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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Understanding Comics ch. 4 & 5


You may have more to say about the representation of time in comics than I do. I take McCloud’s point, and I would point yet again to ways that the comics sensibility informs church cokmmunication (stained glass windows, stations of the cross, etc.) — but his argument in chapter 4 doesn’t jump-start my inclination to monologize.

Chapter 5 hits some of my favorite topics again, though. “Don’t all lines carry with them an expressive potential?” The “expression” isn’t encoded in any particular shape or shading; “expression” involves the ways that particular designs draw on conventions, and gamble that observers will respond according to those conventions. I emphasize “express,” “infer”(for reception), and conventions, because these (it seems to me) successfully do most of the work that more typical terms in interpretive discourse such as “intention,” “meaning,” and “understanding” fail to do. That is, if I stick to describing what an artist does as “expressing,” and what a hearer/viewer/taster as “inferring,” and the grounds for predictive expression as the conventions that develop for mutually-satisfactory communicative interaction, I don’t need an account of “real meaning.” McCloud’s treatment of lines seems concordant with the semiotics I’m pushing here. (The cultural relativity of these conventions comes to the fore in the bottom right frame on p. 131; I never really grasped the Japanese blood-from-nose convention for “lust.”)

(I tend to suspect that McCloud over-reads the tenor of the lines in the various styles of p. 126, though.)

On p. 134, McCloud calls attention to the specifics of how words are presented in comics for the first time, and he leaves the topic fairly quickly; the graphical quality of glyphic communication, though, pertains more widely (and more specifically to an interest in ecclesiastical communication) than this cursory notice allows.

Back to Chapter 3
On to Chapter 6

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