Scott McCloud tore down the wall between high and low culture in 1993 with Understanding Comics, a massive comic book about comics, linking the medium to such diverse fields as media theory, movie criticism, and web design. In Reinventing Comics, McCloud took this to the next level, charting twelve different revolutions in how comics are generated, read, and perceived today. Now, in Making Comics, McCloud focuses his analysis on the art form itself, exploring the creation of comics, from the broadest principles to the sharpest details (like how to accentuate a character's facial muscles in order to form the emotion of disgust rather than the emotion of surprise.) And he does all of it in his inimitable voice and through his cartoon standin narrator, mixing dry humor and legitimate instruction. McCloud shows his reader how to master the human condition through word and image in a brilliantly minimalistic way. Comic book devotees as well as the most uninitiated will marvel at this journey into a onceunderappreciated art form.
Every medium should be lucky enough to have a taxonomist as brilliant as McCloud. The follow-up to his pioneering Understanding Comics (and its flawed sequel Reinventing Comics) isn't really about how to draw comics: it's about how to make drawings become a story and how cartooning choices communicate meaning to readers. ("There are no rules," he says, "and here they are.") McCloud's cartoon analogue, now a little gray at the temples, walks us through a series of dazzlingly clear, witty explanations (in comics form) of character design, storytelling, words and their physical manifestation on the page, body language and other ideas cartoonists have to grapple with, with illustrative examples drawn from the history of the medium. If parts of his chapter on "Tools, Techniques and Technology" don't look like they'll age well, most of the rest of the book will be timelessly useful to aspiring cartoonists. McCloud likes to boil down complicated topics to a few neatly balanced principles; his claim that all facial expressions come from degrees and combinations of six universal basic emotions is weirdly reductive and unnerving, but it's also pretty convincing. And even the little ideas that he tosses off-like classifying cartoonists into four types-will be sparking productive arguments for years to come. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.