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Narrative in Comics

Author(s): Henry John Pratt


Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 67, No. 1, Special Issue: The Poetics,
Aesthetics, and Philosophy of Narrative (Winter, 2009), pp. 107-117
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics
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HENRY JOHNPRATT

Narrativein Comics

I. INTRODUCTION largelynew to the philosophyof art: How does


narrativeworkin comics?Do comicsoffernarra-
Nearlyall prominent commentators on comicsas- tivestructures and strategiesthatare distinctive?
sertthat narrativity is one of the definingchar- about them?7
If so, whatis so distinctive
acteristicsof the medium.David Kunzle requires To begin,considerthewaysinwhichwe attempt
comics to "tell a storywhichis both moral and to understandthe narrativesof comics.We say
topical."1RobertHarveypositsthatcomicsare (in thatwe "read" comics,butwhatdoes thisamount
part) a "narrative toldby sequence pictures."2 to? At a certainlevel, the notion makes plenty
a of
David Carrierdefinescomics as "a narrativese- of sense. While thereare wordlesscomics,most
quence withspeechballoons."3GregHaymanand comics contain words in the formof word bal-
I view comics as "juxtaposed picturesthatcom- loons, captions,or sound effects.8 The words in
prise a narrative."4 And though Scott McCloud comics a
suggest literary narrative dimension:the
says that comics consist in "images in deliberate narrative features of comics are constructed(at
sequence," his subsequentdiscussionand choice least in part) in the same way as worksof litera-
of examplesclearlyshow thathe has narrativein ture.In the second sectionof thisarticle,I take a
mindas thechiefsequentialorganizingprinciple.5 close look at the literarydimensionand the ways
Perhapsit is a mistaketo claimthatnarrativity in whichit shapes our experiencesof narrativein
is an essentialfeatureofcomics.As Aaron Meskin comics.
argues,justas thereare nonnarrative filmsand lit- The literarydimensionis not all there is to
erature, nonnarrative comics ought to be possible comics, however. In addition to their words,
as well.6Meskin may be right;I wish to take no comicsare composedof pictures.Indeed, I would
standon hispositionhere.But evenifsomecomics argue, comics are essentiallypictorial.Without
the of
are not narrative, process reading a comic pictures,an artworkis of some kind other than
stillrequiresus to castabout fora unifying device. comics.The pictures(as we willsee) are crucialto
Because our typicalexperiencesof comicsare of thenarrativeconstruction of comics:wordsalone
narratives, the defaultphenomenologyof comics will not do all the narrativework.This suggests
readingentails lookingfor the storiesthat they thatcomics have both literaryand pictorialnar-
tell. rative dimensions:it is a hybridart formthat
For these reasons,I thinkit is plausible to as- employsnarrativestrategiescloselyconnectedto
sume that comics is a predominantlynarrative literature,on the one hand, and other pictorial
medium.It is curious,then,thatthe topicof nar- narrativemedia, on the other.The pictorialdi-
rativein comicsis so unexplored.Or maybeit is mensionis thesubjectof thethirdsection.9
not so curious at all; comics are intriguingand When speaking of artisticmedia that con-
increasingly prominent, in
but general, sustained vey a narrativein part throughpicturesand in
philosophical reflectionon them has been rare. partthroughwords,the obvious comparisonis of
(Perhaps thisis because comics are often viewed comicsto film.Like comics,filmusuallycontains
as sucha lowbrowartform.)Thisarticle,then,will words (which,followingthe advent of sound in
to
be myeffort investigate some questions thatare film,are typicallyheard insteadof read) but is a

2009TheAmerican forAesthetics
Society

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108 ThePoetics, andPhilosophy
Aesthetics, ofNarrative

primarily visualmedium witha prominent is oftencontainedin a box or in a captionout-


picto-
rialelement.10 In film, boththepictures and the
sidethepanel.In general,thissortof textdoes
wordsgenerally combineinproducing thenarra-
notconveydialogue, butservesas narration- itis
tive.ForthisandotherreasonsI willraiselater,it thevoiceofwhoever is tellingthestory, whether
might be plausibly assertedthatcomicsandfilm oneofthecharacters oranimpersonal narrator.11
employverysimilarnarrative strategies.Thatis,
Third,thereare soundeffects. Theseusuallyoc-
comicstellstoriesin thesamewaythatfilmsdo, curinsidethepanel,and are drawnin a type-
butindifferent visualmedia. facethatreflects visuallythetimbre andvolume
Thiscomparison withfilmwillallowustofocus ofthesoundthattheyaresupposedto portray.12
ourattention onthisarticle's finalissue,discussed
Andfinally, pictures ofwordscanoccurwithin a
in thefourth section.Do comicsjustcobbleto- panel,when,forexample, a streetsignorbookis
gethersomekindofnarrative structure byusing
depicted.
thetoolsofrelated(and,I shouldpointout,more The wordswithincomicshavean interesting
philosophically prominent) artisticmedia,or,in-
relationship to thediegesis, thestoryworldthat
stead,do theyhavedistinctive narrative is "real"to andhencecanbe experienced
features bythe
ortechniques thattranscend mereamalgamation? characters whopopulateit.Whena street number
I shallarguethatcomicsultimately usesitsownora postcard is depictedina comic,itis diegetic.
typeofnarration: a distinctivelycomicnarrativeNotonlythereader,butalso thecharacters can
form.By seeingwhatit is thatcomicshave to see it.However, onlythereadercansee theother
offer inthisregard, we willachievea greater typesofwordsthatoccurin comics.Thecharac-
un-
derstanding of thenatureofcomicsas a unique terscannotsee wordballoons,soundeffects, or
andimportant artform, and,in addition, narration
gesture (leavingasidecaseswhere, forexample,
toward anexplanation ofthepowerandappealof comicsartists playfully havetheir charactersinter-
comicsincontemporary culture. actwithwordballoons:breaking them, usingthem
One quickdisclaimer maybe warranted tofloat,andso on).Butthesefeatures
at this arenotex-
point.Throughout thisarticle,manyoftheclaims actlynondiegetic. Thoughcharacters cannotsee
I makeare goingto be pitchedat a ratherhigh speechballoons, theycanhearthewordsinthem,
levelof generality. My aim is to investigate the
and presumably each character is awareof the
mostprominent narrative functions ofthecomicscontents ofhisorherownthought balloons.When
medium (bothinitsnewspaper anditsbookform, therearesoundeffects, characters canhearthem,
though I willexplain some differences between
though thesoundsheardwithin thediegesismay
thesewherewarranted) and to showhowthese notbe exactlythesameas thesoundsdepicted
aresimilar toanddifferent fromrelatedmedia.It in words."Kablammo!"maybe onomatopoetic,
shouldbe notedthatcomicsare verydiversein butit cannotcapturetheexactsoundof an ex-
style,andmanycomicsartists showno hesitationplosion.And characters mayevenbe awareof
in exploring and expanding theacceptednorms narration, as is thecasewhereone ofthecharac-
oftheirartform.I do notwantto implythatall tersisalsothenarrator, orintheunusualsituation
and onlythenarratives of comicshavethefea- wherea character reactsdirectlytoanimpersonal
turesuponwhichI concentrate- merely thatthis
narrator.
offeatures
is a cluster particularly centralto and In general, theliterary dimension ofcomicsis
dominant inthemedium. visuallynondiegetic, so itdetermines notwhatthe
characters of thestorysee, butwhattheyhear.
Moreover, becausea comicis silentin actuality,
II. THE LITERARY DIMENSION thewordsitcontains aretheonlywaythereader
hasofaccessing soundsthatarepartofthenarra-
Wordsarefoundincomicsinfourdifferent forms. tive.Thepresence ofwordsincomicsallowsusto
The mostobvious,and the mostcharacteristic follownarratives thatmight otherwise be inacces-
of themedium, is thewordballoon:thespeech sible.Without theliterary dimension, forexample,
or thoughts of a character are presentedwithin conversations wouldhaveto occurin somekind
thepanelwithsomepictorial thatcon- ofsemaphore.
indication To theextent thatdialoguedrivesa
nectsthemdirectionally to thatcharacter.Sec- story,whichisoftenconsiderable giventhelimita-
ond,we findtextthatis notinballoonform, but tionsofusingstaticpictures forexposition, words

