Patric continues his defining of “comics” with a discussion of “closure.” I’ve talked before about the problems with the idea of closure, but it strikes me that there are a few underlying issues that people run into when addressing these issues:
1. They assume that time passes between panels, despite there being no evidence that each panel represents a “moment in time.” With this assumption in place, it forces people to assume that some “moment” also lies between the panels, when no hidden moment may exist. I wrote my essay “Time Frames…Or Not” about various reasons why this assumption isn’t true.
Even McCloud bungles this. While in one place he tries to say that “panels=moments” because “time=space”, in his own transitions he includes three that have nothing to do with time at all! (Subject, Aspect, and Non-Sequitur transitions). For the adamant, what are the moments and what are the transitions in this “comic”?
2. People are just looking at the relationships of two juxtaposed panels. Most stabs at sequential meaning, like Patric’s or Derik’s, have just talked about two-panel pairs. But, rarely are sequences confined to two panels.
Just because we experience reading sequences of images linearly doesn’t mean that is how we understand them. In most cases, we can easily acknowledge that whole sequences mean something beyond just paired panels. Looking beyond the scope of immediate panel relations quickly forces a rethinking of the accuracy of a view about closure/transitions.
Here are a few illustrative exercises that people can do to think more about these issues (and are things I did when first getting into this seriously):
1. Actually try to catalogue the “transitions” in a full comic á la McCloud’s counting. Note any problems in the categories and where descriptions become more difficult.
2. Take comic pages/strips and sketch out the different relationships of every panel to each other. Which panels need connections, which don’t? What do the relationships tell you?
If anyone actually does this, I’d love to hear about their results. In the meantime, if people are curious about my alternatives to closure, I recommend watching this video.