• DinaKhalil

Thank you, Scott McCloud.

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

When we were assigned to read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, I wondered what was the purpose, and how is this relevant to animations? Then while reading I remembered how much I loved comic books in the past and also remembered that I stopped reading them when I developed an interest in videos. I would watch anything and everything! I watched so many movies, specifically indie films, in my life.


I enjoyed reading this book and it certainly changed the way I see comic books. After reading it, I felt like I should send thank you emails to every comic book writer I know. The book is very explicitly detailed of how to write comic books. On page 37, McCloud suggests that we see ourselves in a simple shape, and I thought oh absolutely not! Later, after he further explained why, I started to see his point of view. I guess in a simple face, where no race can be detected, it would make sense to easily see ourselves in it and maybe freely build some assumptions throughout the story without feeling guilty.


When I was young, I thought I was starring in a tv show and people always tune in and watch my life on their TV sets like I am watching other people’s lives on TV. I thought I was the only one who had these wicked thoughts until McCloud mentions something similar, and equally weird about his childhood thoughts (on page 60).


I always thought it takes a unique talent to write a comic book, but after reading understanding comics, I was blown away by the amount of work and the psychological considerations a comics book writer has to make in order to write one comic book. McCloud accurately captures the mindset of a comic book reader, or at least how my own mind works. He mentions how our minds cannot unsee a simple drawn face, I took it as a challenge and tried to trick my mind into incorrectly deciphering a simple drawn face, and I couldn’t.


“With a high degree of closure, your mind is taking 4 fragments and constructing an entire scene out of those fragments.” (page 89) it’s amazing how our minds animate a written scene, or in other words, fill in the gaps between the panels to smoothly set a scene. I agree with almost the entire book. However, I disagree with “Our eyes have been well-trained by the photograph and by representational art to see any single continuous image as a single instant in time.” (page 96) Personally, I measure time in comic books with how wide the panel is. To me, wide panels represent a longer time, but then again, he further explains his idea on page 101 and agrees with me.


The book has so many comparisons of the western and eastern (specifically Japanese) comic books. I really enjoyed this comparison, since I was a big anime fan in my early teens. However, it would be more interesting if he examines more comic book styles from different cultures. Say maybe like the Egyptian culture? (yes, this is totally coming from how much I miss home right now.) I mean Egyptian comic books were one of the most popular comic books in the Arab world. Most were designed for kids, but with a hint of hidden political opinions that only cultured adults would decode and understand. Keep in mind that freedom of speech has been a big issue in Egypt. No one can write their liberal political views, especially if they disagree with the country’s policies or the president’s commands. Nonetheless, Egyptian comic books had a unique feel to them. They seemed fun at a young age but felt more like riddles at an older age.



The following pictures are taken from https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/arabic-comics-and-graphic-novels#/

Disclaimer: the above link is an Arabic website, but you can always translate a webpage!



An extract from Coltrane. The graphic novel about John Coltrane.

An extract from Coltrane. The graphic novel about John Coltrane.

First page from the graphic novel "yallah bye"

An extract from Cairo blues, a comic reportage about Cairo

First page from the graphic novel "yallah bye"

An extract from Cairo blues, a comic reportage about Cairo

An extract from Cairo blues, a comic reportage about Cairo

An extract from Cairo blues, a comic reportage about Cairo

The above pictures of comic extracts are targeted at an adult audience, maybe for people my age (which shall not be discussed).


Finally, I agree with McCloud, comic books are definitely art in its every aspect!