Chapter four of Understanding Comics is all about time in the comic frames. Scott McCloud make the case that time in comics is less stringent. A single panel in a comic book is not nessisaraly a single moment. The panel it’s self is a symbol to tell the reader that time and space is being divided. Time and space in comics are linked but there is no way of telling how much time has passed except by figuring space and time are related. So if a panel takes up a lot of room or there are several panels or larger gutter spaces, those are clues the writer uses to show the reader time has passed or is passing. The panel helps to give us an idea of time. So if the writer messes with the panel, it can give a different feeling. The feeling can set the mood for the rest of the panel and time can be made to stand still in these situations. McCloud goes on to explain that we always consider that what we are seeing is the present. In comics, the panels you already read and the panels you will read are the past and the future and surround the present panel that you are reading now. In comics the reader will normally read left to right, but there is a possibility that readers could choose a different way. Your participation is needed as well in closure, the idea that the mind fills in the moments not drawn. The film was the first patented process to capture movement. Painters around the same time tried to capture movement in a single picture. Though the movement died out comics kept trying to capture movement. Some single panels represent time by sound. Others strove to show time pass through movement. Movement in single panels used the motion line. This line evolved from being messy and wild lines attempting to follow every object moving through space and became more stylized to where the capture movement in a more dynamic way. The action line in America had much more experimentation, though not all in comics. In Japan they’d put the reader in the middle of the action. The action line isn’t the only way to show movement. There is the polyptych, where a figure or figures are imposed over a continuous background. The comics rules of composition are covered in this chapter. In comics the picture combines change, drama, and memory. The rules comics should follow are those of nature itself, then rules of function and chance. To show time in a comic, either sound or motion is used. Sound breaks down into words or sound effects. These give the allusion of time because past experiences tell us that sound takes time. This also lends itself to the action and reaction introduced in this chapter. Motion breaks down as well into two subsets. One is panel to panel closure that is dealt with in chapter 3. Second is action within a panel that is separated by styles. While looking normal, time in comics is a strange thing. Making a series of stationary pictures look like they are moving and appearing to take time, that is strange. It sounds difficult, but to the reader it looks normal.
Chapter 6 of “Understanding Comics” is called show and tell. This chapter’s purpose is to prove that the uniting of pictures and words can be just as great a work as novels and paintings are separately. Society has trained us that the mixture of words and pictures is primitive. Scott McCloud reintroduces the triangle of resemblance/reality, meaning/language and the picture plane in this chapter. First a run through of the origin of words, which is pictures. The invention of the printing press and the original mix of pictures and text, then moves to the separation of pictures and words. Pictures strove to represent visual reality, while words were used to express the invisible feelings and philosophies. McCloud graphs this in the triangle with pictures at one corner and words in the other. Pictures reached for the picture plane going in every direction except toward language. Words started to become more direct and less flowery, but with the same distinction towards meaning. Pictures and words were that they went as far as they could go and needed to go back home, that was the feeling of the day. In the early 1800’s Rodolphe Topffer started making pictures with words, making him father of modern comics. Though he was unaware of what was going on, still is interesting that the modern comic emerged at that time.
Though comics have been around since cave paintings, they still face the challenge that both high art and general public will present it with. Comics will be judged by the old standards of art and literature. The public is bombarded by images and text so much that it has started to set its own standards of what they consider art and literature. The challenge from the public, that considers art and literature to be at its best when as separate as possible, grows out of the challenge set by art and literature. These challenges are nothing that every new media has had to face. Though comics are old they will still be treated as something new and tested by high art standards and the challenges of the public.
There are many ways pictures and words can combine to tell a story, in this chapter categorizes a few. The word specific, here the pictures do not add much to what the words are saying. Picture specific, words only add sound tract to a visual story. Duo-specific, both words and pictures say the same thing. Additive, where words elaborate the pictures or pictures elaborate on the words. Parallel, words and pictures tell two different stories and do not intersect. Montage, words become part of the picture in the comic. Inter-dependent, pictures and words work together to tell a story that neither could do alone. In order for comics to meet and match the challenges of art and literature both sides of comics must know their roles and support each other’s strengths. What are the words roles and what are the pictures roles? That is left up to the creator of the comic.