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First book of the year – Understanding Comics – The Invisible Art

I enjoyed comic books as a kid but I was never all geeky about it. I didn’t have a collection. I didn’t keep them in mint condition. The only time I went to a Comic-Con was for work, and it was overwhelming. Comics were disposable entertainments for me. OK, I might have sent away for sea monkeys from the ad on the back page of an Archie comic, but I didn’t have the bug deep in my soul the way some people do.

As an adult, I mostly left comics (or graphic novels if you want to get all highfalutin about it) behind with a couple exceptions. I read a book of Harriman’s Krazy Kat comics a couple times through, and also a huge anthology of Dick Tracy which I was convinced I didn’t like but couldn’t put down. I was aware that there were many adults around who really dug these things and that there were graphic novels aimed at an adult market. I just didn’t go there.

I have a friend who knows all about comics and graphic novels. He’s been working on some projects and I really like what he’s doing. He suggested we work on a graphic novel treatment of my little book, Squeeze Box Man: The Lazy Allen Stories (if you haven’t read Squeeze Box Man, please check it out on Amazon and consider reading it). I love the idea, both because it is something I never would have thought of on my own, and because I can imagine my characters coming to life in line. As a painter, I long ago learned the importance of keeping an open mind to the unexpected and the same applies here too. I think we can do this thing. Who knows where it will lead.

Now I have to get up to speed on the medium, and I’ve been loaded down with homework: Understanding Comics by Scott McCoud, The World of Edena by Moebius, Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire, and Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore. I finished reading Understanding Comics this evening.

Understanding Comics is a comic book about comics. Very clever. It deals with history of the comic; comic vocabulary; the role of “the gutter”, the space between the panels; treatment of time and motion; and even a chapter on colour. This is a very thorough book created by someone who cares passionately for his form. In a way it’s a crash course. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, even though I’ve yet to try to apply any of that knowledge. Now I’m charged up and ready to read some graphic novels.

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