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The System of Comics

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This edition of Thierry Groensteen's "The System of Comics" makes available in English a groundbreaking work on comics by one of the medium's foremost scholars. In this book, originally published in France in 1999, Groensteen explains clearly the subtle, complex workings of the medium and its unique way of combining visual, verbal, spatial, and chronological expressions. T This edition of Thierry Groensteen's "The System of Comics" makes available in English a groundbreaking work on comics by one of the medium's foremost scholars. In this book, originally published in France in 1999, Groensteen explains clearly the subtle, complex workings of the medium and its unique way of combining visual, verbal, spatial, and chronological expressions. The author explores the nineteenth-century pioneer Rodolphe Topffer, contemporary Japanese creators, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and modern American autobiographical comics. The System of Comics uses examples from a wide variety of countries including the United States, England, Japan, France, and Argentina. It describes and analyzes the properties and functions of speech and thought balloons, panels, strips, and pages to examine methodically and insightfully the medium's fundamental processes. From this, Groensteen develops his own coherent, overarching theory of comics, a "system" that both builds on existing studies of the "word and image" paradigm and adds innovative approaches of his own. Examining both meaning and appreciation, the book provides a wealth of ideas that will challenge the way scholars approach the study of comics. By emphasizing not simply "storytelling techniques" but also the qualities of the printed page and the reader's engagement, the book's approach is broadly applicable to all forms of interpreting this evolving art. Thierry Groensteen is a comics scholar and translator in Brussels, Belgium. He is the author of "La bande dessinee: Une litterature graphique" and "La construction de la cage," among other books. Bart Beaty is associate professor of communication and culture at the University of Calgary. Nick Nguyen is an archivist at Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario.


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This edition of Thierry Groensteen's "The System of Comics" makes available in English a groundbreaking work on comics by one of the medium's foremost scholars. In this book, originally published in France in 1999, Groensteen explains clearly the subtle, complex workings of the medium and its unique way of combining visual, verbal, spatial, and chronological expressions. T This edition of Thierry Groensteen's "The System of Comics" makes available in English a groundbreaking work on comics by one of the medium's foremost scholars. In this book, originally published in France in 1999, Groensteen explains clearly the subtle, complex workings of the medium and its unique way of combining visual, verbal, spatial, and chronological expressions. The author explores the nineteenth-century pioneer Rodolphe Topffer, contemporary Japanese creators, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and modern American autobiographical comics. The System of Comics uses examples from a wide variety of countries including the United States, England, Japan, France, and Argentina. It describes and analyzes the properties and functions of speech and thought balloons, panels, strips, and pages to examine methodically and insightfully the medium's fundamental processes. From this, Groensteen develops his own coherent, overarching theory of comics, a "system" that both builds on existing studies of the "word and image" paradigm and adds innovative approaches of his own. Examining both meaning and appreciation, the book provides a wealth of ideas that will challenge the way scholars approach the study of comics. By emphasizing not simply "storytelling techniques" but also the qualities of the printed page and the reader's engagement, the book's approach is broadly applicable to all forms of interpreting this evolving art. Thierry Groensteen is a comics scholar and translator in Brussels, Belgium. He is the author of "La bande dessinee: Une litterature graphique" and "La construction de la cage," among other books. Bart Beaty is associate professor of communication and culture at the University of Calgary. Nick Nguyen is an archivist at Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario.

30 review for The System of Comics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    I don't know who to blame for the prose, Groensteen or the translators. But the insights into form are helpful even when the sentences are run-ons.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Guilherme Smee

