Thursday, January 28, 2010

A thought I had a while back

I remember having this revelation in college. I was gonna make a strip about it but didn't know how to go about it so I thought I would mention it and see what people's reactions were. Anyways, here was my thought process that some of you might find interesting:

Comics are images in deliberate sequence
Written language is symbolic imagery in deliberate sequence
written language is a form of comics



  1. I'm in agreement.


    reading text is usually a journey forward, with no looking back over your shoulder.

    whereas, reading comics, I'm more inclined to skip back to panels which are complex &/or interesting.

    I have a vague idea about a "grand unified theory of narrative", which includes both text & visuals.

    if we had a sufficiently broad notion of what a narrative is, we'd no longer need to distinguish between "graphic novel" & "conventional novel".

    another idea is that the study of readers' saccades, the eye movements they make reading text or comics, will assist in understanding how people read non-textual visuals.

    [deeper can of worms: there are forms of poetry which are disjoint, which don't have an intended reading sequence. & some of my own comicsy creations are deliberately difficult to read in habitual sequential fashion.]

  2. anything describes anything. so you may be right, but it may be also the other way round, or different.

    all the best

  3. Welcome back to the Abstract Comics mafia, Piotr! I left you a question on Bungy's blog that you still haven't answered.

    Aaron--my thought about this is that abstract images (including abstract comics panels) still have a sense of represented spatiality--you have left or right, up or down... Jackson Pollock or Rothko may show you nothing, but they still show you, or give you, space. While the page in a written text is a different kind of surface of inscription altogether: it's just a convenient repository for words that follow each other syntactically. (Even when poetry is disjointed, as Tim says, I think mostly it still is working on that surface of inscription, not in the spatiality of abstract art.) So I would say they are quite different animals.

  4. I should have said, "even when images are abstract..." Most comics, clearly, are representational, so they definitely have that representational space. I have seen comics using only words, but even in those cases, most often the words are given a kind of spatiality (you see where the word balloon originates from, you see that this sound effect denotes a "bump" happening in the top left of the panel, this other one denotes a "crash" in the bottom left.)

  5. I suggest investigating the life's work of Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Her work with ancient levantine counting seals. Her exposition that writing affected art, which affect writing, again is interesting.

  6. I tend to agree with Tim. While both go in sequence, comics tend to ask for (require?) more forward and back reading. Plus, while I think we take in some information with writing of the page as a whole, I think we take in more with comics. That is, a page-as-page of writing may tell us something about density of prose (big paragraphs, dialogue, enjambment, etc.), but it is rarely composed (hmmm) with the same visual precision as a page of comics.

    I've been fascinated for a long time by codes and glyphs -- less as instruments for obscuring meaning (or limiting it to those who know the code) than as a method for revealing shape and play of letters in a language. A beautiful code takes into account likely letter combinations and plays aesthetically with shapes and their consequent combinations. (One of my more ambitious codes had 64 symbols representing each letter and most common diphthongs and consonant blends in English.) One of the less remarked-upon qualities of the collection that this blog is named for is the double presentation of the introduction in letters and code. I thought Andrei was getting at something with that choice about words and their potential aesthetic abstraction.

    So yes, I think Andrei is right about the visual space of comics and art versus the visual space of words qua words, but I think something happens differently when the aesthetics of lettering is ramped up through calligraphy, glyphs, cyphers, etc. Add more wrinkles with asemic writing.

    phaneronoemikon, the first link didn't work for me, but the second was fascinating. Schmandt-Basserat's work is fascinating and I want to know more!


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