Navigating page layouts = defining “comics”?

One of the topics I debated closing out my new essay on page layout (pdf) with was its relationship to McCloud’s definition of “comics.”

As most know, McCloud’s definition is that “comics” are “juxtaposed sequential images in deliberate sequence.” Yet, he never places any constraints on that. He means all sequential images are “comics” — regardless of the characteristics of content.

On the one hand, you can say that his notion of closure demands that there is some content to those panels, and that closure is the underlying force behind his definition. However, there are places where this appeal to content is a bit slim. This is most apparent in his panel transitions, where “non-sequitur” as a catch-all for anything his other transitions don’t cover. Or, in claiming that empty panels that represent “time” still maintain the essence of “comics.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s in them, as long as they’re in sequence.

If really all McCloud means by “comics” is that two graphic units are place next to each other, is he really just talking about the system I’ve proposed for layouts? This system just tells people how to navigate through a comic page — how to read from one panel to another. And, since my experiment used blank comic pages, it has nothing to do with content — just like McCloud’s definition.

So, if navigation between panels is really all he’s talking about for “comics,” isn’t that a little… I don’t know… unremarkable?

It’s also interesting in this interpretation, since (as I note in the paper) McCloud’s notion of the Infinite Canvas essentially desires to simplify this navigational structure. Food for thought…


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