09 June 2010
In the first chapter McCloud narrows down his audience of readers to creators of comics: first by defining comics as a sequence of images or ‘juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence’. I agree with this definition in the aspect that it covers the basic concept but for those that really want to narrow it down the literal definition is provided. McCloud also states how comics are a medium supported by having many different ideas, writers, and trends excreta. I don’t deny this claim, but more so in the artistic aspect since being that different mediums in art relate to techniques such as watercolor, pen and ink, charcoal, and so on.
One of the claims in chapter two is when you break down the illustrations in comics. You can separate them from icons which are images that represent nouns. The illustrations however of the actual characters are easier for people to relate to because of the simplicity in those characters. I admire this only because it is true in the way we know a generalized placement of our features and unless we are looking in a mirror we do not realize what our face looks like in detail. In that way we can relate to the simplicity of those characters.
"...because the creation of any work in any medium will always follow a certain path." This said path consists six steps: 1. Idea/Purpose. 2.Form. 3. Idiom. 4. Structure. 5. Craft. 6.Surface. These steps don't always have to follow this direct route when ideas are free flowing in an artist's mind, or any person's mind for that matter. As the book describes "The order of the six steps is innate. Like the arrangement of bones in a dinosaur's skeleton they can be discovered in any order but when brought together, they will always fall into place!" This metaphor helped me to better understand the purpose of the six steps and how they are applied to the mixture of creation.
Your mind is your own personal area for anything you want to imagine or think up, here in your realm you don't have to worry about discrimination, criticism, or any misrepresentation of misinterpritation because it's all common language to you. You know what you mean and what point you are trying to make. The problem facing any and all artists how are they going to make people (the audience) understand what the voice of their art is saying because in essence it is like translating a foreign language. "There's only one power that can break through the wall which seperates all artists from their audience-the power of understanding." Once the wall of ignorance is broken down like the Berlin wall by the hammer of communication, then and only then can comics be fully appreciated and understood for the true expressionism they represent and the raw talent that goes into making every strip. but until then the pilgrimage of the comic continues...
In chapters 4 and 6 of “Understanding Comics”, Scott McCloud demonstrates the unique relationships comics have with time and space, pictures and words.
“In learning to read comics we all learned to perceive time spatially, for in the world of comics, time and space are one and the same”
Scott McCloud introduces this idea of time and space being the same in several examples. One panel can show several moments in time, one moment in time, infinite time, the past, the present, and the future. This concept is also true with a combination of panels proving, once again, the endless possibility comics have. The panel itself is an important icon used in comics—a point I hadn’t considered until it was pointed out to me. The panel acts as a “general indicator that time or space is being divided.” We use our ability for closure to perceive the relationship between time and space, to lengthen or shorten a moment in time. This can be done by the framing of panels (i.e. the size, shape, and borders of frames). Something as simple as the size of the frame can represent time or how long a moment within that space is. An amazing feat to manipulate time!
“As we’ve seen, the interaction of time and comics generally leads us to one of two subjects: sound or motion.”
Sound and motion add to the illusion that comics create. This illusion is the experience of sensory appeal. We become involved with concept of actual time, action and reaction, dialogue and sound effects. The experience involves the reader to become a component in the story itself. We are pulled into the story and it is fluid and familiar because we make it that way (with the direction of the creator, of course). The experience is unique with comics… even just reading this text has deepened my understanding of the complexity and creativity that goes into creating one. And Scott McCloud has proved once again that there are no limits to which comics are bound.
“Indeed, words and pictures have great powers to tell stories when creators fully exploit them both.”
McCloud explains how different combinations of pictures and words create different responses for the viewer. These combinations are word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and inter-dependent. He explains and gives examples for the seven he is familiar with but also never limits comics to these. He goes on to explain that “when pictures carry the weight of clarity of a scene, they free words to explore a wider area,” and vice versa, comparing it to alchemy. You can see change occur in a scene just by mixing up the combination used. This is precisely why comics are such a mystery to me. A creator can create a different feeling with the same picture or script by altering how they are combined for a totally different effect! Comics truly are a remarkable medium for art, story, and creativity!
08 June 2010
McCloud demonstrates that in comics time is a complicated notion. In some cases one panel could take up thirty seconds of time using dialogue to pace the reader. That same one panel could be broken up into multiple panels and give the same effect. He shows that time can be manipulated by the shape of the panel itself. Some changes, such as making the panel extend past the edge of the page, give it a timeless feeling making it feel like more time has passed. He also explains a unique feature of comics, that the past, present, and future are visible all at once on the page, unlike other media such as TV and movies. As usual McCloud discusses possibilities not yet explored by comics, such as letting the reader choose which direction to go thus varying the story. McCloud also discusses the use of motion in comics, and techniques creators have adapted to display motion.
