05 June 2010

Emotionally Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud understands that comic books are usually "crude, poorly-drawn, semi literate, cheap, disposable kiddy fare, " but he believes they don't have to be. McCloud thinks that comics contain some kind of hidden power. He feels that people fail to appreciate comics as an art form because they try to define them to narrowly. McCloud then opens chapter 2 with a description and example of the Magritte painting, " The Treachery of Images." Although the subject of the painting is a common pipe, the artist's message reads, " This is not a pipe." As Scott explains, this is really not a pipe, nor is it a painting of a pipe. It is actually ten copies of a drawing of a painting of a pipe, when one considers that each panel on the two opening pages depicting the painting actually represents one copy. McCloud uses this example to demonstrate one of the many uses of icons, or images used to represent a person, place, thing or idea. McCloud also goes on to discuss how varying levels of icon ism and realism are used in comics to achieve various effects. A Brief overview:
  • No genres define "comics." "Comics" is not a genre, but a format. "Sequential art" can be about any subject. (chapter 1)
  • Viewing cartoon-like images helps us picture ourselves. A simple style does not necessarily mean a simple story. Symbols and icons are somewhat universal. (chapter 2)
As I started realizing what he was saying about genre, I got really excited. Comics are not a genre, but a format that tell a story. I for one am not particullarly drawn to superheroes and fantasy fable comics. But there are comics in subjects I am interested in, and those comics I should look for. In page 3 of "Understanding Comics" the information truly stood out to me. "If people failed to understand comics, it was because they defined what comics could be too narrowly. A proper definition, if we could find one, might give lie to the stereotypes and show that the potential of comics is limitless and exciting."


  1. Josh, this is a really excellent post. Most students completely miss McCloud's assertion that comics are medium and not a genre. I also really like the way you summarized and then bullet pointed his main points--excellent notion.

    The only problems I'll point out are that italics is reserved for titles of major works (books, movies, albums, etc.), you should never refer to an author by their first name unless you know them personally (and even then, you never do it in academic writing), and you neglected, perhaps, McCloud's most important point so far (his definition).

    Still, excellent work here. Keep it up!

  2. WOW! Great job! Now I need to redo mine! lol

  3. WoW! I was all stoked for my post thinking, "Hey I can do this!" LOL! Great post.
    I really like how I just got done reading the chapters and I read yours & it felt like I was reading Scott McCloud all over again! ;)

  4. Now ladies, I'm sure your posts are just fine :-)

  5. Nice blog Josh. "Limitless and exciting" I think that is why I liked McCloud's definition better than Kunzle's!

  6. Well, congrats, Josh! I've chosen your blog for the first "Rhetoric of Comics Weekly Spotlight." You're practically famous now ;-)

    For those curious how they can also rise to fame, fortune, and bonus points through our class blog, I chose Josh's for a couple of reasons. Now, I appreciate work turned in early as much as the next teacher. But I really appreciate early work done well! Too often, assignments rushed to be completed early have had too little attention paid them.

    Also, Josh's double summary (with bullet points) is an innovative way of ensuring his points are understood--not that you should all start copying him ;-)

    So, congrats again, Josh, and keep up the good work. And to see your work in the bright lights, so to speak, click here!

  7. Good post, and good advice from the teacher! Improper use of italics was a habit I also had to shed. ("But they do it in magazines!!")