U is for Understanding Comics

| March 3, 2014

For another course I’m taking his semester, called Adolescents and Literature, we had to read Chapter Two (“The Vocabulary of Comics”) of Scott McCloud’s work, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. In this Chapter, among many other interesting things, McCloud addresses how we have Lack of awareness of our own faces in detail—only the arrangement of general features, that we know and move (which reminded me of our work with lines and movement). McCloud discusses that this is a divide between the conceptual and the realm of the senses, which is divided between a within/ without binary. Since our sense of our own faces is so vague, people tend to identify with the “cartoon” and its lack of realistic detail. This whole idea was fascinating to me not because of how foreign it was but how taken for granted it has been in my own life. I’ve always been more of a reader of written language. I would read occasional Sunday paper cartoons, but never a full-length comic or graphic novel. Learning about the theories behind comics was absolutely fascinating for me, and I would like to read the rest of McCloud’s book, which is in comic form itself. I always thought I would struggle with reading longer comics somehow, but this chapter (as well as the YA text for the course, American Born Chinese) completely drew me in.

He also addresses how humans tend to see themselves in everything (such as electrical outlets) and even extend our concept of self to that which we wear or use (such as a crutch, or, as I am very familiar with, a car). It is interesting to apply this notion to our concept of movement and awareness of our own bodies. When McCloud talks about our extension of the self and cars, he addresses how we tend to inhabit the car and feel/ sense its movement. He briefly mentions how we adopt our cars or other objects our sense of “me” and the self (for example, “The guy cut ME off” instead of “my car”), which seems to imply that responsibility for movement and awareness becomes greater than just belonging to our own bodies themselves. I can’t help but wonder how we can potentially apply the concepts from our present text to this idea of the extended body.

Also, there is this fascinating triangle (which he later transforms into a pyramid, to capture various comic artists’ styles) that depicts the curious relation of language, reality, and pictures.

The journey from reality to language in particular made me think of Ingold’s Lines once more and the development of written language.