Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud

As an avid reader books have throughout my life provided with me with the ability to live multiple lives, acting as a gateway to foreign lands they have given me the ability to travel both backward and forward in time and have carried me through a world wind of different emotions. In the past, I had only experienced this level of immersion in novels as authors utilized pages and pages of descriptive text to set the characters, plot and scene of the story. Therefore when first introduced to comic books I found myself doubtful of their capability to transport and immerse readers into the story line as I thought the limited text would  limit  the author’s ability to convey complex thoughts and feelings to the reader.

After reading the comic book Understanding Comics the Invisible Art by Scott McCloud my opinion on the ability of comic books to express a message changed as it was through this writing piece that I learned how comic books are composed, read, understood and the importance of visual language. McCloud taught me the power of an abstract image in cartooning as it eliminates details thus helping readers to focus on specific details by stripping down the image to it’s essential meaning an artist can amplify his main message or idea to the reader. The power of this abstract image is why McCloud designed his own image in the comic book to be very simple, as he felt a more realistic and detailed image of himself would have distracted the reader as they would be too aware of the messenger to fully receive the message. The simplicity of his cartoon like appearance helps readers to see themselves while a more realistic drawing of a face would portray to the reader “another” making it more difficult for them connect to what is being said. McCloud explains iconic representations as more abstract and a general representation of a person, place, thing, or idea. He states that iconic representations, “require greater levels of perception” (McCloud p. 49). As opposed to realistic representations, these images have greater room for interpretation and “perception”. They allow for the reader to easily identify with the images by attributing their identity. Realistic and iconic representations are important because they target the reader. Comics aim to get the reader invested, and this is done by getting the readers to identify with the words and visuals. The varying representations help the readers become a part of the comic world and make the comic reading experience much more enjoyable.


McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: Harper Collins Publishing.

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