Thursday, December 15, 2011

Comic Book Terms: Closure, the Gutter, and Transitions

From Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, Harper Collins, 1994:


Closure: "the phenomenon of observing the parts but percieving the whole...in our daily lives, we often commit closure, mentally completing that which is incomplete based on past experience (such as seeing images in clouds, faces in cars, or patterns in unexpected places)...in recognizing and relating to other people, we all depend heavily on our learned ability of closure...Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments.  But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality." 


The Gutter: The space between two panels, which requires an imaginative leap to connect.  Depending on the transition style (see below), it might require greater leaps of closure to connect the storyline. 


The Six Types of Frame Transitions (according to McCloud, that is):


Moment to Moment: a slow, second-by-second movement of time

Action to Action: Simple cause and effect, usually involving short spans of time


Subject to Subject: Similar to Action to Action, but the perspective changes. We see another ‘subject’ in the story, which might involve a different ‘camera’  shot. 

Scene to Scene: Very common in comics and films, where we leave one setting for another one, removed either in space or time.

 Aspect-to-Aspect: “wandering eye” effect, where time is arrested but the frame moves along different perspectives in the same moment or moments.

Non-Sequitur: literally, “it does not follow”; the images have no obvious sequential relationship.  The comics asks us to provide the missing link in the ‘gutter.’ 

The Six Types of Word/Image Relationships:

Word Specific: words tell the story, pictures  illustrate

Picture Specific: pictures tell the story, words illustrate

Duo-Specific: each one seems to be telling the exact same story, without adding or subtracitng anything (to the point where one might be superfluous)

Additive: where either the words or pictures add something specific that is not "in" the words or the picture.  However, in this technique, either words or pictures dominate. 

Parallel: where the words and pictures tell different stories that only make sense within the context of the comic (or by using our imaginations!); neither one supports or follows the other

Montage: where words become images or images become words (for example, having the words "mortgage" floating over a character's head, or having a happy face become the letter "A" in the word happy)

Interdependent: similar to additive, but here both words and images add something specific to the experience; losing one would totally change the story of the frame.  They have an equal relationship. 

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