Let me begin my response by explaining what my initial understanding of comics before reading this book. Growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I understood comics to be a very specific genre of graphic art, or rather, funny little illustrated books that told stories about superheroes; nothing more, and nothing less. Then, when I became a little older, I learned about comics like “Tintin” and “Calvin and Hobbes”. This was perhaps my first and only introduction into the diverse world of comics.
Because my opinion of comics was previously so shallow, the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud seemed quite interesting to me. This book sheds a very intense light on the subject, as Scott McCloud expands the scope of comics and illuminates the various different ways in which comics can be an art and medium. And though I did not agree with everything McCloud extrapolates, I do think many of his statements are meritorious.
I must say that I have a hard time wholly accepting that comics themselves can be a medium, as this claim comes off rather farfetched. Perhaps, as McCloud does acknowledges, this sentiment can be attributed the tunnel vision and cultural lack of understanding that I have absorbed, in conjunction with comic’s relative youth. Nevertheless, I cannot agree to this claim that comics are a self-substantiating medium, although I would agree that comics are certainly more than a mere genre.
However, I do appreciate certain aspects that McCloud identifies within the book. Namely, his working definition, the content, and the philosophy behind comics. The definition McCloud offers, “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” is, I think, solid and explanatory. In addition, identifications of comic’s aspects, like “closure,” “visual iconography,” and “cartoon” truly are plentiful and specific to comics. I appreciate that he points these aspects out because these crucial and pertinent aspects help elevate the status of comics by giving it form, while also helping set comics aside from visual art.
I would hence agree that comics are at least a specific art form. McCloud alludes to this with his conclusions that 1) comics are a hybrid between visual art and literary art 2) comics are various and by no means indicative of a single person or style, just like all other art forms 3) comics incorporate psychology and sensory devices and 4) have a form and structured process when being created. Because comics have all these components, I can appreciate comics as a unique art form that is truly in its infancy and dangerously undervalued.
Though I may not see comics as a medium in itself, comics truly has many characteristics which set it apart. McCloud’s deep analysis helped me reach this conclusion, as his in-depth evaluation sheds light on the overlooked merits of comics. Comic’s certainly are diverse enough to span many tastes and styles, and can be just as deep and thought provocative as many glorified art forms. For this reason, as well as those provided in the book, I hope to see Scott McCloud’s prognosis come into fruition; that is to say, I hope as time goes on, and the world of comics grows and thrives, comics will too grow to be valued as the art form as it truly is.