Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Reading Pile Special: Understanding Comics Day Two

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Chapter One - Setting the Record Straight
By Scott McCloud

McCloud begins his journey into the deeper world of comics in a unique way. He starts by poking a bit of fun at them. The writer was not initially enamored with the medium, even though he would grow up to change the face of comics through his work.

In the Eighth Grade, his good friend Kurt Busiek truly introduced him to the world of sequential art. Scott’s world was changed forever. He sensed something deeper in comics, but was met by scoffing of a familiar sort about these feelings. This set his motor running.

Why did people think comics were kid’s stuff, silly superhero books with bad art? So, the first order of business is to define comics. Partly to do away with the stigma, partly to open the discourse of the book.

The simplest definition would be Will Eisner’s. He defined comics as “sequential art.” Unfortunately, McCloud thinks that definition might be a bit too broad. So he comes up with a more detailed definition:

com-ics (kom’iks) n. plural in form, used with a singular verb. 1. Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.

Using this definition, the author proceeds to look at the history of comics. He reaches past Yellow Kid and the onset of modern comics and talks about Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Mixtec Manuscripts, the Bayeux Tapestry and more. He doesn’t attempt to pinpoint the genesis of the medium. History is not his goal here.

His goal is to get the narrow perception of comics recognized as the bunk it is. This is a medium that goes back centuries and has produced a Pulitzer Prize winning tome. It is not Kid’s stuff.

McCloud throws the gauntlet down from the very beginning. He is going to explore the qualities and possibilities of comics in depth. If what you it is all Superman and Spider-Man, he wants your biases out of the way fast. An open mind is going to be needed, cause he intends to expand it.

I hope you will join me tomorrow for day three of this special look at Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

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