09 June 2010

The Secret's in the Sauce!

In chapters 4 and 6 of “Understanding Comics”, Scott McCloud demonstrates the unique relationships comics have with time and space, pictures and words.

“In learning to read comics we all learned to perceive time spatially, for in the world of comics, time and space are one and the same”

Scott McCloud introduces this idea of time and space being the same in several examples. One panel can show several moments in time, one moment in time, infinite time, the past, the present, and the future. This concept is also true with a combination of panels proving, once again, the endless possibility comics have. The panel itself is an important icon used in comics—a point I hadn’t considered until it was pointed out to me. The panel acts as a “general indicator that time or space is being divided.” We use our ability for closure to perceive the relationship between time and space, to lengthen or shorten a moment in time. This can be done by the framing of panels (i.e. the size, shape, and borders of frames). Something as simple as the size of the frame can represent time or how long a moment within that space is. An amazing feat to manipulate time!

“As we’ve seen, the interaction of time and comics generally leads us to one of two subjects: sound or motion.”

Sound and motion add to the illusion that comics create. This illusion is the experience of sensory appeal. We become involved with concept of actual time, action and reaction, dialogue and sound effects. The experience involves the reader to become a component in the story itself. We are pulled into the story and it is fluid and familiar because we make it that way (with the direction of the creator, of course). The experience is unique with comics… even just reading this text has deepened my understanding of the complexity and creativity that goes into creating one. And Scott McCloud has proved once again that there are no limits to which comics are bound.

“Indeed, words and pictures have great powers to tell stories when creators fully exploit them both.”

McCloud explains how different combinations of pictures and words create different responses for the viewer. These combinations are word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and inter-dependent. He explains and gives examples for the seven he is familiar with but also never limits comics to these. He goes on to explain that “when pictures carry the weight of clarity of a scene, they free words to explore a wider area,” and vice versa, comparing it to alchemy. You can see change occur in a scene just by mixing up the combination used. This is precisely why comics are such a mystery to me. A creator can create a different feeling with the same picture or script by altering how they are combined for a totally different effect! Comics truly are a remarkable medium for art, story, and creativity!


  1. When I first read “when pictures carry the weight of clarity of a scene, they free words to explore a wider area,” I wasn't quite sure what it meant, luckily McCloud is great at explaining his ideas and giving examples. Nice blog!

  2. Good summaries, Beth! But I still wanna see more of you in your posts: thoughts, opinions, things you can relate to, etc.

  3. yeah... having an opinion should be easier, right?!