The nature of comics combines printed words and pictures in a unique way. Comics continually offer new possibilities by encouraging artists to explore new kinds of storytelling and create new illustrative styles as an experimental art form and more importantly, as a practical craft. Comics provide a range of points of access into the narrative strategies medium and demonstrate that it has much to tell us about the culture in which we live.
Comics can also violate the rules of the medium by parodying various events and figures in history. (Pustz 1999, p.110). Reading comics requires a different skill to other forms of reading since literacy includes specific knowledge about texts with stories, information, characters, and genres. Readers also come to understand how to interpret the interaction between comic language basic vocabulary words and pictures and other elements.
According to McCloud, art style too can have a meaning. Emotional meaning is produced by an artist's use of different lines. A picture can evoke an emotional or sensual response in the viewer. Gentle curves might communicate innocence, while sharp lines might create feelings of anxiety and dark heavy lines might be best suited to the grim worlds of crime and horrors.
Figure 6. Living in the Line (1993), page 119
McCloud also suggests that the strip has no fixed or absolute meaning except for acting as a sort of indicator that time and space are being divided. An individual strip can depict a single frozen moment in time or a series of moments, involving motion and dialogue, but how strips are arranged is important, sometimes defying the flow of time in a narrative. The amount of time the reader spends on a particular scene can be control by the content ofthe strips. The artist divides he story into separate scenes. Aspect to aspect transition involves a montage of elements reflecting a simple place, idea, or mood. Comic literacy contributes to the construction of comic culture by confining the audience and giving it a body of common knowledge.
McCloud notes that comics ask the mind to work out the gaps between panels. He argues that comics are a ‘ Natural’ form of communication and people have to learn how to read comic books and develop a certain amount of Comics Literacy. This process include understanding how the basic language works, as well as knowing certain bodies of information that give readers more ways to create meaning. One of the first things to take into account is that the readers must understand the interpretation behind the arrangement of panels on a page. This arrangement is essentially the machinery of a narrative.
McCloud devotes an entire chapter in his book to show how the closure between panels happens in the artist’s and reader’s mind. What happens in closure is that readers use their imagination to transform two separate but adjacent images into a single idea. Of course, closure is achieved only if the reader understands how the different kinds of panel transition work; something the most experienced comic book reader will have a result of the unconscious assimilation of the content. McCloud suggest that the moment to moment transition, focuses on a single subject in a brief sequence of subject. In these six panels below, the movement is slow and gradual, and readers do not spend much effort to apply closure between the gutters.
Figure 7. Moment to Moment (1993), by McCloud
Resources: Eisner, W. (1985), Comics and Sequential Art, (Florida: Poorhouse Press) McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding comics, (New York: Harper Perennial) Pustz, M. (1999) Comic Book Culture: fan boys and true believers, (USA: University Press of Mississippi