First Graf: Understanding Comics

THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE THE way you think about (as author Scott McCloud concisely defines it) “sequential art.”

McCloud takes us inside the art form to explain how and why comics/graphic novels work. He tracks the 3,000-year history of Sequential Art from its Egyptian origins to the present day (well, the book’s 1993 publication anyway), breaking down the elements of composition, line, color, symbols, time, and the use of words; he even has a chapter on the unspoken relationship between panels and the space between them. Let’s let the chapter titles speak for themselves: “1) Setting the Record Straight; 2) The Vocabulary of Comics; 3) Blood in the Gutter; 4) Time Frames; 5) Living In Line; 6) Show and Tell; 7) The Six Steps; 8) A Word About Color; 9) Putting It All Together.”

As the 215-page book uses the graphic-novel format to talk about its subject, adapting that to plain text is a bit beyond my abilities. So here is the First Graf of the acknowledgements page:

The book you’re about to read took 15 months to produce and many of the ideas it contains had been on the back-burner for over nine years, so acknowledging all of those who have helped in its development may be next to impossible. Furthermore, since its initial publication in the comics industry, I’ve received tremendous support from hundreds of fellow travelers in all corners of the publishing world. My apologies to anyone who is not listed below and should have been.

(If you’re having trouble finding the book in hardcopy, here is one of many sites where you can download it: For others, Google “Understanding Comics pdf.”)

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