present durable, transportable ideas?