||[Mar. 19th, 2008|02:41 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#87 UNDERSTANDING COMICS - Scott McCloud
“Here’s to the great debate!”
Scott McCloud loves comics with an infectious glee. He also loves historical research, making definitions and analysing motives. Fortunately, the glee washes away any dryness that might come with the intellectualising. Understanding Comics may be a weighty analysis of the form, but it feels lighter than it should because of the way McCloud uses the form to discuss itself. It’s a comic about comics. McCloud, drawn with cartoon simplicity, wanders across the page from sight-gag to sight-gag, deconstructing as he goes.
By presenting himself as a cartoon, McCloud is trying to prevent the specifics of who he is from getting in the way of his arguments, reducing himself down to a sigil that won’t filter the ideas as they follow a pipeline direct from his brain to the reader’s. In practice it can be a little like being lectured to by Bugs Bunny, but it’s good to know he doesn’t take himself too seriously since sometimes the ideas he’s shoving into that pipeline can be difficult to take seriously as well.
Whether he’s arguing that the greatest panels should stand alone or coming up with a definition of comics broad enough to include stained-glass windows but too narrow to fit The Far Side, McCloud will make you want to argue with him at some point. The contentious nature of Understanding Comics is part of what makes it so worthwhile. Debating with McCloud in your head, whether about comics or his more general ruminations on art history and the motives for creativity, will blow out cobwebs you didn’t know were there. If he was less enthusiastic he might be less quarrelsome, but the contagious passion that emanates from the pages more than makes up for it.