Comics are understandable because our minds can fill in the missing movements between the segmented pictures we see. Comics use iconic figures, meaning representational images of things from reality. These images are simplified greatly but they are still recognizable and fully representational of an object we are familiar with. These representations can be as simple as a few curved lines making a bow, or as vast as a shaded and colored wall of the Grand Canyon. Recognizing these icons is vital to how comic books can imprint themselves onto us because without being able to simplify the picture, we couldn’t recognize something as simple as and abstract fork. If forced to become entirely lifelike comic books would also be more expensive to make and would therefore never be a viable business idea and would now probably be some sort of underground art movement that only New York and L. A. know about and depict social movements and genocide (think about it).
To understand comics is more difficult than watching television but less difficult then reading a book (McCloud’s implications, not mine). In a novel our imaginations create the characters and build them fully in our own or other peoples images, the sets are loosely based on scenery we’ve experienced or are familiar with. In a comic book, everything is created for us but we can still eject our own impressions on the story. The trick is that because we have a diagram of how the characters are different and the scenery is laid out in front of us it feels easy; our imaginations are working but it feels like a vacation.
Through a mix of realism and impressionism, comics stand on a line between photographs and shapes. The closer to being fully representational they come the more accessible they are (and cheaper to make). Comic book writers can exploit this by making vaguer and therefore more likable protagonists( like Tin Tin or Rorick in Y), causing the reader to unwillingly relate as much as they can by literally picturing themselves as the protagonist. This has been vital to the development of comic books, and is probably one of the keys to how popular they are.
Now, I personally understand comics, pretty much the same way. In fact after reading Scott McCloud’s thoughts on how and why this medium captures its audience, I have been questioning my favorite characters on not only comic books but television shows and novels. I love Michonne from “The Walking Dead” but am I imposing myself onto her image? And does Britney Snow only have career because any blonde girl can see bits of herself in Snow? Thank you McCloud for making me question al my opinions and pre-conceived judgments but I like to think the reason I relate to Michonne is a human conditional thing not necessarily because I see myself in her; I am not a zombie fighting ninja.