Response Paper: Understanding Comics

I am responding to the Understanding Comics reading by McCloud. When I first looked at it, I was excited because I’ve never gotten to read a comic for class while in college. It brought me back to the good old days of being a kid. Growing up, I would read the comics every Sunday and would also have a few comic books lying around in my dresser ready to whip them out when I couldn’t fall asleep. This wasn’t an ordinary comic, though.

McCloud focused on the history of how we go to where we are currently in the composition of comics as well as the depiction of space, time, and motion. He explains throughout the piece that how each frame is structured plays a huge part in how the reader interprets the comic. The length, size, and amount of words and characters in each frame is very important and should never be overlooked while creating these stories. The interpretation of these stories: the time, place, character attributes, flow, and the action of these qualities all depend on the reader’s state of mind.

As for my interpretation of McCloud’s educational comic, he brought up numerous factors that go into the aesthetic of creating these comics that I had no idea came into play. What artists think about to depict their story is kind of incredible. Each frame is a story in itself. Say you have a full room of people gathering and talking about who knows what. There’s many ways to structure this event or “scene”. The characters could be speaking all at once causing a distressed tone to the image having speech bubbles all over the place with no clear definition of path the reader should take. It could also be divided in segments, or multiple frames, creating a flow of content that is easy to read and that could be interpreted as different moments on this linear scale of time. Sound is also something that can affect the images in a comic. Adding onomatopoeias can bring a whole new life to the scene, as well as using different shaped speech bubbles.

One of the most interesting things McCloud brought up was the fact that around the time of motion picture, comic artists began introducing motion into their comics. This attempt was made to keep up with growing technology as well as to try to bring their characters’ actions to life. If you think about it, in the beginning of motion picture, especially once animation was introduced, each story was created using comics. Drawing out each frame and drawing out the scenery to give a visual guide of where the story was going to go. Even to this day this is done, but it is done on a more digital scale seeing as we have all of these smart programs to create animation and motion. I didn’t really think about that until I read this piece.

McCloud also mentioned that the reader has the ability to interpret each comic the way he/she wants to. Especially if the artist creates the comic in such a way that there is no specific path. Being in the digital age, you don’t see many comics being produced. It’s all about videos and motion. The cool thing about comics is that you get to see the whole story in front of you. It’s all drawn out on the page. You’re not just sitting watching and absorbing a story. You’re engaging with what the artist wrote out and drew for you. Sure, there is a direction that is intended, because if there wasn’t it would be too catastrophic for the reader to comprehend. But, if you, as the reader, decided to read from the last page of the comic book to the first page, you have the ability to do so. There have been multiple occasions where I skipped ahead in a comic because the story got me so excited, I was too impatient for the ending; then I would go back and reread the middle. Maybe that’s just my personality, but I enjoy having access to that responsibility.

Naturally, a comic artist creates what he wants you to see and gives you a “desired” path of absorption of their content. With the structuring of a comic, compared to a movie or video, you have more freedom to create your own path and take in the story as you would like to. I believe that’s why comics have lasted so long in a dominating digital industry.