Comics use both words and pictures to get their point across, and McCloud dissects how the two work together. He first explains the mere fact comics use pictures and words make them seem nothing more than “a diversion” to some. That classically, the “Great” works of literature and art were kept at arms length, anything that sought to combine the two might as well have had “For Children” stamped on it. After the usual history lesson McCloud develops more on what he said from Chapter Two regarding comics as a medium or “vessel” rather than a style or genre. He then identifies seven ways words and pictures can be used together in comics: word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and interdependent. Finally McCloud explains that as either pictures or words take up more of the job of explaining whats happening, the other can be free to make explore artistically.
The examples of manipulating time by changing frame size and shape on pages 100 – 102 are very interesting, and as usual very funny if you read what exactly the two men are talking about. However, my favorite part of Chapter Four is the experimental “choose your own story” on page 105 in which our dear Carl is given another chance at life. The way this page is interactive shows how progressive McCloud is.
Chapter Six seems to be what McCloud couldn't fit into an already bursting-at-the-seams Chapter Two. In many ways he is building on the same concepts introduced in that chapter. It did add to it another method by which to examine comics, the seven ways pictures can combine with words. McCloud loves to give us these tools, and I can see why. It makes something that seems simple, and that we might take for granted, and breaks it down to show the complexity of it.
Both chapters successfully unravel complexity where at first I perceived none. This seems to be another major theme of McClouds. Apparently “Understanding Comics” partially means understand how complex they can be, and not taking them for granted.
- Comics allow time frames to get tangled up. ( chapter 4)
- In comics, pictures and words work together in an appropriate balance to show and tell a story. ( chapter 6)
"The artform--the medium--known as comics is a vessel which can hold any number of ideas and images"
Scott McCloud first defines comics in this elusive way before evaluating Will Eisner's definition "sequential art." Keeping his first observation of the limitless possibilities of comics, McCloud is satisfied with the new definition of "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer."
The first chapter relays important information of what makes a comic and what should be excluded in our definition of comics. It is important to know an artistic style (i.e. a cartoon) does not make a comic. In the same sense, there is no specific vernacular for comics. There are no uniform genres or topics to be covered in comics. Everything and anything goes. That is, as long as it still remains a pictorial sequence that relays information (we have a definition for a reason, people!). One example McCloud uses to exclude in this definition are single paneled cartoons (like The Family Circus in everyday newspapers). Cartoons may have comic qualities, but there is no such thing as a sequence of one and therefore they may not be included for this purpose.
In chapter two, McCloud discusses how comics use a combination of pictures, words, and icons to convey information. Pictures are important in focusing the attention to certain details. Focusing on certain details (and not on others) keeps the attention of the audience within what the artist/creator chooses. Focusing on certain details will make a picture more iconic. Icons represent the person, place, things, and ideas in comics and are an important tool in comics. If comics are the language, “words, pictures, and other icons are the vocabulary.” McCloud shows us a spectrum of realistic drawings to cartoons—an iconic abstraction scale, as he calls it--the final piece at the end of this scale are words. Words, which represent as pictures do, do not look like that which they represent. The way pictures are received, words are perceived. This is an important piece of information to remember. This is the basis for “the picture plane.” The picture plane uses the same iconic abstraction scale to reach from reality to meaning. Within this picture plane, any language, any art form, any means of expression can be found. Common use of onomatopoeia, changes in font, punctuation, and other literary tools can make the experience more involved for the viewer. The importance of this vocabulary (pictures, words, and icons) in the language of comics is this: how we receive and perceive comics involves us completely. It is our job to create the understanding of comics, the creator focuses on details to lead us in a direction but the viewer takes all the necessary steps to go in that direction. Seeing comics this way will widen the perspective of the viewer. The complexity of comics is amazing and something that I have rarely encountered in any other form of expression.
07 June 2010
Unlike Kunzle, who took a strict four point definition of comics, McCloud choose a definition that boils down to one sentence: “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” However, like Kunzle, McClould examines the roots of comics, as they fit his definition specifically, and finds examples in a picture manuscript discovered by Cortes, in the Bayeux Tapestry, and in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 1300 B.C. He also examines more modern “Comics” including non-traditional examples that fit his definition such as Max Ernest's A Week of Kindness which is a sequence of collages that is definitely sequential, thus meeting his definition. McCloud ends the chapter by stating that “Our Attempts to define comics are an ongoing process which won't end anytime soon.” This seems to allow for the definition to be rewritten as new forms of comics are created.