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Pratt Narrative
inComics 109

areindispensable intheconstruction ofnarrative narration maytakemuchmoretimefortheviewer


incomics. to readthrough thanthetimethatoccursin the
Throughthought balloonsand the narrative panelinwhichtheyarelocated.Wearesupposed
textthatdoes notoccurin balloons,theliterary to understand thatthought balloonsoccurfaster
dimension ofcomicsprovides thereaderwithac- thanspeechballoons. Andwearesupposedtoun-
cess to characters in waysthatcannoteasilybe derstand thatnarrative textoutsideballoonsis in
achievedpictorially. A skilledartistcan convey somewayremovedfromthetimeframeof the
muchabouta character's stateof mindby de- panel.Suchtextdoesnotusually determine panel
pictinghis or herbodylanguageand facialex- duration becauseitis an accountoftheactionsof
pression,butsuchbehavioral indicators havetheir thatpanelfromanother temporal perspective.
Wordsallowthereaderto gainefficiently Thereare othercurioustemporal
limits. features as-
a muchmoredeterminate knowledge of a charac- sociated with speech balloons. Speech balloons
ter'smentalstatesthancanbe provided through could indicatea conversation betweentwo or
a singleimage.Thoughtballoonsand narrative morepeople,each one speakingafterthenext,
text,ineffect,allowfora degreeofnarrative om- andourexperience ofactualconversations tellsus
nisciencethatis commonin literature butnearly roughly howlongthiswouldtake.Buta panelcan
impossible usingpictures alone.13 also represent a numberof simultaneous utter-
Theliterary dimension isalsocrucialinthegov- ances,multiple conversations occurring simulta-
ernanceof thepassageof timein comicsnarra- neously, orevenseparateconversations, ofwhich
tives.As we shallsee inthenextsection, pictures one is supposed to transpire aftertheother.16The
in comicsalso regulatetime.But thereis some- diegeticexchange represented bythewordsmay
thingparticularly interesting thatwordscan do eventakemuchmoretimethanis possiblegiven
thatpicturescannot:textcandetermine thedura- thephysical activity depictedin thepanel.17 The
tionofa singlepanel.A goodwaytodemonstrate onlywayreadershaveofmakingsenseofthese
thispointis to thinkaboutwhathappenswhen possibilities isthrough thevisualskilloftheartist,
a panelcontainsno wordswhatsoever, a device whoneedstoguideourperception oftheliterary
usedparticularly wellbyWillEisnerin hisSpirit dimension the
through pictorial placement ofeach
comics.14"Silence," as McCloudnotes, "hastheef- balloon.
fectofremoving a panelfromanyparticular span Infact, theprominence ofwordballoonsshapes
oftime."15A singleimagewithout textisambigu- thereader'sexperience of thenarrative in ways
ous:whileitcouldrepresent just one instant ofa thatexceed management diegetic frames.
of time
causalsequence, itcouldalsodepictan unmoving Even thoughcomicsis a hybrid artform, words
setofobjectsinanyspanoftimeup toeternity. seemto be thereader'sprimary focusof atten-
Whenwordsare added,however, thepassage tion.As LawrenceAbbotthas illustrated in an
oftimewithin thepartofthenarrative encapsu- insightful diagram, the reader'seyestypically play
latedbya panelis regulated, guiding thereader's first overthewordsofa comic,thenpassquickly
attentionandinterpretation. Forsoundeffects, we overthepictures (often justtoseewhich character
extrapolatefrom ourexperiences ofsoundsinthe a wordballoonis associatedwith)beforemoving
realworld-thepanellastsat leastas longas the on to thenextpanel.18 Thereare certainly other
soundto whichtheeffect wordrefers. Similarly, waysof appreciating and understanding comics;
whencharacters fictionally utter thewordswefind pictures, forinstance, can be savoredto no end.
inspeechballoons, wegetan ideaoftheduration But,ifI maydrawa conclusion basedon a rather
oftheirutterances fromourexperiences ofhow smallsample, consultation ofmyownexperiences
longittakestosaysomething. ofcomicsandthoseofmyacquaintances indicates
However, theregulation oftimewithin a panel thatthisis hownarrative uptaketypically pro-
bya comic'sliterary elements is oftenmuchmore ceeds,especially on a firstreading. Thewordsof
complicated. Humanthoughts canbe moreorless a comic,ifthisisright, playa crucialroleindeter-
instantaneous,soincomicswefindwhatmayseem mining thepaceat whichwecanreadcomicsand
likea strange phenomenon: a character can un- theefficiency withwhichthisis possible.
a
dergo verycomplicated thought process while Attention to thepaceofnarrative comprehen-
experiencing an event ofvery short duration, such sion of comics also pointsto thegreatextentto
as beingpunched. In effect,thought balloonsand whichit is a literary medium.In actuality, film

