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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Understanding Comics ch. 6

Delightful as the preceding chapters have been, you who know me can understand that the topic of ”Showing and Telling” entails particular joys for me. Look at the bottom right-hand frame on p. 139 — “It’s considered normal in this society for children to combine words and pictures [the continuity with Magritte would have been perfect if McCloud had said ‘images’], so long as they grow out of it.” Without splitting hairs over the specifics here, let’s take the point that contemporary U.S. culture conveys the forceful message that adults derive their most serious information (and entertainment) without pictures; we tend to steer children away from picture books to “chapter books,” and ultimately to books with no illustrations at all.

Note on p. 144 — McCloud ignores, at this point, the familiar motif of the medieval illustration with a text-ribbon that serves variously as a caption or a depiction of spoken words.

I don’t find McCloud’s description of the literary condition of modernity (on p. 147) very convincing; I suspect that this may have to do with what I take to be his very careless use of “meaning,” but it may also involve my relative ignorance about art history, and my somewhat greater acquaintance with twentieth-century literature. That being said, I agree that he’s onto something with the re-emergence of attention to the interaction of glyphs and images, typography and representation, in the early twentieth century.

McCloud’s point (this must have roots in McLuhan, mustn’t it?) that “each new medium begins its life by imitating its predecessors” pertains emphatically to contemporary explorations of unfamiliar modes of communication. To take just one familiar example, note the way that “courseware” tends to facilitate online equivalents for familiar educational interactions.

Note that on p. 152, McCloud doesn’t suggest that comics be used for instruction or reference, even though the “instruction manual” has provided one of the most persistent, widespread venues for comics.

Back to Chapters 4 and 5
On to Chapter 7


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