Review: Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

As a fairly recent comic book fan and general casual reader of comics, I’ve been struggling a bit with articulating my responses to them. It’s the same problem I was having with film at the beginning of the year; I simply don’t have the tools to properly critique and analyze the form, being a child of literature. But there’s a simple solution. For film, I was lucky enough to be able to take a class—for comics, the general consensus is to read Scott McCloud. After reading The Influencing Machine, I made a vow (…well, an off-hand comment) to read Understanding Comics before taking on any more of the medium, and so here we are.

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The Sunday Salon: The Graphic Novel vs. Comics

I’ve been growing uneasy about the term “graphic novel”. Having read Fun Home and The Influencing Machine, both works of nonfiction, the fact that the phrase refers specifically to works of fiction rubbed me the wrong way. I began to consider adding “graphic nonfiction” as a category to cover all eventualities, but then I read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. In it, he briefly touches upon, in one particular vivid panel, he mentions how the term “graphic novel” privileges a few works while denigrating the entire medium it comes out of. Framing the argument this way reminded me of the term “genre fiction” (oh, it burns!) and has led me here—to a state of taxonomic crisis.

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The Literary Horizon: Understanding Comics, Reading Like a Writer

At the moment, I’m taking a film class—and it counts towards my English Literature major! Ha! But I think I would have taken it even if it didn’t. While I’ve absorbed enough about film to talk about them, I’ve never actually been taught the basics of analyzing film. I think of it as a toolkit that I’ve been collecting haphazardly over the years, except now I’m getting a whole one and I know what each thing does. Today’s selections from my list do the same thing—providing a toolkit for certain mediums.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

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