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110 The Poetics,Aesthetics,and Philosophyof Narrative

elapses in time,and one cannotview a filmfaster word balloons: while literary, theyare also part
or slower(at least,notwithoutfrisky use ofthere- of a picture,a part whose placementis veryde-
motecontrol).Comicsare temporallystatic:while liberatelyselectedby the artist.The wordsthem-
thewordsplace constraints on thetimeittakesto selveswillnot allow thereaderto determinewho
read comics,these constraintsare largelyakin to is speaking.Instead, the proximityof word bal-
those we findin otherliterarymedia like novels. loons to the charactersto whose utterancesthey
The pace ofreadinga comicis literary,constructed correspond,togetherwiththe pictorialdirection-
by the reader.Because of the literarydimension, alityimplied by a balloon's "tail," cue us in to
the reader's eyes and mindplay over the succes- the identityof the speaker.Wordballoons,in ef-
sion of panels at the reader's own speed, rather fect,are an elegantpictorialequivalentofthe"she
than at film'srelentlesstwenty-four framesper said" deviceemployedin literature. But thereis a
second. bit more to it thanthat:word balloons may also,
The literaryaspectsof narrativein comicsare, throughtheirstyleor even color, give pictorial
as we have nowseen,crucialto our waysofunder- cues to the readeras to the mentalstatesand at-
standingcharactersand the narrativesin which titudesof theirutterers(somethingmuch more
they are embedded, particularlytemporalrela- cumbersometo conveyin words).WaltKellywas
tionswithinthestory.And the literarydimension a masterof this technique:by representinghis
seems to shape our readingprocesses.One might P. T. Bridgeportcharacter'swordballoons as cir-
wonder,then,what the picturesare for,anyway. cus posters,Kellyleftno doubtaboutBridgeport's
Given that the literaryelementsare already in comicalpomposityand self-aggrandizement.
place, are the picturesof comicsjust narratively In addition to allowing the reader to deter-
inertbutcharmingaccessories,likeJohnTenniel's mine what is spoken or thoughtby whom,the
drawingsforAlice in Wonderland?Abbott,whose picturethatconstitutesa singlepanel of comics
analysesof thefunctionof wordsin comicsare so has straightforward narrativefunctionsof three
insightful, seems to claim as much: "the subor- kinds.
dinationof the pictorialto the literaryis one of First,a picturecan establishthesettingor scene
the subtlestrealitiesof the medium the comic of a storyand can guide the reader's perception
artdrawing,as a narrativeelement,mustconform ofspatialrelationships withinit.Like establishing
to an orderof perceptionthatis essentiallyliter- shotsin film,some panels serveto givethereader
ary."19I thinkthatsuch views are misplaced;to a sense of the place in whichthe storywillbe oc-
see why,we mustdelve moredeeplyintotheroles curring.22 And panels can show how characters
thepicturesactuallydo playin comics. and otherphysicalobjectsare arrayedin diegetic
space, enablingus to understandthatBatman is
punchingratherthan being punched,thatChar-
III. THE PICTORIAL DIMENSION lie Brown's kite is stuckin a tree,thatthe train
is arrivingat the stationinstead of leaving,and
In workingout theparticularsof thepictorialnar- so on.
rative dimensionof comics,one initialpoint to Second,we acquirenarrativeinformation from
note is that (as I have argued elsewhere) with- the artist'sstyle.The waysin whichthewordbal-
out pictures,there are no comics.20An artwork loons and sound effectsare drawn,togetherwith
composed exclusivelyout of wordsor othernon- characterdesign,inking,and color choices (if ap-
pictorialsymbols,even if these are containedin plicable), serve importantstorytelling purposes.
a sequence of panels,may be comic-like,sharing They allow the artistto create a mood, give the
manyof the same featuresas comics,but it is not emotionalcontextof a scene or story,increaseor
a comic. If I am rightthatcomics are essentially decrease thedramaof a moment,and so on.23
pictorial,it would be quite odd indeed ifthe pic- Third,as I mentionedearlierin passing,a panel
turesplayedno significant role in theirnarratives; can informthe readerpictoriallyabout the emo-
ifthestoryofa comiccouldbe toldjustwithwords, tional and othermentalstates of the characters
therewould be no point in makingit a comic in containedin it,withoutthe use of words.We can
thefirstplace.21 telljust bylookingthattheThingis angry.In fact,
The picturesof comics add somethingto their practicallyspeaking,words may be exceedingly
narratives, but whatis it,exactly?Thinkagain of awkwardin such cases: by and large,it is better

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Pratt Narrativein Comics 111

andmoresubtleforan artistto be able to show we are also interested in temporalelements.I


