08 June 2009

Icons and "The Gutter"

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes how he believes icons in comic books effect the human mind. Icons are just pictures that represent an actual thing and without question the majority of people should know this. However, he dives deeper into this subject by explaining that people assign personalities and likeness to icons where none exist. For example, if someone is looking at a drawing of an electrical outlet it is nearly impossible for that person not to envision a face in their mind. This supports his claim that by instinct humans are a very egocentric race. Scott McCloud also discusses non-visual self awareness. When talking with another person it is all to easy to focus on that person's details whether it be their face, body, legs, or feet. At this same time there is also some sort of image of ourselves in our minds that we are aware of. Mr. McCloud argues that that image in our minds is much less detailed than the actual object. In agreeing with him, this is simply because it is impossible for anybody to remember every exact detail of the object that is being unconsciously conceptualized in that person's head. Icons in comic books seem to have their own identity. For a comic book to lure an audience, the audience must be able to identify with it's characters and icons.
Scott McCloud also discusses the space that is in between every comic book panel. It is called "The Gutter". "The Gutter" is actually a phenomenon called closer. Closer is basically things that happen or exist although one is not currently observing it. For example, if a car has passed somebody on the street but is no longer visible, we know that it is still there based on the faith of our five senses. Comic books use closer constantly and it is what takes place in the human imagination. It is difficult to write an effective quality comic book without the proper use of closer because it is in that time and space that humans can, in a way, choose their own adventure.


  1. Judging by how late you posted this, I'm guessing this was a little rushed :-) Hopefully you've finished Witchblade and can devote all of your comic reading time to our class from now on ;-) Your summary is a little too concise for my tastes. What about the picture plane? Cartoons? All that other good stuff he discusses? And if this is just a summary of the things you thought were most important, then why do you think they're the most important?

    Which brings up my next point, what do you think about his ideas? Do they make sense? Do you agree with all of them? Where's your "I Say" to his "They Say"?

  2. PS What's with the bold? Is what you're saying really that important ;-)

  3. Oh yeah the "They say, I say"... I kind of forgot about that. Ok I'll remember that now, and yes Ben your right it was a little rushed.