McCloud’s breakdown of the way we relate to the world as a set of icons is similar to what I’ve learned in psychology and philosophy classes. We cope with a barrage of sensory information by fitting templates and labels that we already know to what we are experiencing. When I look on my desk, I see a book, a phone, sunglasses, and a mouse, but I don’t actually register their details. I assign them labels and move on.

When I was younger, I would sometimes doodle comic strips in class, but I was always frustrated by my mediocre drawing ability. I realized that the important thing was not to convey an image, but an idea. It doesn’t need to look like a cat, it just needs to make you think ‘cat’. There’s a great cat icon on Porcellino pg4.

I also liked McCloud’s thought that the appeal of comics lies in our tendency to relate with iconic representations as ourselves, in the way that we see a face in an electrical socket. When we see a very realistic image of a person, we register it as another, but relate more personally when it’s just the icon (or visual idea) of a person. We think ‘person’ subconsciously and reconcile it with our understanding of ourselves as being one of those person things. No wonder that Tintin, the timeless adventure classic, has been so successful despite the way Herge painstakingly rendered gorgeous landscapes yet drew his hero’s face in just a handful of strokes.


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