Response to Understanding Comics

In the Understanding Comics Chapter 4, McCloud talked about time frames in comics. Mainly, he talked about the combination of time and space and time and motion in comics, and how comics can combine these two in ways no other medium really can.

One of the most interesting aspects of this chapter is how he talks about how much longer a time frame can be than what it actually is in the story. For instance, he showed a picture of a man sobbing and said that we can know for sure that this last longer than just a second, it may even go on for several minutes. This is brought up when he talks about the strange relationship between time as it is depicted in comics and time as the reader perceives it.

I actually disagree that this is something that unique to comics and comics alone. Yes, it is more unique than most, but that doesn’t mean that other mediums can’t do this either. A reader can read a book, read a line that states someone is sobbing, and in their own mind they can perceive that person is crying for longer than the second that it last in the book. One medium that an argument can be made is that music is actually more unique in the relationship between time depicted and time perceived than any other form of medium in the world. An artist can write a lyric about a young lady crying and then the next lyric is about a man meeting her and changing her life. When you’re listening to this you know that this doesn’t happen in a matter of five seconds, it happens in a matter of days, weeks, or maybe months. If comics have a time frame that elapses over a span of several days, they will tell you. Songs don’t have to tell the listener when time passes, the listener just automatically knows that.

“Another way to look at it: Let’s think of time as a rope. Each inch represents a second. Such a rope might be said to wind something like this through our panel. Simplified, of course, since each balloon has its own twists and turns.”

McCloud thinks of each speech bubble as a rope that connects on speech bubble to the next and I actually would agree with this. Not only does this imaginary rope connect the speech bubbles together, but the rope is also figuratively pulling the readers’ eyes through each speech bubble and to next part of the story. Everyone who has ever read a comic knows the order of the way you need to read the speech bubble and how your eyes go throughout the story.

One of the most interesting points in his comic explaining comics is the way he explains how comics show aspects of time in art where time is actually standing completely still. He showed how they evolved from sloppy zip lines and he described as desperate attempts to represent those paths of moving objects through time and space to what we see now in modern comics and how fantastic the artists have become at what they do.

This has been something that has always been highly interesting to me as an avid comic book reader, especially since most of the comics I used to read were almost always superhero comics that were fantastic with showing time elapsing with one single picture and nothing else.

“Those same lines became so stylized as to almost have a life and physical presence all their own.”

To end, I would completely agree with most of what McCloud wrote and how unique the style of comic books are compared to all of the other mediums out in the world. But, I also would completely disagree that it is the only form of the medium that can truly master these different forms of combining time and space and time and motion.