    Quem estuda quadrinhos e, principalmente quem os estuda academicamente, deve ter O Sistema dos Quadrinhos como uma bibliografia indispensável. Nele, o autor Thierry Groensteen dá um enfoque novo para os quadrinhos: não como literatura, nem como arte, nem como mídia, mas como um sistema, como a linguagem. Para isso, ele divide o livros em três artrologias: a do quadro, a da sequência e da rede. Dessa forma, entendemos como a linguagem dos quadrinhos se articula. Se num primeiro instante a teoria Quem estuda quadrinhos e, principalmente quem os estuda academicamente, deve ter O Sistema dos Quadrinhos como uma bibliografia indispensável. Nele, o autor Thierry Groensteen dá um enfoque novo para os quadrinhos: não como literatura, nem como arte, nem como mídia, mas como um sistema, como a linguagem. Para isso, ele divide o livros em três artrologias: a do quadro, a da sequência e da rede. Dessa forma, entendemos como a linguagem dos quadrinhos se articula. Se num primeiro instante a teoria de Groensteen parece impermeável, ao embarcar na leitura somos levados a compreender o funcionamento dos quadrinhos de uma forma profunda. Simplesmente O LIVRO TEÓRICO sobre quadrinhos que você precisa ler.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Capili April

    This is the 3rd time I've finished reading this relatively slim volume. A hard read--perhaps because of the technical language, perhaps because he engages with other French-language comics theorists, or perhaps it's the English translation-- but rewarding if you persist. And yet in some ways, the things he says are basic: he provides a description of the components of the 9th art, the uses and functions of these elements, and in general argues for an understanding of comics as a language or syst This is the 3rd time I've finished reading this relatively slim volume. A hard read--perhaps because of the technical language, perhaps because he engages with other French-language comics theorists, or perhaps it's the English translation-- but rewarding if you persist. And yet in some ways, the things he says are basic: he provides a description of the components of the 9th art, the uses and functions of these elements, and in general argues for an understanding of comics as a language or system. The most interesting parts are the analyses of particular comics pages (Groensteen often uses European works as examples in this book, but he does refer several times to Watchmen and a few Tintin comics).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    A meticulously laid out, and well thought out, study that brings much to comics studies. Groensteen has established a standard for the study of visual narrative, and one that is invaluable. For English readers, though, there may be the problem of reference. The vast majority of the comics that Groensteen cites are Franco-Belgian - which makes sense - and with whom (I would guess) most English-speaking readers are unfamiliar. Herge is probably the most recognizable artist that Groensteen cites, b A meticulously laid out, and well thought out, study that brings much to comics studies. Groensteen has established a standard for the study of visual narrative, and one that is invaluable. For English readers, though, there may be the problem of reference. The vast majority of the comics that Groensteen cites are Franco-Belgian - which makes sense - and with whom (I would guess) most English-speaking readers are unfamiliar. Herge is probably the most recognizable artist that Groensteen cites, but outside of that, many readers may be lost with the many references that aren't accompanied by figurative examples (and there aren't that many visual examples in the book). Also, the language in the text is rather thick and at times convoluted. I'm not sure whether this is a function of "theory writing" in general, translation issues, or the fact that the French language is structured in ways that, in a "true" translation, make it less flowing to non-French readers. Regardless, wading through the rhetoric is worth it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Asher J. Klassen

    Not that it really needs to be said, but this text is a masterpiece of semiotic theory. It's been a cornerstone of (at least of the anglophone side) our field for nearly a decade, laying the groundwork for most formal and visual analysis undertaken by comics scholars. It's also phenomenally dense, unwieldy, and limited to a view of the comics form that relies on the implicitly linguistic terms on which semiotic theory operates. It is, in short, an imperfect text. It's been both a thrill and a ha Not that it really needs to be said, but this text is a masterpiece of semiotic theory. It's been a cornerstone of (at least of the anglophone side) our field for nearly a decade, laying the groundwork for most formal and visual analysis undertaken by comics scholars. It's also phenomenally dense, unwieldy, and limited to a view of the comics form that relies on the implicitly linguistic terms on which semiotic theory operates. It is, in short, an imperfect text. It's been both a thrill and a hard slog getting through this, uncovering aspects of the 9e art that I had not previously considered and discovering shortcomings where I had not imagined there could be any. I may very well spend the rest of my career unpacking, arguing, and wrestling with this book, and I'm looking forward to it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Norman