thattheThingis angrythanitis fortheartistto could coin an entirely new term,such as 'sol-
havehimsay,"I'm angry!" dering'or 'bridging.' But becauseof McCloud's
Nowthatwe havea graspoftherolethatpic- prominence, 'closure'has becomeverystandard,
turescan playin determining thenarrative con- and I do notwantto confusetheissuebycoin-
tentof an individualpanel,we are in a posi- inga newtermto applyto a conceptalreadyin
tionto discussa muchmorecomplicated issue. play.
Comicsare,paradigmatically, a sequenceofpan- So,fornow,I shalluse 'closure'to referto the
els.24As opposedto film,theimagesequences mentalprocesswhereby readersofcomicsbridge
presented incomicsarespatially juxtaposed. That thetemporaland spatialincompleteness of the
is,theimagesofcomicstakeup (virtually, in the diegesisthatoccursin thegutters betweenpan-
caseofsomeWebcomics)different spaceson the els,thereby participating in thecreationof nar-
pagesimultaneously, whereastheimagesoffilm rative. Processesthatareverysimilar toclosure-
takeup thesamespace-thearea on whichthey perhapstoosimilar, as weshallseeinSectionIV-
arescreened- consecutively.So howis itthatthe occurwithrespectto othernarrative media.But
readerofcomicsis able to makesenseofa nar- beforemakingthosecomparisons, I wantto ex-
rativethatis displayedin multiple spaces,all of aminemorecloselythefashionin whichclosure
whichexistat thesametime?Morespecifically, allowsthereadertousethepictorial dimension of
whatis theprocessthatweusetocombinepanels a comictoforma narrative.
toform a continuousnarrative,acrossthe"gutter" I havealreadydescribedsomewaysin which
(thespacethatliesbetweenpanels)? whatis represented within a panelallowsforthe
In the(comparatively scarce)literature on the reader'sunderstanding oftemporal andspatialre-
narrative of
techniques comics, discussionhas fo- But
lations. the sequence panels constitute
of that
cusedon whathas cometo be called,following a comic,combined withthereader'sability touse
McOoud,closure. McClouddefines closureas the closure,can conveyfarmorenarrative informa-
everyday processof"observing thepartsbutper- tionthancan be achievedthrough a singlepic-
ceivingthe whole."25
Then he describes how he be- ture. is
(This why a comic is a much betternar-
lievesitworksincomics:"In thelimboofthegut- rativemediumthana painting or a photograph.)
ter,humanimagination takestwoseparateimages Because a specificexamplewillbe usefulhere,
and transforms themintoa singleidea. Nothing I shallillustrate thispointwithone of themost
is seen betweenthetwopanels,butexperience famouscomicsof all time,ActionComicsNo. 1,
tellsyou something mustbe there Closure written byJerry SiegelanddrawnbyJoelShuster:
allows us to connect[otherwise unconnected] thefirst appearanceofSuperman.28
moments and mentally construct a continuous, Consideragainthe passageof timewithina
unified reality."26 comic'sdiegesis. Wehaveseenthata singlepicture
McCloud'schoiceof 'closure'is unfortunate. canrepresent morethanan instant oftime,espe-
The termalreadyhas a long historyof being ciallywhenthereare wordsinvolved.In Action
usedto referto theresolution of narrative ten- ComicsNo. 1, panelsixty-five depictsSuperman
sion,notto mention thatitis a technicaltermin holding a carabovehishead.29 Weknowthattime
epistemology. However,I have reluctantly de- elapsesbecauseone oftheoccupants ofthecaris
cidedtoperpetuate itsuseinthiscontext, forsev- abletosay"YE-EOW."Buta sequenceofpanels
eralreasons. Themostobviousalternative istoap- has thepotentialto represent muchmoretime:
propriate, fromfilmtheory, the notionof suture, unlessa story is very short indeed, itwillnotbe
wherein theviewerbrings orderandunity toper- wellservedbya singlepanel(a manyelling "YE-
ceptionthrough an unconscious processofmen- EOW" is notmuchof a story).Mostoften,the
tally"sewing"thefilmtogether fromdisparate amountoftimeelapsingbetweenpanelsis short:
elements. Butthisoptionimports withitbothan a panelwillportray an eventor sceneimmedi-
abundanceof controversial psychoanalytic bag- atelyfollowing itspredecessor. In panelsixty-six,
gage(whichmanywouldpreferto avoid)and a we see thatSuperman hasrotatedthecarandits
controversy overtheroleoftheshot/reverse-shotoccupants arefalling out.30Verybasicabilitiesof
devicein film.27 Moreover, infilmtheory, suture closureare presumed here,butclosureoperates
refersprimarily to spatialelements;in comics, nonetheless. The car depictedin thelaterofthe

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112 The Poetics,Aesthetics,and Philosophyof Narrative

two panels is the same color and make as in the enoughtimeto leave work,changeclothes,go to
earlierpanel, and experiencetellsthereaderthat theball,and so on.
itwouldbe odd indeedforSupermanto putdown The amountof diegetictimethatcan occurbe-
theformercar,finda similarone, and liftitabove tweenpanels is limitedonlyby the artist'simag-
his head in thesame way.No: closuretellsus that inationand technique,togetherwiththe reader's
theseare depictionsofthesame car,justa moment abilityto followtemporalchangesthroughtheex-
in timelater. ercise of closure.In general,more diegetictime
In Westerncomics,thereader'sabilitiesof clo- transpiring in the gutterimpliesmore potential
sureare forthemostpartemployedto makesense difficultyin followinga comic's narrative.Unless
of such transitions.McCloud, in fact,has spent an artistintendsthestoryto be difficult,he or she
considerableeffortcategorizingthe panel transi- is goingto have to leave an abundance of picto-
tionsof comicsintovarioustypes;those in which rial and verbalcues (such as establishingshotsor
onlya smallperiod of timeelapses seem to com- narrativetext)to make closuresuccessfulin such
pose roughly90 percentof cases.31I suspectthat circumstances.
thisis the basic strategyof manycomicsbecause We have seen that the diegetictime thatcan
ofour largelylinearand minimallygappypercep- elapse between panels varies a good deal, but I
tion of time in the real world.We naturallyex- do notwantto givetheimpressionthattimemust
pect images that followeach other immediately elapse. In fact,one of the mostintriguing tempo-
in nondiegeticspace to followeach otherimmedi- ralrelationsbetweenpanelsis whatMcCloud calls
atelyin diegetictime. an "aspect-to-aspect"transition, whereinconsec-
When a comic's artistwantsto tell a storythat utive panels show simultaneousaspects of the
spans a significant diegetictime,thereare several same scene fromdifferent perspectives.34
Aspect-
options. One is to producea vastnumberofpanels to-aspecttransitionsare relativelyuncommonin
that are closely related. This is the strategywe Westerncomics,but verycommonin Manga, the
see in continuitycomics in newspapers,such as Japanesestyleof comics.35Theirpredominantef-
Mark Trailand MaryWorth.Thoughparceledout fect is to give the reader a bettersense of the
in three-or four-panelincrements, these stories space in whichthenarrativetakesplace. Through
stretchon indefinitely, and thereis no limitto the the abilityto perceivewhatclosuretellsus is the
numberofpanels theycan consume.Comic books same scene frommultipleviewpoints,we gain a
are different; thestandardis thirty-two pages long richerunderstandingof setting,becomingmore
(eleven pages of whichare advertisements), and firmlyand profoundlyconnectedto the diegesis
the Supermanstoryin Action Comics No. 1 is a thanis otherwisepossible.
scantthirteen pages,withonlyninety-eight panels. A numberof additionaltechniqueshave been
If the artistswho make these comicswantto tell developed in Westerncomicsand Manga alike to
substantialstoriesthatare at least minimallyself- give the successionof panels anothercrucialnar-
contained,theyneed to allowmorethanan instant rativeability:to portrayspatialas well as tempo-
of diegetictimeto elapse betweenpanels. ral relationships. A singlepanel cannotrepresent
One mechanismforproducingthiseffectis pri- space from more than one perspective,unlessitis,
marilyverbal: narrativetext can indicatethat a atypically, a pictureof a numberof pictures.We
panel happens "later" or "the followingday."32 need a sequence in orderto have a narrativethat
But picturescan do the same workor make the spans different scenes in different
spaces. Simply
narrativetextredundant.In panel forty-six ofAc- getting characters fromone location to another
tion Comics No. 1, Superman,dressed as Clark has to be done throughmultiplepanels, which,
Kent, is conversingwith Lois Lane as she sits again,are woven togetherby the readerthrough
in frontof a typewriter at the Daily Planet; in the processof closure.Readers intuitively under-
panel forty-seven, thetwo ofthemdance at a ball, standthatwhena characteris foundin frontof a
dressed in formaleveningwear.33Even though different background,he or she has relocatedto a
thelatterpanel containsa narrativebox thatreads different space; a reader mentallyrearrangeshis
"That night,"it is obvious fromthe picturesthat or her conceptionof the narrativeto accommo-
a significantportionof timehas elapsed between date thisspatialtransition.
panels.Closure allows thereaderto constructthe Reader perceptionofdiegeticmotionoccursin
time that must have happened in the gutter- a similarfashion.The presenceofa movingobject

