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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Understanding Comics ch. 1

I get excited every time I go back to reading Understanding Comics. I’ll probably wax exuberant here from time to time, but as I blog about UC, I’ll try to emphasize lines of continuity with the points of the course. So, first of all, I’m uninterested in the effort to establish comics as an “art”; I can take comics seriously as a mode of communication without adjudicating its status as “art.” Still, the definition McCloud offers — “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence” — will serve him well as a point of reference for analyzing his topic.

Now, notice the connections McCloud himself makes to ecclesiastical dimensions of his topic. We’ll rule out “Trajan’s column” (p. 15), since that’s of peripheral relevance to our main themes; “The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus” (blurry image here; you'd think that someone would have posted a good scan somewhere, but I can’t track one down) takes an explicit theological subject, and McCloud notes the pertinence of stained glass windows on p. 20. His strictures against “single-panel” units militates against counting altarpieces and timpanum sculptures, but they complement the point. The church has long, perhaps “always” in an elastic sense of that word, attended to non-verbal modes of communication such as comics (and single panels); if anyone should revisit the value and effects of comics for communication, we should be at the front of the line.

On to Chapter 2


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