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Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

"Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" is a beautiful book. It's a meta-comic - a comic novel all about comics, in which a cartoonist leads you through the philosophy of comics, some of the techniques, the psychology of how comic art works, and a little bit of history too.

It's playful and entertaining, leading you through demonstrations such as a comic story that gets shorter and shorter and shorter; but it's also got a very well-considered argument to make about what makes comic art special (and more than just pictures-and-words added together). There are all kinds of interesting things to see on the way through this, like Hergé's technique in the Tintin adventures of combining realistic backgrounds with less realistic ("iconic") characters, and why this works so well.

It takes in an impressive range of context, including the development of the moving image, futurist art, and psychological aspects such as face recognition. The analysis of different frame transitions is particularly nice, and shows up some of the structural differences between the Japanese and Western traditions really nicely. Well worth reading, whether or not you think you understand comics...

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