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Pratt Narrativein Comics 113

withina panel of comicsis generallysignaledby By selectingone image ratherthan another,


"motionlines"streamingfromtheobject,or blur- an artistcan give the readercues, drawingatten-
ringof eitherthe object itselfor objects in the tionto theparticularly salientaspectsofthestory.
background.36 But objectsinsidea panel can only An establishingpicture,froma distantperspec-
move so far: afterall, theyare depicted within tive,providesthereaderwitha sense of theplace
the panel, and so cannot leave its finitebound- in whichthe scene will occur. But picturesfrom
aries. And since the panels of comics are juxta- medium and close perspectivesconcentratethe
posed in space and not in time,comics cannot reader's attention-on Batman's logo projected
simulatethe illusionof motionprovidedby the intothesky,on thefacialexpressionofa particular
rapidsuccessionof imageson a filmscreen.Any charactercentralto a scene,on Dick Tracy'stwo-
motion,whetherit is withinor between panels, way wristradio, and so on. An artistcan leave
mustbe imaginedbythereader.And anysubstan- irrelevantobjects out of the pictureand make
tial amountof movement,whetherit takes place the relevantones standout to varyingdegreesby
across different backgroundsand scenes or con- emphasizingtheirsize and placementwithinthe
sistsofmultiplemovementsinsidethesame scene, panel.
requiresmultiplepanels. These aspects of the constructionof narrative
Consider again panels sixty-five and sixty-six in comicsare virtually identicalto some muchdis-
of Action Comics No. 1. In panel sixty-five, all cussed techniquesin film.In fact,theyseem to be
we can see is Supermanholdinga car above his nothingmorethanthedeviceofvariableframing,
head, withmotionlines depictingthe wheels still whereinthe filmmakeruses cuttingand camera
spinning.In panel sixty-six, we see thatSuperman movementto controlthe partof the diegesisthat
is holdingthe car above his head at a different is seen by theviewer.Variableframingis so char-
angle- rotatedon its side in such a way that its acteristicof the artformthatNoel Carrollis able
occupantsare fallingout. By itself,the firstpic- to use it as a partialexplanationforthe powerof
turecannotgivethereadera relevantpiece ofthe movies: unlike,forexample,stage plays,movies
narrative:a numberof people were once in a car, are able to lend clarityand intelligibility to a nar-
and at a latertimedropfromthatcar.The second rativethroughtheextraordinary abilityto control
pictureshowsus thatthe car has shifted,and we and focustheviewer'sattention.38
use closureto inferthatSupermanhas rotatedit The factthatcomicsand filmuse manyof the
and is activelymovingto shake itsoccupantsout. same narrativetechniquesis unsurprising. The art
Because of thissuccessionof panels, the reader formsarose at about thesame time,bothare prod-
is able to constructthissmall part of the narra- uctsof a mass cultureand itsassociatedmeans of
tive-a techniquethat,when iteratedthroughout reproductionand dissemination, and,mostimpor-
theprocessofreadingthecomic,contributes to an tantly,comics and film alike are typicallya hybrid
understanding of the narrativeas a whole. of the verbal and the visual.39The techniquesof
While muchmore could be said about closure pictorialstorytelling employedin comicsand film
and theconstruction ofspace and timeincomics,I are so similar, fact,thatone mightwell wonder
in
wantto finishthissectionbydrawingattentionto whethercomics,qua pictures,have anythingdis-
anotherset of featurescrucialto the pictorialdi- tinctivetoofferas a narrativemedium.It mayeven
mensionofnarrative. A comicspanelcan onlycap- be notedthatmanybasic and important filmtech-
turea smallpiece of diegetictimeand space: the niques like panning,tracking, and zooming are
timethatoccursbetweenpanels is usuallymuch largely unavailable in comics, which are unable to
greaterthanthetimethatoccurswithinthem,and producethe illusionof movement.Are comics,in
the totalspace available in the worldof the story effect,just cheap,static,deficientfilms?
is likelyto be much largerthan the reader can
see in an individualpanel. Accordingly,as Mc-
Cloud advises us, a comics artistmustshape the IV. DISTINCTIVE NARRATIVEIN COMICS

storyby "decidingwhichmomentsto include in


[each panel] and whichto leave out," as well as McCloud,forone,believesthatcomicshavesome-
by "choosingthe rightdistanceand angle [from thingspecial to offer.Thoughwe do need closure
which]to viewthosemoments-and whereto trim to understandfilm,"the closureof electronicme-
them."37 and virtually
dia is continuous,largelyinvoluntary,

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114 ThePoetics, andPhilosophy
Aesthetics, ofNarrative

imperceptible."40 In comics,theexerciseof clo- Thesecriticisms of McCloud'spositionare,I


