Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is an engaging analysis of comics that delights while it intrigues. Written in comics format itself, the book analyzes comics throughout history, discussing their evolution and the conventions and methods that make them work, and it explores the possibilities of what they can do. First published in 1993, this book has justifiably received much praise and become one of the primary books read by people who want to know about comics.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it provides a solid defense of the worth of comics, showing the traditions comics came from, how most reader tend to confuse the medium (words & pictures) with the content (brainless superheroes, impossible musculature, etc.). McCloud packs a lot of information into each chapter, and if you take the time to think about what he's saying, you'll find yourself thinking hard about things you might never have considered, from the ingredients that combine to form complex emotions on a person's face to the ways we are indoctrinated into consuming texts to the effect created by putting a frame around something.