Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Cover of the original Tundra Publishing edition of Understanding Comics: The
EditorMark Martin
AuthorScott McCloud
CountryUnited States
Publication date
Followed byReinventing Comics 

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a 1993 non-fiction work of comics by American cartoonist Scott McCloud.[1] It explores formal aspects of comics, the historical development of the medium, its fundamental vocabulary, and various ways in which these elements have been used.[2] It expounds theoretical ideas about comics as an art form and medium of communication, and is itself written in comic book form.[3]

Understanding Comics received praise from notable comic and graphic novel authors such as Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Garry Trudeau (who reviewed the book for the New York Times).[4] Although the book has prompted debate over many of McCloud’s conclusions,[5] its discussions of "iconic" art and the concept of "closure" between panels have become common reference points in discussions of the medium.[6][7]

The title of Understanding Comics is an homage to Marshall McLuhan's seminal 1964 work Understanding Media.[citation needed]

Publication history

Excerpts from Understanding Comics were published in Amazing Heroes #200 (Apr. 1992); that issue later won the 1992 Don Thompson Award for Best Non-Fiction Work. McCloud previewed the book at the August 1992 Comics Arts Conference.[8]

Understanding Comics was first published by Tundra Publishing; reprintings have been released by Kitchen Sink Press, DC Comics' Paradox Press, DC's Vertigo line, and HarperPerennial. The book was edited by Mark Martin, with lettering by Bob Lappan.



  • Tundra (1993): ISBN 1-56862-019-5
  • Kitchen Sink (Jan. 1993): ISBN 0-87816-243-7
  • William Morrow Paperbacks (April 1994): ISBN 0-06-097625-X
  • Paradox Press/DC (May 1999): ISBN 1-56389-557-9
  • Harper Perennial (2004)



McCloud has followed up Understanding Comics with Reinventing Comics (2000), in which he suggested ways for the medium to change and grow; and Making Comics (2006), a study of methods of constructing comics.

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