In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes about the structure, creation, history, and vocabulary (among other things!) of comics. He does it, of course, in graphic novel form, with a little cartoon Scott McCloud telling us what is going on. I love this because when he talks about a technique that graphic novels use, voila, he can show it to us too! The book never becomes boring, which is partly down to the fact that it’s an interesting topic, but also partly because the form allows a lot of room for humor. (I was going to write “and whimsy”, but I hate that damn word. Though I like Peter Wimsey.)
I loved the section about the different transitions between panels. Scott McCloud lists six categories of transitions between panels, and then does an analysis of how often different comic artists use each different transition. He makes bar graphs. I was so intrigued by the differences between how often American & European artists used each transition type, and how often Japanese artists did. McCloud shows examples of each transition, and although he gives them a number, he keeps reminding you which type is which (through pictures!). Fantastic.
My one little gripe was with the section on the (sometimes uneasy) marriage of words and pictures. I am only griping about it because to me, the combination of words and pictures provides the most amazing and fascinating and incredible possibilities for comics. (I like words.) I just looked back at it, and that chapter is just as comprehensive as the transitions chapter; when I was reading it, I felt like there weren’t nearly enough cool examples. I still feel like that actually, but you may want to consider the possibility that there are plenty of examples and I am just insatiable and can never have enough.
In other news, Scott McCloud referenced a painting of Magritte’s (“This is not a pipe”), which caused me to tell my sister “I really like Magritte,” which caused me to have to get up and bring her a book about Magritte because she couldn’t remember who he was. And this in turn led us to find this painting, which is rather graphic so you’ve been warned, “The Rape”, which pleased me so much that I traveled back in time and thanked Magritte in pretty and fluent French for his getting a point about what it is like being a woman that people often seem to miss.
(No, you may not borrow my time machine. I have destroyed it, along with all copies of the plans. V. dangerous to have such a thing around the house.)
(I just found a woman called Eunice Golden who says she created (warning, this is fairly graphic too) this piece of art “in defiance of censorship (which I consider to be a rape of the mind), and as a response to Magritte’s mutilation of the female body in ‘Le Viol’.” Am I misunderstanding her completely, or is she misunderstanding Magritte completely? Or, possibly, am I misunderstanding Magritte?)
I have strayed from the Scott McCloud point. I liked Understanding Comics! I have Making Comics out of the library, and I want to get Reinventing Comics as well! Other views besides mine:
Let me know if I missed yours!