ITP Notebook

"Understanding Comics" Takeaways

November 17, 2020

Animation

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud breaks down what ‘Comics’ is. While its contents explore the definition, history, and implications of the medium, the book itself is a lesson in storytelling. Each chapter tells the story of a single topic while building upon themes and motifs common to the whole narrative.

In the section on “Closure”, or how we perceive the space between panels, McCloud explains one way in which comics is unique, while shedding light on this every-day phenomenon of “mentally filling in”. Leveraging this effect is a powerful tool in all storytelling, but particularly comics where it occurs on every page.

Exploring the history of and relationship between words and imagery was informative. I hadn’t really thought too much about how the two concepts ultimately originate from the same source but have grown apart over the centuries. On page 145 McCloud breaks down the balance between text and image, and how each can carry the main weight of the story — thus granting more creative freedom to the other. It’s a lesson I will keep in mind when crafting my own stories.

I found the “Six Steps” breakdown in chapter 7 very effective in describing an artistic practice, especially the relationship between steps 1 (Idea/Purpose) and 2 (Form) and the distinction between saying something about life through art or saying something about art itself. This helps me frame my own work and think about how I am approaching the different steps in the process.