sureis requiredsystematically and necessarilyif think,powerful andconvincing. Comicsare sim-
thereis tobe time,motion, oranyothernarrative ilarenoughto othernarrative mediathattheir
devices,becausethereis alwaysa literally percep- uniqueness is notgoingtobe specified interms of
tiblegutter betweenpanels.Becauseof theinti- closure.Moreover, itismuchmoredifficult toex-
macywiththenarrative producedbythereader's plainhowcomicsdiffer narratively fromfilmand
constant exerciseofclosure, McCloudclaimsthat othervisualmediathanitis to explainhowthey
comicsare distinct, notjustfromfilm,butfrom differnarratively fromliterature. Becauselitera-
otherartsas well:"It'sa mistake tosee comicsas turehasno centralpictorial dimension, all ofthe
a merehybrid ofthegraphic artsandprosefiction. devicestowhichI adverted intheprevious section
Whathappensbetweenthesepanelsis a kindof areunavailable init:thenarrative toolsofcomics
magiconlycomicscancreate."41 gowellbeyondthoseofliterature. Butitstillmight
Let me quicklyconveya sense of the con- be arguedthatthewaysinwhicha comicexceeds
troversy thatthisargument has attractedin the theliterarydimension areessentially thesameas
comicsliterature. GregCwiklikcontends thatall thoseemployedin film.McCloudthinksthata
ofMcCloud'sillustrations oftheoperation ofclo- rolloffilmlaidoutinsteadofprojected is justa
surein comicscouldjustas easilybe donewith veryslowcomic,butwemight turnthisonitshead
film:"closureis essentially whatis referred to and insteadthinkofa comicas a verytruncated
in filmas montage theuse of thesedramatic film-a sampling offrames, witha literary dimen-
transitions originatedin filmand migratedto sionaddedtoprovidegovernance ofdiegetic time
comics."42 BartBeatyhas noticedthatMcCloud andguidethereader'sattention.47
tendstothink ofclosureoperating infilmonlybe- Despitesuchconcerns, thereis stilla cluster
tweentheindividual frames. However,themore of featuresparticular to the narrative strategies
salientequivalentto closurein filmis between used in comics.To begin,let us considera sig-
shots,"andshots-likepanels-arelikedbytransi- nificantdifference betweencomicsand filmthat
tionswhichare'farfrom continuous andanything stemsfromtheirdifferent physical presentations.
butinvoluntary.' the
Indeed, intimacy whichMc- Thepanelsofa comic, wehavealready seen,aresi-
Cloudascribesto comicsas a resultofviewerin- multaneously present indifferent spaces,whereas
volvement haslongbeenheldtobe a hallmark of theframesand shotsof a filmare projectedon
filmand television."43 AndNg SuatTongpoints thesamespaceat different times.Accordingly, in
out thatthe typesof narrative transitionsthat manycomics, anartisthastomakechoicesthatare
McCloudfindsto occurbetweenpanelsare not largelyunavailable infilm.The artist mustdeter-
uniqueto comicsat all.44Filmexcelsat portray- minethesize,shape,andposition ofthepanelson
ingthenextmomentin timein a narrative se- thepage.Thisis unfortunately notan optionfor
quence, but a film can also easilyshiftbetween mostartists working in dailynewspapers, where
multiple temporal andspatiallocations. Thereare thecontemporary standard is threeor fourpan-
evencasesofaspect-to-aspect infilm;
transitions els thatare almostalwaysof equal size and in
TongcitesAndreiTarkovsky's Zerkalo(1975)as a horizontal arrangement. Butartists working in
a primesourceofexamples. thelessrestrictive andmoresophisticated comic
To galvanizetheseobjectionsto McCloud's bookformat viewpanellayoutonthepageas one
view,we mightnotethatcomicsseemto fitper- oftheirmostimportant narrative tools-one that
fectlyintoDavid Bordwell'sconstructivist the- explains,in part,whycomicscan carryso much
oryofnarrative in film,wherein"theartwork is appeal.48
necessarilyincomplete, needingtobe unified and Here are just some of the narrative effects
fleshedoutbytheactiveparticipation oftheper- thatareproduced through theconstruction ofthe
ceiver."45Closuredoes notseemto be a special comicspage.A panelcanbestretched horizontally
feature oftheexperience ofcomicsat all.In fact, or verticallyto presentan aesthetically dynamic
thereader'sunderstanding of thenarrative of a imageofrunning or falling.A panelmayextend
comicis constructed in muchthesamewayas in (or "bleed,"in printing terminology) all theway
filmor anyotherenthymematic mediumwhere the of a
through edges page give to a sense ofvast
theaudiencemustsupply missing premises ornar- diegeticspace,so bigthatitspillsoutofthecon-
rativeinformation.46 finesofprint.Panelsmaybe nestedwithin each

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Pratt Narrativein Comics 115

other-a graphic devicethatallowsforclose-ups, pictures,a readerdetermines hisorherownpace


asides,and focusedattention on a particular as- of narrative comprehension. Whileit is true,as
pect of a story without detracting from thelarger Tongpoints out,that transitionsbetweenpanels
wholerepresented inthebackground panel.Word incomicsdo notachieveanything inandofthem-
balloonsandsoundeffects mayoverlapandcon- selvesthatcannotbe achievedinfilm, thepaceof
tinueacrossa pagethrough a number ofpanels, readingcomicsproducesa distinctive experience.
the
easing process of closure byproviding unity Becausea readerofcomicscantakeas muchtime
and a narrative continuity thatbridgesgutters. as heorshewantstoprocessa narrative, comicsal-
Andthelayoutofpanelsmaychangefrompage lowthereadertodwellon meanings andimagery
topage,addingvariety to thenarrative presenta- ina waythatissimply impossible inartforms like
tionandconsequently engaging andmaintaining filmthatforcea certain of
speed perception.
thereader'sinterest. Sophisticated narrativesincomicsdo nothave
It is truethatattempts havebeenmadeto em- to be sloweddownor havebuilt-in redundancies
ploysomeofthesetechniques infilm.A pertinent (features we findinmuchcontemporary cinema)
example is thecomic-based The Hulk (2003),di- inorderto be comprehensible. At thesametime,
rectedbyAngLee,whichusesa number ofwipes, theself-determined paceofreading comicscauses
zooms,and(notably)splitscreensto tryto simu- narrative uptaketo be veryeasy comparedto
latetheeffect ofpanelarrangements. Whilethis othermedia.Thisconsequenceof thenatureof
filmseemstobe gaining a reputation as an under- narrative incomicsexplainstheirwidespread ap-
appreciated gem,theaspectsof itseditingbor- peal forchildren, fornewspaper readers(whose
rowedfromcomicsare largelydistracting, and attention spanoftenhas constraints), andforin-
feellikea cheapstunt.The realities ofa tempo- structional purposes(especially languagein-
for
ralrather thanspatialsuccession ofimagesrender struction:howmanyofus havereadTintin orAs-
theeffects ofTheHulkunnatural andunnecessary. terixinlanguages otherthanEnglish?).
In comics, thesuccession ofpanelsandtheirspa- I wouldliketoclosewitha comment notabout
tialarrangement add bothclarity andexcitement thewaysinwhichcomicspresent theirnarratives,
to a narrative, whereasin TheHulk,comic-like butaboutthecausalsourcesofthosenarratives.
devicescan onlydetractfromthepowerof the Comicsarelikeliterature inthattheyarenotdiffi-
story. cultforonepersontoproduce, independently and
The spatialarrangement of panelsin comics inexpensively. Though the mass technologies of
provides foranother narrative attribute thatfilm printing and distributiongenerally requiremany
cannotduplicate. Comicscaneasilyportray simul- peopleand complexorganization, an artistact-
taneousactionswithin a scene.As I described in ingalonecan generatea professional-quality au-
SectionII, theuse ofwordballoonsallowsfora tograph copy ofa comic withlittlemore than Bris-
number ofconversations, speechacts,orseparate tolboardandsomedecentpens,or(increasingly)
thoughts to occurduringthesamediegetictime a computer witha tabletmonitor andtheappro-
frame. Thisisnormalandexpectedincomics, and priatesoftware.49
whenit occurs,thereaderhas no difficulty un- Whiledigitalcamcorders have made it more
or
derstanding constructing a coherent narrative feasibleforfilmsto be madebyindividuals, film-
structure. Bywayofcontrast, simultaneous events makingis generally an art of collaboration on
of thissortare almostimpossible to capturein a massivescale-necessarily so foranyfilmsre-
film. Theviewerwillonlybe abletoprocessover- quiringactorswhoare notalso thedirector. Ac-
lappingspeechorvoiceover narration as an unin- cordingly,a comicsartistcan exertmorecontrol
telligible muddleorbyfocusing attention on one overthestorythana filmmaker. Narratives told
particular aspectof thesceneat theexpenseof in comicshaveabundantpotential to be expres-
others. siveof theartist'sparticular pointof view.The
Themainreasonwhycomprehension ofsimul- simplicityofthemediumentailsthatcomicscan
taneousactionsis so straightforward incomicsis offeran individual voiceand fosteran intimacy
becauseof theadditionof a literary dimension betweenartistand readerthatmeetsthe level
to an otherwise pictorialmedium. We haveseen ofliterature-or evenexceedsit,sincecomicsre-
that,duetotheliterary dimension andthespatial visualas wellas verbalsensibility.
flecttheartist's
ratherthantemporalarrangement of a comic's Closeconnections betweenartistandreaderina

