30 January 2012

Time in Comics-Chapter 4

Jessica Brink

Chapter four of McClouds book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, he talks about the aspect of time in Comics. He uses the metaphor of a rope representing time. One inch on the rope represents one second in time. If you were to line the rope up with the text, and different panels of a comic, you could see that time passes through each one. Even one silent panel has some time taken up in it. In the example that he used, one large panel with different things happening in one panel, is basically several panels, combined into one. When we read, we read it from left to right just like a regular comic, and we assume that time is taken up. But, not all panels are like this, because panels can also be held in a single moment, and it does not have to hold any sound. The panels that hold the icons in comics, act as a divider to show that time or space is being divided.

McCloud continues on by talking about the difference between times depicted in comics and time perceived. A lot of times, we just assume what is going on in certain panels because of what we have done in our own lives. For example, McCloud uses a conversation between two men on page 100. During the three panel conversation, the second panel is a picture of one of the men silently sitting there, or in other words, pausing for several seconds. We assume that the pause is only a few seconds, because of how it is depicted. McCloud points out that there are several ways to shorten or lengthen the pause in the conversation. One way to lengthen it is to widen the space between the panels. Another is to make the panel with the pause, bigger so that it “feels” like a longer period of time. There are several other ways to show time in comics. For example, running a picture off the edge of the page lets the picture escape from the traditional panel and go off into space, making it seem like the picture is timeless, and is always going to be there.

The motion of comics really came about in the 1800’s. Thomas Edison came up with the first motion picture. The idea that motion could be portrayed in a single image, was first addressed by the futurists in Italy, and by Marcel Duchamp in France. He simplified movement in images. People soon lost interest in this idea and the motion line formed somewhere in that time span. The motion line started out a little confusing, but has evolved into a great representation to what the actual physical motion looks like.

I think this whole chapter is really interesting, because everything McCloud addresses, I honestly never thought about. The whole time I read comics through out my life, I just sort of knew these concepts without actually knowing that I knew them, if that makes any sense. For example, seeing that there is a pause in a comic, can easily be picked up through several different ways. Like a bigger space between two panels, or a panel with a character not saying anything during a conversation. I knew that these were pauses, but I never really though about how I knew it was.


  1. This is a very detailed summary, Jessica, but you provide lots of examples, so it balances out.

    Try expanding your response to include applications or fallacies in the text, in the future, though.

  2. I think this is a very well informative blog about chapter Four and its put the whole chapter in retrospective. I like how you also pointed out the invention of a moving picture by Thomas Edison and how it developed into an movie industry of today.Overall i agree on your blog on the point concept and very informative.