McCloudian Lexicon

February 1, 2009

mccloud-uc-triangle

the following is a slapdash glossary of “comics” related terms in Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.”

Comics (p. 9) – “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and / or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer,” or simply put, “Sequential Art.”
Icon (p. 27) –    “any image used to represent a person, place, thing, or idea.”
Audience Involvement (p. 42) – “the degree to which the audience identifies with a story’s characters.”
Clear-Line Style (p. 42) – a style that consists of “very iconic characters with unusually realistic backgrounds,” meant to facilitate a masking effect.
Masking (p. 43) – the process in which a viewer is emotionally immersed into the story or into the position of a character.
Iconic Abstraction Scale (p. 46) –    A visual scale that spans from strict photo-realism to pure abstraction.
The Picture Plane (p. 51) –    “where shapes, lines and colors can be themselves and not pretend otherwise.”
Closure (p. 63) – the act of “observing the parts but perceiving the whole.”
gutter (p. 66) – the space between panels.
transitions (p. 70 – 72)
moment to moment – little or no closure.
action to action – encompassing a single action.
subject to subject – stays within a scene or idea.
scene to scene – transports the reader across significant distances of time and space.
aspect to aspect – bypasses time and sets a wandering eye on different
aspects of a place, idea, or mood.
non sequitur – no relationship between panels.
establishing shot (p. 89) – sets up the scene in terms of location, time, etc.
word balloons (p. 89) – devices used to convey sound and language.
bleeds (p. 103) – “when a panel runs off the edge of the page.” The panel is freed from constraint, and is meant to take on a timeless quality.
motion line (p.110) – visual representations of “moving objects through space.”
zip ribbons (p. 111) – see motion line.
multiple images (p. 112) – multiple images within a motion line are meant to “involve the reader more deeply in the action.”
streaking (p. 112) – streaking in a motion line is meant to reproduce time-lapsed  photographic quality.
subjective motion (p. 114) – combination of motion lines and POV to put the reader in the position of the character.
polyptych (p. 115) – a group of panels in which “a moving figure or figures is imposed over a continuous background.”
sound effects (p. 115) – sound (typically non-speech related) represented by written words.
background (p. 132) – images that lay behind the foreground, and generally aren’t the focal point of the panel.
word-image combination types
word specific combinations (p. 153) – “where pictures illustrate, but don’t significantly add to a largely complete text.”
picture specific (p. 153) – “where words do little more than add a soundtrack to a visually told sequence.”
duo-specific (p. 153) – “in which both words and pictures send essentially the same message.”
additive (p. 154) – “where words amplify or elaborate on an image or vice versa.”
parallel (p. 154) – “words and pictures follow very different courses without intersecting.”
montage (p. 154) – “where words are treated as integral parts of the picture.”
interdependent (p. 155) – “where words and pictures go hand in hand to convey an idea that neither could convey alone.”
art (p. 164) – any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either survival or reproduction.
assembly line comics (p. 180) – a process that utilizes specialization in the comics creation process.
three additive primaries (p. 186) – colors (red, blue, and green) which, when projected together in various combinations, can reproduce every color in the visible spectrum.
three subtractive primaries (p. 187) – colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) which can mix to produce any color in the visible spectrum.
four color process (p. 187) – utilizes the three subtractive primaries and black.


Who Understands the Comics?

January 25, 2009

understanding comics by scott mccloud“Understanding Comics” was an incredible read. In the first two or three chapters alone, McCloud legitimizes the medium of comics (opposed to bolstering its status as the “bastard child” of fine art and literature) in a comprehensive and well worded / drawn argument. Having interned with a development office in a major studio for two summers now, I have been sadly accustomed to the treatment of comic books and manga as pulp-y stepping stones to the “higher art” of cinema.

I recall one especially depressing moment in which I was handed Kazuo Umezu’s THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM (adrifting-classroom particularly gorey and markedly sexist manga from 1970s Japan that, in one of its “tamer” sequences, features the horrific vivisection of a fourth grader in the mandibles of a large mutated space insect) and was told that a neighboring production company wanted to option it in hopes of developing it as a light family romp in the vein of early Spielberg. The integrity of the work was obviously being compromised (or wholly neglected), and I really didn’t know how to feel about that.

I understand why as of late, stacks of graphic literature (“sequential art”) have adorned the already crowded desks of Hollywood producers and their Creative Executives. Comics is a hip, fresh, and fun media that is raking in a mainstream following and box office dough.  With its inherent commingling of visual art and text, many might believe that comics may easily be transferred to the screen. And considering the recent influx of these “comics movies” in American theaters, it seems as though this belief has been widespread and firmly rooted amongst both Hollywood shot-callers and their audiences and benefactors. Does this in turn affirm the illegitimate status of comics? How could it not?

“There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can’t.”

– Alan Moore, on the eve of the release of  Watchmen (dir. Zack Snyder, 2009)

don't be surprised

a very possible future

While McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” was published in 1993, way before the current “comics movie” craze, I am curious as to how he would respond to it. Additionally, while his book undertakes an incredible analysis of the comics medium, it does so from the visual angle much more than the narrative / story angle. In the context of our class, I was looking for hints at what kinds of stories suit the medium of comics versus that of film, literature, theater, music, or any other. While I understand the profound differences between comics and other mediums, I am left wondering why these differences matter, and more importantly what kinds of stories can utilize these differences the best.


an uncanny resemblance

January 21, 2009

adrian-tomine-cartoonat least I think so, in a simplified cartoon form.

please don’t sue me, adrian tomine.