In Chapter two, McCloud identifies some terms and ideas that will apparently be necessary to understand in order to proceed in the book. He explains the word “icon” and how it pertains to comics. McCloud also demonstrates “the masking effect” in which an artist will use simplistic looking characters in very detailed realistic backgrounds, explaining that we can more easily identify, or mask, ourselves with a simplistic character. A triangular chart is used to show how comic style can be charted as it pertains to Reality, Meaning, and the Picture Plane. By using this chart McCloud makes it apparent how comic styles vary, and how they are alike.
The book is written in the comic style, with picture and text, and McCloud takes full advantage of it. In doing so he shows us the power of the medium. The visual examples are excellent, and necessary to show some of the complicated notions he is explaining. There is also quite a bit of humor in the book, which makes it very easy to read.
The definition McCloud creates in Chapter 1 seemed to be more logical than Kunzle's. He uses “intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” rather than “a story which is both moral and topical.” Granted, I don't believe McCloud was as concerned with qualifying his definition as Kunzle was, considering what each of their books is about. Nonetheless, I do like McCloud's definition more. The historical perspective that he uses is also as fun as it is informative, fitting in well with the rest of the book.
One of the most interesting parts of Chapter Two was how McCloud demonstrates that in a simplistic drawing of a face we can most easily see ourselves. I was blown away at how well he was able to show a concept that I had lived with my whole life but was never aware of. Yet when he asks “What are you really seeing?” about a simple face drawn by combining a circle with two dots and a line, my instinctive answer was “myself.” McCloud then shows how when we are engaged in conversation with another person, while we have a very realistic mental image of them, the mental image of ourselves is far from realistic, more simple, like a cartoon. The connection makes perfect sense. When I read Calvin and Hobbes as a kid I was Calvin. I could easily imagine myself crusading around in costume as The Dark Knight. When the features are obscured, even by a costume, you can easily relate to the character, even become the character. In showing this McCloud has really revealed to me the power of comics.
06 June 2010
I love how he begins the chapter on the phone with a friend explaining he's next move and how the friend puts him down, " Aren't you kind of young to be doing that sort of thing?" I shows the typical reaction that everyone has when comics are brought up. He continues the chapter by explaining what a comics is, where it steamed from, how they are understood. At first I was a little uncertain of how this book was gonna make its point but by the 5 or 6 page I was hooked!! Its easy to read about a subject then put your thoughts together about what you just read but if there is any confusion at all, then the material becomes less effective. Through the use of comics you can read the material then use the pictures as a backup to fully understanding what is being read. I really enjoyed how McCloud threw in some examples from our historic past to further explain his understanding and passion for comics, which in turn gives the reader the same understand and passion for what is being read. (Wish we had comics in my history class, would make it a lot more interesting and fun to learn!!) In Chapter 2 McCloud explains how the Japanese provide excellent examples of the differences of different types of details and images that can be used in a comic. It never occurred to me that as a reader that the drawings were draw to complement the reader or better yet allows reader to personally identify with the content at hand. Also how some characters are draw so the read develops that edgy, non-personal connection which plays into the story's plot/theme.
Reading the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 in the book, “Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art,” really opened my eyes to what comics really are. Scott McCloud allowed people to see that from the beginning he never really agreed with what “Comics” really were. McCloud allowed us to see that he saw them as, “bad art work, stupid stories, and guys in tights.” Up until the 8th grade when a friend introduced him to a different collection of comics and within a year, McCloud was obsessed. By the time he reached the 10th grade, he was already an artist for a comic. He even felt there was some sort of remarkable power lurking in comic books that needs to be out in the open!
McCloud shows us in his book, that most comics began before the turn of century but it ventures further back to around 1519! Found in Pre-Columbian was a picture manuscript by Cortes around that time. It usually shows from separating words from pictures but easily understood. McCloud goes on to explain the history in vivid detail and what it led up to was that there will be many ways to define COMICS and the process will not end anytime soon.
In Chapter 2, it explains the vocabulary of comics. The more I read into this chapter I was more interested in the pictures. I was lost in the way the faces would change and how it went from a far more difficult drawing to an easy and more complex drawing. The faces is what took my attention because on page 29 he starts to show how you can change it and I see when it came to drawing himself, he used a far more easier and complex drawing. One thing McCloud said that sums up the whole chapter (in my opinion) would be this;
“All the things we EXPERIENCE in life can be separated into TWO REALMS, the REALM of the CONCEPT and the realm of the SENSES.”
p.s. this looked way more "comic" on microsoft word! LOL!