On this page I found another great example of a page by Jae Lee that defies the “temporal mapping” idea that successive panels are successive moments:
I’m unaware of the full context of the page, but the Human Torch is flying around some big monster of sorts and creates the number “4” (for Fantastic Four no doubt) in his path. Doing so, his path begins by violating a constraint of page layout, entering at the bottom of the page, and then flies over his own path, which crosses a panel he’s already been in.
I’m not sure I agree with the analysis given on that blog, mainly because I think appealing to McCloud’s transitions and closure only hurts his otherwise fairly good discussion.
Now, I don’t want to suggest here that there is not time being shown here, but I think that there are two considerations that need to be reoriented.
First, let’s not talk about “time,” let’s talk about “events.” To the human mind time is only an extrapolation of events. Thinking in terms of a clicking-clock type of absolutist Time is not on the same level with the understanding of time constructed in a person’s head. From understanding events, we can tell that time passes, not so the other way around.
Second, panels do not necessarily have to equal moments. Rather, panels function as “attention units” grouping important information into meaningful chunks. These chunks don’t have to be moments, but they do highlight relevant information in ways that the author intends.
This is exactly the case in this example. The interesting thing is that the flow of events runs counter to the standard reading path of panels in order to create the “4” emblem. If reading left-to-right as if these were independent moments, this would make no sense whatsoever. But, because this display uses image constancy (breaking up a single image into parts… what I’d call a Divisional panel, the understanding of which is what Gestalt psychology would call Closure), the panels only serve to divide up the conceptual space of the image to highlight the Torch at different positions within the space.
Yes, the countering of events vs. panels is a bit funky, but it’s also a creative use of playing the two off each other to reveal their functions.
Note: For those more interested in these types of examples about Time, most of these ideas are written about more extensively in my paper Time Frames… Or Not. Attention Units are discussed more in A Visual Lexicon.