So this weekend, I was in a comic shop. As I do whenever I go into any kind of book-related store, I started wracking my brain for potential purchases. This time 'round, I managed to come up with (among other things) Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics . I'd heard good things about it, so figured I'd buy a copy.
Understanding Comics is, essentially, a piece of comics criticism (in comic form) -- but that's "criticism", you understand, in the theoretical sense, not the "Boy, last month's Superman sucked" sense. It's the kind of criticism that starts off by looking for a working definition of "comics", which then segues into the depiction of space and time in comics, the universalizing powers of abstraction, and so forth.
It sounds a bit abstruse when I put it that way, but it's actually enormously approachable -- a gripping read, in fact. It's lucid, informative, thought-provoking... and I suspect that the people who most need to read it never will. Because, see, one of the main theses of the book is that comics are their own art form that shouldn't be viewed as a bastardization of writing and art, but should be viewed as a separate art form with its own conventions and axes of quality; and while that strikes people like me (who read and enjoy good comics) as a nearly self-obvious proposition, it'd be striking and novel to the sorts of people who'd never consider picking up this comic book in the first place.