''Understanding Comics'', and its follow-ups ''Reinventing Comics'' and ''Making Comics'', are a critically acclaimed non-fiction comic book series by Creator/{{Scott McCloud}}. More than that, ''Understanding Comics'' is a nine-part comic book about comics.

Essentially an essay about comics as a medium and the industry itself, the books are among the first that seriously analyzed comics in their own right. It has since become a common academic resource, being included in compilations like the ''Norton Reader'' despite its non-traditional style.

It was one of the first books to define the notion of "closure" or, rather, what happens between panels. That just as a reader's mind must fill in details when reading a book, so too must they fill in the blank space between panels. (exhibit A: Panel 1- ''Angry man raises axe while someone in front of him shouts NO!'' Panel 2- ''[[GoryDiscretionShot Loud, wet scream from a building in a very long shot]]''. Implication: Someone got killed, and the reader has mentally created the way in which it happened.)

The book's discussion on Icons is also a contributor to modern views on comics; that something or someone drawn in a simpler style makes them easier to identify with. See NoCartoonFish.

Another recurring theme is the "dichotomy" of words and pictures. Comics are a unique medium because the words and pictures needn't always go in the same direction, and that each one serves different, but not unique, tasks of telling a story.

!!Tropes used and discussed by this series of books:
* AspectMontage: [=McCloud=] identifies this, and the [[DecompressedComic slow pacing]] it creates, as a key difference between manga and western comics.
* AuthorAvatar: A cartoony version of [=McCloud=] acts as the narrator.
* AuthorGuestSpot: The "guest" part is debatable since Scott is the main lecturer.
* AuthorTract: A non-political one, and rather well-executed at that. The three books are essentially long essays in comic book format.
* {{Briffits and Squeans}}: [=McCloud=] talks about symbols in both Western Comics and in Manga, and references Mort Walker's book in his notes. He specifically shows plewds and waftrons as examples. He doesn't have to use Walker's terms in the book though, because he can draw them instead.
* FourFingeredHands: The narrator had these initially in ''Understanding Comics'', but ''Making Comics'' graduated his design to include an extra finger.
* IconicOutfit:
** [[{{In-Universe}} The chapter on color mentions]] how a superhero's color scheme becomes inextricably linked with the character in the reader's mind.
** [=McCloud=]'s own ''ComicBook/{{Zot}}'' T-shirt, glasses, and plaid jacket also count. He keeps at least some of these every time he changes form to everything including semi-abstract rectangles, Franchise/TheIncredibleHulk, and a yin-yang.
* InfiniteCanvas: First proposed in ''Reinventing Comics'' as a stylistic choice unique to webcomics. [=McCloud=] has produced Infinite Canvas-style comics himself on his website. However, the vast majority of webcomics avoid doing this, because most of their authors want their work to be eventually published in physical books.
* MetafictionalDevice: [=McCloud=] uses a ''lot'' of them, usually to make a point about how the reader's experience is shaped by the {{Paratext}} of a given work.
* {{Microtransactions}}: In ''Reinventing Comics'', [=McCloud=] advocates using them as a way to monetize content for webcomics. In practice, this is almost never done by webcomics, but mainstream comics publishers are now trying to use this business model to sell e-book editions of print comics.
* {{Mukokuseki}}: While he doesn't mention it by name or even in the context of manga ''per se'', Scott does give his insight into what he thinks is the operating principle behind this trope: When a person's image is presented in an iconic, abstract fashion, it encourages the reader to identify with that character and see part of themselves in him or her.
* NarratingTheObvious: Referred to as "dual-specific panels", where the text on a panel reinforces the image within it.
* NationalStereotypes: As an example of using body language to show things about a character, Mr. [=McCloud=] shows us a [[UsefulNotes/BonnieScotland jovial]] ManInAKilt with his arms wide open contrasted with [[BritishStuffiness a man in a bowler hat standoffishly clutching an umbrella]].
* NerdGlasses
* NoCartoonFish: A large chunk of ''Understanding'' discusses this, and a bit of his ideas are in the article on it.
* NoFourthWall: Because this is a lecture in comic form, this is a given.
* NoOntologicalInertia: Scott mentions that he used to believe the world behind him would to stop existing the moment he looked in another direction, and came back again before he could turn around.
* OlderThanTheyThink (InUniverse): In ''Understanding Comics'', Scott challenges the view that comics are merely OlderThanRadio--he defines comics as a series of juxtaposed images to be read in sequence--and makes a case for things like William Hogarth's serial paintings, [[OlderThanSteam a 16th-century]] Central American manuscript, [[OlderThanPrint the Twelfth-Century]] Bayeux Tapestry, and name-drops the [[OlderThanFeudalism Second-Century]] Trajan's column. He even gives an example of Egyptian tomb paintings, making comics [[OlderThanDirt Older Than ]]''[[OlderThanDirt Dirt]]!''
* OnlySixFaces:
** He warns against having too many samey character designs. The example he uses? A bunch of identical guys all yelling, "IAmSpartacus," of course!
** On the other hand, a simplistic art style as a deliberate choice helps the process of abstraction and, in the case of characters, makes their emotions easier to read and easier to empathize with.
* {{Opaque Lenses}}: Scott [=McCloud=] wears these, doubling as NerdGlasses.
** {{Lampshaded}} (to prove a point) when he takes them off and he has no eyes.
* PaintingTheMedium: The author often reinforces his points about how a certain style or technique can convey a certain meaning by demonstrating the technique in question.
* {{Self Demonstrating Article}}: The entire book is done in this style. For example, the chapter on color is the only one drawn in color, and when talking about how [[NoCartoonFish drawing people in a simpler style makes them easier to identify with]], he uses his own AuthorAvatar as a talking point.
* SelfDeprecation: The final page of ''Understanding Comics'' makes fun of [=McCloud=] for being overenthusiastic about his ideas, and ''Making'' has a jab at his weight gain.
* {{Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue}}: A major theme is how comic creators use words to complement or comment on pictures. Scott [=McCloud=] mentions that the extent to which words impact the pictures varies. He sees written words as a later "evolution" of pictures, and places both on his own sliding scale, the famous "Big Triangle," which [[{{Exactly What it Says on the Tin}} is both big and a triangle]].
* SpeechBubbleCensoring: Does this at one point to cover up the "naughty bits" of Michelangelo's ''Art/{{David}}''.
* {{The Treachery of Images}}: Discussed (mostly in chapter 2) and a major theme of the work. The actual painting is used as an example, though itís really ten printed copies of a drawing of a painting of a pipe.
* TrueArt: [[invoked]] [=McCloud=] attempts to circumvent the subjectivity of questions such as "What is art?" by proposing an extremely broad definition of art: "Any human activity which [[DoingItForTheArt doesn't grow out of either survival or reproduction]]."
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: One part [[{{In-Universe}} of the book]] discusses an entertaining aversion to demonstrate the importance of context: An enormous square of canvas with two tiny right triangles at the center of the top and bottom edges. Its name? [[spoiler:''The Big N'', which is in fact precisely what the painting is.]]
* UnmovingPlaid: Scott [=McCloud=]ís AuthorAvatar wears this on his jacket.
** In the first two books, the size of the boxes never change no matter how big [=McCloud=] is drawn. ''Nothing'' about them does. This changes in ''Making'', and the boxes are also seen being stretched and squished in proportion to him at one point. There's even a panel demonstrating perspective where the boxes on his sleeves change directions to accommodate his arms.