“I don’t like to think of my work as ‘cinematic.’ A movie is passive — you’re watching it, taking it in. Where a comic strip, it’s completely active: you have to read it, search it for meaning, for the connection with your entire experience and your memory. Yes, you do have the illusion of watching something happen in a comic strip — but if it’s done well, it comes alive on the page like a novel. A novel is the most interactive thing ever created.”
The other thing I find interesting about this quite is that I have a hard time believing that people “imagine” things while reading comics that connect with their “entire experience” and “memory.” There are two things that this quote implies:
1) That people are converting their reading experience into consciously clear interpretations (imagery, sounds, etc) while reading a comic (a notion that echoes McCloud’s Closure).
2) That people’s creation of meaning is entirely based on experience (“Empiricism”).
Concerning the first point, I know when I read a comic, I don’t necessarily feel like I “fill in” any missing imagery with mental imagery of my own. I don’t visualize anything that isn’t in the pages. I do understand it, and make the mental connections between and across images/words, but there is no additional imagery added. Novels do create this imagery (for some but not all people) because it isn’t provided already.
This blog post has replied to my earlier posting expressing that Ware’s meaning of “active” comprehension relates to this sort of filling in of sensory information that’s missing. Again, I am hesitant to accept that people are actually imagining sounds, smells, motion, etc. while reading a comic.
Novels certainly allow people to create visual imagery — but vision is our primary sensory modality, so I find it unsurprising that this would happen. I’m less confident about the other senses.
SO….If you actually do feel like you create mental imagery while reading comics, I want to hear about it in the comments please!
On the second point, there is quite a lot of evidence that our understanding of meaning does not necessarily come from experience (and certainly not conscious experience). That’s not to say all of it is innate, but there’s a give and take between innate meaning and acquired meaning — the debate is over the percentages.
What I’d be more confident stating though is that when reading a comic, I doubt people are actively referencing overt memories or experiences in order to comprehend a sequence. Rather, they are drawing upon their abstract concepts — just like when they read a book, or yes, see a movie.