Chapter Three of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics-The Invisible Art deals with the concept of closure and progression between the panels in comics. According to McCloud, closure is the act of “observing the parts but perceiving the whole.” We use closure every day, usually relying on our own experiences to help us fill in the blanks. We use closure to perceive photographs that have been reproduced in a newspaper or a magazine, when we watch a film or television and, of course, in comics.
The small spaces between panels in comics are known as “gutters.” Closure has an especially important role here in the gutter. We use closure to help us unify the separate images into one coherent idea. Closure helps the reader participate in comics as they read and is, in fact, the main driving force behind comics because this is what simulates time and motion. McCloud makes the claim that because the gutter requires none of our senses, all of them are engaged by it. This is due to the fact that our imaginations are set free between the frames. McCloud examines the six different types of transitions, which include moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect, and non-sequitur. Here in the West, the most popular transition types are action-to-action, subject-to-subject, and scene-to-scene. In Japan, moment-to-moment and aspect-to-aspect are also popular transition choices.
The whole idea of closure is fascinating. The fact that our minds can take pieces of an image and perceive a complete image is nothing short of amazing! I never realized how involved the reader’s imagination had to be while reading comics. I’ve also never given much thought to the purpose of the space between the panels; I always thought it was just there. Scott McCloud, however, has made me aware of the gutter’s special role in comics.