25 January 2012

ICONS- The new vocabulary of Comic Books

In Chapter two of Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud starts off by analyzing a painting but according to him it is a printed copy of a drawing of a painting of a pipe. Doesn’t that sound bizarre? Well, McCloud then introduces the word ICON that he’ll be using to signify a person, place, thing or idea. He begins analyzing the difference between images and vocabulary, which is what this chapter is about. McCloud makes a point about how drawing and cartoons are so expressive even if they seem very abstract to our eyes. McCloud tries to get every point across by making it relatable to us and how we think.

McCloud talks about media’s and animations in America, Japan, Europe and the fact that in spite of them being extremely cartoonish we as readers find a few lines and dots reasonable. For example: a circle with two dots and one line represents a face regardless of the abstractness in them. He switches on to vocabulary and pictures. The two are related but yet very different as pictures are “received information” whereas reading is “perceived information”. If pictures are more abstracted from reality, they require greater levels of perception, which is equivalent to lower levels of perception when words are bolder and more direct. I don’t seem to disagree with McCloud at all as this is a wonderful way to relate each one to another. The Picture Plane table, reality and language are the three vertices he uses to represent the total pictorial vocabulary of comics or any visual art. He points out various characters based on their drawing styles, indicating a mix of characters and their environments. Towards the end he analyzes other comic book artists from the mid sixties, eighties and nineties. Based off from the earlier comic books he predicts that the twenty-first century will use more visual forms/iconography for universal communication. McCloud ends the chapter by stating McLuhan’s opinions of the only two medias he finds coolest are televisions and comics.

A picture is the most important factor of a comic. The main highlight of a comic has to be the pictures. And, Scott McCloud in chapter two is emphasizing on ICONS and how they communicate with the reader even if he/she isn’t literate. It is true that we need text in comics but McCloud has made pictures so appealing that it is almost like the vocabulary of a comic. In my opinion McCloud shone a totally new light for drawings in a comic book, expressing not just mere feelings but having the ability to explain beyond them. McCloud simplifies every point he makes by backing them up with examples and bizarre drawings.


  1. Interesting interpretations here, Tsering; I don't think you're wrong. But is McCloud saying we need text in comics, or just that we need balance? We'll talk more about this in class.

    Be sure to keep your own opinion out of your summary, by the way. You slip it in there at one point ;-)

  2. This was a relatively complex chapter; so I’m looking forward to hearing other views about it.
    About the texts, McCloud is laying out a balance between pictures and texts. But, he makes pictures seem more understandable and enjoyable.

  3. I found your blog interesting tsering. I do have more to say but discussion in class would be much better. Excited to hear your thought on the next chapter.