    This is the hardest book for me to review. It's French in origin where thankfully comics are taken seriously. However the French also take things VERY seriously indeed. Think semiotics meets orthography with a splash of "spatio-topical" system. A really heavy book but really interesting. I wish I knew more about the subjects he uses to disprove current inadequate definitions of comics. Why is it called 'system' of comics - because no definition is adequate! A must for true scholars; others stick This is the hardest book for me to review. It's French in origin where thankfully comics are taken seriously. However the French also take things VERY seriously indeed. Think semiotics meets orthography with a splash of "spatio-topical" system. A really heavy book but really interesting. I wish I knew more about the subjects he uses to disprove current inadequate definitions of comics. Why is it called 'system' of comics - because no definition is adequate! A must for true scholars; others stick with "Critical approaches to comics: theories and methods" edited by Matthew J. Smith and Randy Duncan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I don't necessarily feel the need to weigh in on theories of comics - what they are, how they work - but it's still something I think about, especially when I'm teaching. Good food for thought in this book, even if it's not for the casual comics reader or maker. I liked this line quite a bit: "Comics has the unique capacity to be able to illustrate with the same force of conviction the 'real,' the imagined, the thought, and the felt - and in the transition from one panel to the next it can glide I don't necessarily feel the need to weigh in on theories of comics - what they are, how they work - but it's still something I think about, especially when I'm teaching. Good food for thought in this book, even if it's not for the casual comics reader or maker. I liked this line quite a bit: "Comics has the unique capacity to be able to illustrate with the same force of conviction the 'real,' the imagined, the thought, and the felt - and in the transition from one panel to the next it can glide smoothly from an objective to a subjective register."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    Good if you're a theorist or academic, but is otherwise pretty difficult to understand. The practicality of the book, at least for me, was minimal. I was looking to use it in a essay, but would struggle with it for hours on end and only extract a little information. What I would have liked is a reference manual on how to de-construct a comic book; what to look for. In short, this books actually makes me not want to read comic books, as it sort of takes the "fun" out of it. Would not recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    The French take their comics (Bande dessinée) very seriously and this study, by one of the most prolific scholars on the subject, lays the foundation for a semiotic analysis of comics. Among the contributions of this book are the postulates that the basic interpretive unit of comics is the frame (not the line or the word) and that the medium is characterized, not by a blend of text and image, but by a struggle between figuration and narrativity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    the gift

    070715: this is an excellent theoretical exploration of the graphic mode of storytelling, perhaps too dependent on familiarity, close inspection, of Belgian and French work. this inspires another look at some, an engaging, philosphical investigation of this ninth art, how it differs from lit, from film, from non-narrative art...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karna Mustaqim

    Buku teori komik dari pendekatan semiologis. Sepertinya kita akan segera mendisiplinkan komik sbg ilmu tersendiri, tentu saja bukan setahun dua ini, mungkin setidaknya dalam 5-10 tahun mendatang studi komik akan mendapatkan kajian yang sangat menantang. =)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim Jones

    This is about as good and concrete of a theory of how comics works as you're going to get, however, in the grand French theoretical tradition, it also coins about 8 new words per page and seems insistent on being difficult.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A little dense with the grammar but once you read through it the text is very rewarding to understanding why comics are a diverse medium that deserve the respect from the art and literary communities.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Elizabeth

    This is a super fascinating book if you're interested in exploring comics on a deeper level. The intro was a little dense, and hard to read, but I enjoyed the rest of it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Livre excellent sur le domaine de la bande dessinée qui regorge d'exemple pour démontrer ses propos adéquoitement.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Press

    Finally a book applying semiotics to comics and I'm really glad I read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Read intro and some sections from the middle; good but theoretically dense!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Interesting things to say, used it for my thesis. Sometimes, a little aloof / difficult to read, as with most works of criticism.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  20. 4 out of 5

    Guillaume

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mathieu Lachance

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christian

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Harris

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sam Cason

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bittencourt

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Krueger

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nathanael Quashie

  29. 4 out of 5

    De-ciphered

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Detora

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