Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Comics: words + pictures where time = space

So, last night I did a presentation for Design Interest under the title "Comics: words + pictures where time = space", the aim of which was to talk around some of the issues of time and space in comics. The evening was excellent - good bunch of people and I had excellent fellow speakers, Rose Mockford (@mydesignmade) and Liz Douthwaite. Vicki Teinaki's take on the evening can be seen here.

Comics Time as in how long a comic takes to produce and read, as well as noting that time is in the hands of the reader.

How can the creator control both the perception of time in the story, as well as the time it takes to read - in order to properly pace a joke, for example?

Here's what I talked about, in brief, but in roughly the same order...


  • Steve Bell - Political Cartoons are usually single panels, since the story is happening elsewhere. A single panel is still read from left to right, though and is not read as a single moment in time. 
  • Jack Comics - Provided the example of images colliding and suggesting stories.
  • Penny Arcade - An example of the standard format three panel web strip, and referenced Jimmy Carr's definition of a Joke as two stories colliding. Again, most of the story is not in the strip but in the archives and newsposts.
  • Scott McCloud - Understanding Comics - is of course, essential reading.
  • Calvin and Hobbes - Provided several example of the standard format four panel newspaper strip (a complete story being told in four panels.) as well as larger format illustrations of good pacing.
  • Tim Stout - Provided the Calvin and Hobbes example of a three act structure ready made exactly as I'd planned already, but with a better example.

Comics in Time and Space

This section focused on the accessibility and availability of comics and why and when this would make for good documentation, dissemination and education.

The Axis of Empathy

The Big Triangle was invented by Scott McCloud, minimalism on the horizontal axis, abstraction on the vertical.

Photo from
In my examples (pictured), I had, moving up from reality towards abstraction...

Moving back from abstraction towards minimalism and empathy...

And in the middle I had...

Subsequent slides contained examples of charicature used in horror and dark tales from...

Time and Space in Comics

There was a lot of cross over between these examples, but broadly, I showed:

Comics using the full bleed to show that the edge of the page connects to bigger things:

Comics using a grid (and colours) to suggest (and then subvert) monotony and inevitability:

Subverted to devastating effect in:

Comics using full width panels to show an indeterminate, but lengthy, timescale:
Recommended Reading:

  • but most of all, for the best showcase of what's happening now in comics: 2000AD
  • and also, meet up with the Paper Jam Comics Collective on Thursday evenings in Newcastle's Travelling Man store. Follow @paperjamcc on twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recs! (I'm the blonde girl who briefly spoke to you after your talk) I've been meaning to read Watchmen for absolutely ages, will probably have to pick that up first. I do read Fables at the moment, but that's really about it! (used to be into manga in a big way but went off most of it a few years ago)

    I have been writing a comic for years, but I never felt my art was good enough for what I wanted, and nowadays I don't draw so much... anyways I'm rambling, but basically would like to get back into it and get my story drawn up :)

    I keep a blog too though mostly talking about design and video games, hopefully will talk more about comics soon!