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116 ThePoetics, andPhilosophy
Aesthetics, ofNarrative

narrative
pictorial mediumare hardto comeby, cultivate a morehighbrow orliterary
experience. One other
anditis withgoodreasonthatwe valuetheiroc- quickcomment onnarrativetext:contrarytoGeorgeWilson
currenceincomics.50 ("Le GrandImagierSteps Out," PhilosophicalTopics25
[1997]:295-318,see pp. 299-300),themanycomicswhere
narrative textis useddo seemto be caseswherethereader
HENRY JOHNPRATT is supposedto imaginetheworkas theresultofa fictional
Departmentof Philosophyand ReligiousStudies showing(wheretheworkis boththemeansand theobject
ofrepresentation).
MaristCollege 12. McCloud givessome verygood examplesof how
Poughkeepsie,New York 12601 thisis done:see MakingComics(NewYork:HarperCollins,
internet: henry.pratt@marist.edu 2006),p. 147.
13. Carriergoeswellbeyondthisinsight withhisbaffling
1. David Kunzle,TheEarlyComicStrip(University of assertionthatthought balloonsallowus to solvetheprob-
California Press,1973),p. 2. lemof otherminds{The Aesthetics of Comics,pp. 32-33).
2. Robert C. Harvey,"The Aestheticsof the Comic Thoughtballoonsputatively giveus accessto themindsof
Strip,"Journalof PopularCulture12 (1979): 641-652,see thecharacters in comics,confirming thatthey(fictionally)
p. 641. haveminds.But thesearefictional characters:theproblem
3. David Carrier,TheAesthetics of Comics(Pennsylva- of othermindsis not whetherSuperman(fictionally) has
nia StateUniversity Press,2000),p. 4. a mind,butwhetheranything actualin theuniverseother
4. Greg Haymanand HenryJohnPratt,"What Are thanmehas a mind.
Comics?"in Aesthetics, ed. David Goldblattand Lee B. 14. See MichaelBarrierand MartinWilliams,eds.,A
Brown(Upper Saddle River,NJ: PearsonPrenticeHall, SmithsonianBook of Comic-BookComics (New York:
2005),pp.419-424,at p. 423. Smithsonian Institution
Press,1981),pp.270,284.
5. ScottMcCloud, Understanding Comics(Northamp- 15. McCloud,MakingComics,p. 164.
ton,MA: KitchenSinkPress,1993),p. 9. As we shallsee, 16. LawrenceL. Abbottgivesseveralexcellentillustra-
McCloudhas produceda largeportionof theseriousthe- tionsofthesepossibilities in"ComicArt:Characteristics and
oreticalworkon comics,largelyworking withinthecomics Potentialities of a NarrativeMedium,"Journalof Popular
mediumitself. Culture19 (1986): 155-176,see pp. 164-166.
6. See AaronMeskin,"DefiningComics?"TheJournal 17. Sometimesthis leads to unintentionally hilari-
ofAesthetics and ArtCriticism 65 (2007): 369-379.Meskin ous results:for a good example,see The Unh! Project
givesseveralexamplesofwhathe believesto be nonnarra- at http://members.shaw.ca/tom.t/unh/u43.html (October20,
tivecomicsbyRobertCrumb(see p.372).I amnotsurethat 2007). The website'sauthordescribesthe panel depicted
thecomicshe refersto are nonnarrative: even ifCrumb's thereas follows:"An airplaneflieslowenough,and slowly
storiesdo not make any sense or are about not making enoughso thata guycanjumptothegroundsafely?Andhe's
sense,theyare stillstories.However,one mightfindother kickedinthefaceevenbeforehe lands??Bya womandoing
examplesto supportMeskin'spoint,suchas comicsbythe an incredible bodilycontortion??? And theybothmanage
members oftheFrenchavant-garde collectiveL'OuBaPo. tospitouta fewlinesofdialoguewhileall theaboveisgoing
7. In answeringthese questions,I intendto remain on?"
largelyneutralamongdifferent accountsof the natureof 18. Abbott,"ComicArt,"p. 161.
narrative, withone exception.As we shallsee inthediscus- 19. Abbott,"ComicArt,"p. 156.
sion of closurein SectionIII, I am committed to theidea 20. See Haymanand Pratt,"WhatAre Comics?"
that,at least in comics,narratives are (at least partially) 21. McCloud makesa similarclaim:something is not
constructed bythereader. a comic"if the prose is independent of the pictures ... if
8. For examplesof wordlesscomicsand an argument thewritten storycouldexistwithoutanypicturesand still
againstDavid Carrier'sclaimthatwordballoonsare the be a continuouswhole"; "An Interview(Conversation?)
definitive featureofcomics{TheAesthetics ofComics,p.4), withScottMcCloud,"interview byRobertC. Harvey,The
see Haymanand Pratt,"WhatAre Comics?"p. 421. ComicsJournal 179(1995):53-81,see p.75.Thatthepictures
9. Strictly speaking,we oughtto admitthatbecauseof add to the narrativeis obviouslynot uniqueto comics-a
thepictorialdimension, comicsare notcomprised ofwords pointI shallrevisitlater.
alone,and cannotbe literally read.Though"reading"may 22. McCloud explainsthe role and use of establishing
notbe themostaptwordforthewayinwhichwe encounter shotsincomicsinMakingComics,pp.22-23.
narrative in comics,itdoes havehistory on itsside:comics 23. Forexamples, see McCloud,MakingComics,pp.45-
werefirst publishedin newspapers, a predominantly verbal 51.MikeMignolahasrecently madeextensive useofcolored
mediumthatitis uncontroversial to thinkofas "read."And wordballoons;see Hellboy:Strange Places(Milwaukie, OR:
thefactofthematteris thatwe do nothaveanybetterword Dark HorseBooks,2006).
forourmethodofunderstanding comics. 24. I wishto takeno standhereon whether itis possible
10. Justlike comics,filmsare not literallyread either, forone-panelworks(forexample,TheFamilyCircus,The
evenifthemediummaybe language-like (on thispoint,see FarSide) to be comics.
David Bordwell,Narrationin theFictionFilm[University 25. McCloud,Understanding Comics,p. 63.
ofWisconsin Press,1985],p. 30). 26. McCloud,Understanding Comics,pp.66-67.
11. I have noticedthatnarration of thistypeseemsto 27. The use of 'suture' for comics has some ad-
be increasingly prevalentin comics,witha correspondingly vocates: Bart Beaty,for example,in "The Search for
diminished roleforthought balloons.I suspectthisisdoneto ComicsExceptionalism," The ComicsJournal211 (1999):

