Response to Understanding Comics Yu Zhou

I have been a fan of Japanese comic since I was 8 years old. However, before reading this comic book on comic, I have never seriously thought about comic as a form of serious art. In my mind, it’s true that comic can convey thoughtful and deep ideas, but after all it’s a way of recreation. It is after I entered NYU shanghai that I knew Marvel and more about western comics. This time, “Understanding Comics” really opened a universe for me, as is shown in the book.

The author artfully introduced the meaningful form of art “comic” to us in the form of comic itself, which made his ideas more convincing, and transmitted more efficiently. Also, he truly brings “comic” to a lot more than recreational pictures to read. He upheaved it to academic level.

In Chapter 1, at the bottom of page 3, when McCloud mentioned that “the potential of comics is LIMITLESS and EXCITING!”, in the same panel he drew the limitless and exciting universe to illustrate this idea of potential of comics. In a second, he dragged us into the picture, looking at the endless and unknown place, which evokes our curiosity and fascinates us. Later in this chapter, McCloud covers the topics and history of comics, generating a high-up starting point of comics, where those comic were not so much thought as comics but other forms of art. I remember clearly when I saw William Hogarth’s satire series in National Museum, Tate Britain and Sir John’s house in London that I could not quickly fully understand what was the story in the pictures unless there was someone telling me the details as there were so many things happening in one scene and I was not professional enough to catch the main points.

Chapter 2 talks about the vocabulary of comics, I saw a lot of familiar stuff as we were talking about icons last semester in GPC. I think it very interesting that artists can lead people to mask themselves in a comic by making the surroundings more objective and realistic and the main characters more subjective and iconic. Though I did not agree with McCloud’s drawing of a simplified face on the middle of page 39, when he mentioned “And just as our awareness of our biological selves are simplified conceptualised images”. When we think ourselves, certainly a lot of details will be ignored, but surely not to that extent. Here he used a too much simplified image of face, perhaps because he wants to universalise the icon. Yet when I was reading this, the effect does not seem good.

Chapter 3 focused on the effect of gutter and Chapter 4 discussed time and space. Gutter, time and space are very unique in the form of comic, compared to other forms of art. There are so many meanings and techniques under the usage of space and gutter that I never thought before. Now I am wondering would contributes more to a good comic, a good story or good drawing techniques, as they are both so important to comic. Before, I thought the artists who devote their life to comics should practice drawing in the first place and then go on to deepen their thought, now I realize that learning these theories are also crucial. Yet when people take the theories for granted, will there be less innovation when creating comics as people use the already existing techniques?

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