How do you read a comic book?

Sometimes it is true: what is right in front of us can present the most complicated of responses…

Have you ever wondered: How do I read a comic book?

Silly? You would be surprised.

Comic books are a wonderful combination, but sometimes complicated and complex, of written text and visual images. Unlike movies, there is no spoken dialogue and moving pictures, this is more like storyboards and the script being packaged and processed for consumption.

So…How does someone read a comic book? Kind of like reading, as Scott McCloud stated in his work Understanding Comics when he says, “Okay, how does this sound? JUXTAPOSED PICTORIAL AND OTHER IMAGES IN DELIBERATIVE SEQUENCE” (9).

Comics are defined, as highlighted by McCloud, with the “intended [purpose] to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” (9). Think about hieroglyphics or the Bayeux Tapestry

This one is kind of easy, it’s mainly words and they run along for 230 ft. depicting the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066…its like a movie without the light and frames to provide one with the illusion of motion.

If one Googles the terms “How to read a comic book?” one can come across an answer that gives you kind of a simple breakdown and is ranked, in terms of difficulty, as “moderately easy.” That’s kind of amusing.

Written by an anonymous author, the answer lays out a short response before some instructions that states that “Reading a comic book actually uses many more advanced reading strategies and can engage people into reading stories who might not normally pick up a book” ( How about that? How about that statement? If there was ever a statement underlined a hidden and overlooked value of comic books, as a medium, this would be it.

“Reading a comic book actually uses many more advanced reading strategies and can engage people into reading stories who might not normally pick up a book”


How does one read a comic book?

1. You will maintain the usual Western approach of reading, reading left to right, from top of the page to the bottom the captions on the page. Pay close attention to the layering of captions to catch the back and forth exchange of characters. (

2. Pay close attention to the word choices used. These stories are compressed in narrative format, leaving more room for the graphics and images. “The writing will be extremely clear and concise” (

3. Approach the images in the sequence with particular care. Like an M. C. Escher work of art.

4. “Dig Deeper into the picture” and look for color (if there is color), shading, and facial expressions. Ways that the images can convey a message without the use of words. Like our friend Superman…

There is a lot of interesting material here to consider. It’s more than what some people assume and often times its far more complicated than many ever imagine…but that’s what makes them awesome!

According to one blog post, one apparently no longer locatable (unfortunate), one can find it said that:

Comic books have undergone radical developments in the slightly less than eight decades since they were introduced. They have been used to tell stories in every conceivable genre, been produced for every conceivable audience, and at times, enjoyed quite a central position in American culture.” (

Yeah, Fredric Wertham…can’t keep us down. The rhetorical power of comic books, like the visual medium, is something some people are “afraid” of because they do not or will not understand it. Then I say its time you try.