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Pratt Narrativein Comics 117

67-72, see p. 68. For a paradigmatic accountof suture, typesofmotionlinesand effects in UnderstandingComics,
see Jean-PierreOudart,"Cinema and Suture,"Screen18 pp. 109-114.
(1977/78):35-47.Fora senseof thecontroversy associated 37. McCloud,MakingComics,p. 10.
withsuture,see Bordwell,Narrationin theFictionFilm, 38. See Noel Carroll,"The PowerofMovies,"Daedalus
pp. 110-113. 114(1985):79-103.
28. For a completereprintof this comic,see Bar- 39. Harvey,forone, explainsthe similarities of comics
rierand Williams,A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book and filmin termsof theirorigins.Early filmmakers and
Comics, pp. 19-31. Alternatively, a full online repro- comicsartists, he relates,conceivedof themselves as being
ductionis available at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/ presented withthesametask:todepictmotionthrough a se-
yeung/actioncomics/cover.html (September10,2007). The quenceofpictures (see "TheAesthetics oftheComicStrip,"
workwas originally publishedas Jerry SiegelandJoeShus- p. 648).
ter,ActionComicsNo. 1 (DetectiveComics,June1938). 40. McCloud,Understanding Comics,p. 68.
Subsequentreferences willbe to theSmithsonian reprint. 41. McCloud,Understanding Comics,p. 92.
29. BarrierandWilliams, A Smithsonian BookofComic- 42. GregCwikhk,"Understanding theReal Problem,"
Book Comics,p. 27. TheComicsJournal211 (1999):62-66,see p. 62.
30. Ibid. 43. Beaty,"The Search for Comics Exceptionalism,"
31. McCloud,Understanding Comics,pp.75-76.Ninety p. 69.
percentis myestimate;McCloud'sdiagramsare less than 44. Ng Suat Tong,"An Open Debate about Closure,"
precise. TheComicsJournal 111 (1999):77-79.
32. Myfavorite exampleoftextindicating temporal gaps 45. Bordwell,Narration intheFictionFilm,p. 32.
in thediegesiscomesfromRubenBoiling'sTomtheDanc- 46. For moreon enthymemes, see ArthurDanto, The
ing Bug. The titleof one of his "Super-Fun-Pak Comix" Transfiguration of theCommonplace(HarvardUniversity
from2001 (I have been unableto findtheprecisedate) is Press,1981),pp. 169-171.
"40,000Years betweenPanels."Panels one and threeare 47. McCloud'ssomewhat claimisa con-
counterintuitive
depictionsof desolatelandscapes,whilein panel two,one sequenceofhisformal definitionofcomics;see Understand-
cartoonish characteraskstheother,"Butwhydidyoubring ingComics,pp.7-9.
an extrapairofpants?"Thisexampleservesto undermine 48. Art Spiegelman,author of the acclaimed Maus
Carrier'sassertionthatonlya certainamountof timecan comics,toldme in conversation thathe thinksthattheba-
elapse betweenpanels(see TheAesthetics of Comics,pp. sic unitof comicsis not the panel at all, but the page-
51-52). emphasizing theattention thatthecomicsartistmustpayto
33. BarrierandWilliams, A Smithsonian BookofComic- panelconstruction and layout.
Book Comics,p. 24. 49. I am exaggerating slightlyhere.Many comicsare
34. McCloud,Understanding Comics,p. 72. written by one personand drawnby somebodyelse (as I
35. McCloud,Understanding Comics,pp. 80-83. Here, mentionedearlier,Siegel wroteSuperman,whileShuster
McCloud speculatesthataspect-to-aspect transitionsare drewit), and,forpublication, inkedand coloredby addi-
commonin Manga notonlybecausethecomicsare much tionalartists.
longer(thousandsof pages) thancomicsin the Western 50. I owe manythanksto AndreiBuckareff, Joseph
tradition,butalso becauseJapaneseculturefocusesmore Campisi,Kevin Gray,and Ian Hummelfortheirhelpful
strongly on thepresentmomentthanon a linearprogres- comments on previousversionsofthisarticle.Some ofmy
siontowardthefuture. Thereis probablyinteresting work initialmaterialwas developedtogether withGregHayman
to be done to confirm or disconfirm McCloud'samateur inan independent studysupervised byLee B. Brownat The
socioculturalgeneralizations. Ohio StateUniversity in thefallof2000;mygratitude goes
36. McCloudoffersan excellentcatalogueof different to themas well.

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