25 January 2012

In Your Face

Scott McCloud uncovers some very deep points behind the comic in chapter two of his book Understanding Comics.  He shows us how comics use the world of icons to pull us into the story.  Icons can really be anything, anyplace, anyone, or any idea.  With such a broad spectrum of icons to choose from, the world of comics is limitless, infinite so to speak.  Making this world of comics even more complex, we see that even the icons themselves can change, altering how the reader perceives them.  Showing us one of the most used icons in comics, the cartoon face, Scott McCloud informs us how abstraction plays a vital role in how the human mind processes the image.  A cartoon smiley face, contrary to a detailed picture of a face, allows the onlooker to imagine oneself as the character; but the extremely detailed background takes our mind into a realm of wonder.  The ability to impose our identity upon a simple object like a smiley face goes deeper than one would think.  This ability bridges the gap between the conceptual and sensual world.  Scott McCloud goes on to formulate a table of some past comic artists including Mary Fleener, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee just to name a few.  This table shows us how abstract comics can get, ranging from the simplest of shapes to the most detailed pictures.  This triangle- shaped graph has three different points representing ideas, nature, and art.  The placement of the artist’s comic shows us where his strongest views are.

Understanding what an icon really is broadens the horizons for the entire medium.  An icon can truly be just about anything you can think of, and more are being created every day.  This gives the comic artist unlimited ways to communicate with his audience.  There are also the timeless icons like the smiley face.  How long have people looked into that face and saw themselves staring back?  Maybe since the beginning of time.  Some stories and tapestries of the ancient world have very simply drawn faces; did these artists realize that the onlookers would identify themselves within the face?  The smiley face has stood the test of time, and I think it will remain important to future comic artists.  



  1. Mike! This is a really good post; you're tackling some complex issues in this chapter--and it's one of the more complicated chapters. So good on you!

    But remember, it's McCloud ;-)

    1. Sorry about that, I fixed it as soon as I saw your comment.