28 February 2012

Scott McCloud's Definition of Comics!

Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud's Definition of Comics is Dylan Horrocks article obviously about Scott McCloud's definition of a comic. Horrocks admires McCloud for his inspirational and persuasive work, but admits that sometimes he is missing certain parts when explaining Understanding Comics.

Horrocks begins his article by taking a closer look at McCloud's definition of a comic, and  what it reveals about McCloud's agenda along with what he values most. This leads to reveal McCloud's strategies. Horrocks explains that McCloud uses form Vs. content to get rid of the history that the comics have. According to Horrocks, sequential art is a useful definition because the "hidden power" that McCloud wants to draw to our attention to is closure. But nowhere in Understanding Comics does McCloud explain why sequential art should be seen as the main point about comics. He also states that the reason that McCloud bases his definition on Eisner's definition is because it highlights the thing he values most about comics, their usefulness.

 Comics have become a community over time since the 1950s. After decades of hard work, comics are not asserting themselves in the world. Visual and verbal metaphors in Understanding Comics helps McCloud to illustrate his ideas which Horrocks thinks is wise. McCloud's textual vocabulary is built off McCloud's metaphors but Horrocks adds in his own ideas to expand McCloud's vocabulary.

McCloud's definition of comics attempts to change the way the readers have previously known comics to be. McCloud wants to expand the term 'sequential art' to a dictionary style definition. Horrocks then explains how McCloud erases the history of comics, and how he erases the marginal status. McCloud is not interested in the past histories of comics. He is more concerned about the future. This is why McCloud made the definition the way he did. As Horrocks states, "It invites the cartoonists to break out of the traditional styles, genres, obsessions and techniques of comics: to push the limits of what can be done with the form."

 Comics are a cultural idiom, a publishing genre, a set of narrative conventions, a kind of writing that uses words and pictures, and are a literary genre. Horrocks explains how McCloud uses the form of a comic book as a vessel to change the view of comics as a cultural idiom. This metaphor assumes that any art form is unique, different, and separate from every other. Horrocks introduces Harvey, a critic, and he begins to criticize McCloud's work. The form as a vessel metaphor erases the borders between the different arts, such as form as a genre. A genre shares expressions between the author and the audience. A genre being used in a story doesn't necessarily have to be a specific one. In fact, the author of the story doesn't even have to decide what genre they will use. Just as long as the pictures dominate the words in the story, it is a comic.

Horrocks explains that in chapter 6 of Understanding Comics, McCloud discusses the relationship between pictures and words in a comic and the relationship between words and pictures. Horrocks states that this chapter is a mythology for comics. According to this mythology, and Horrocks, these comics are "our chance to return to an original, pure language of communication". The words in a comic are seen as narrative and pictures are motivated signs. This dispute between words and pictures leads McCloud to narrow down his definition for comics to 'space = time'. Comics are a written language, but they replace words for pictures.

Understanding Comics is one of Horrocks favorite comics. Reading this comic opened Horrocks eyes, and changed the way he looked at everything that has to deal with comics. Horrocks has the same love for comics as McCloud does. Reading Understanding Comics helped Horrocks write his own book known as Hicksville.

One of Horrocks key ideas is that almost all artworks cross the borders between art forms. Most essentialists are confronted by this fact. When confronted with it, it refers to being a metaphor. To be specific, the form as a vessel metaphor. McCloud states pretty much the exact same thing by discussing that almost every picture can be a comic based on the way it is drawn, printed, etc. Essentialism expresses a longing for each medium or form which is true because it needs to remain separate otherwise it would "lessen" its purity.        

 

1 comment:

  1. This is a very thorough summary, Chantel...too thorough. Stick the the key points that relate to your own opinions.

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