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CCT 300: Critical Analysis of Media. Class 4: Representation in Comics: McCloud ’ s Take. Administration. Next week: Thanksgiving (no class – Monday December 3 is end of term as a result.) Last class before comic analysis assignment due – ask questions now!

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cct 300 critical analysis of media

CCT 300: Critical Analysis of Media

Class 4: Representation in Comics: McCloud’s Take

  • Next week: Thanksgiving (no class – Monday December 3 is end of term as a result.)
  • Last class before comic analysis assignment due – ask questions now!
  • Final exam: Wed, Dec. 12th, 5-7pm, IB120 (room subject to change, check before.)
  • Cell phone policy – don’t become a statistic!
a quick first note
A quick first note…
  • Avoid “McCloud says A. Here’s an example of A.” So what? A recipe for a low B at best (worse if you get it wrong.)
  • Consider your comic as a designed text – everything is there for a reason.
  • Your own perspective on why is acceptable – outside research not explicitly necessary – but does it ever really hurt?
  • Analysis done by application of all rules = rambling and superficial – pick the highlights of McCloud most relevant to your own work
  • Feel free to critique McCloud – this book is nearly 20 years old, things have changed.
comics as sequential art
Comics as Sequential Art
  • Historical emergence as“bastard child” of word and picture duality
  • An analysis of the history of sequential art and it’s relation to other similar media
  • (This usually isn’t a great way to start your paper – why?)
picture reality meaning
  • Picture plane – representations of iconography, text and realism
  • A nice breakdown of potential options with a great (and quite historical) selection of cases
  • Again - simply noting that your comic exists in X space is OK, but why or to what good effect is more interesting
comics as art form six steps
Comics as Art Form (Six Steps)
  • An interesting concept with considerable depth
  • Most people’s initial impression is surface – and many artists start there and work backwards (e.g., tracing and imitation to a better appreciation of the craft)
  • Exceptional work engages new ideas, new forms, expands genres, plays with structures in an innovative way
  • Hard to use for this assignment – why?
representation in comics
Representation in Comics
  • Moment
  • Frame
  • Image
  • Word
  • Flow (McCloud’s 2006 work, Making Comics, re-presenting Understanding Comics well…)
  • Comics must represent transition among time visually
  • Comics must guide the reader’s sense of closure (i.e., leave the reader to fill in the gaps of the story…)
  • Saturation vs. interpretation similar to McLuhan’s notion of hot vs. cool media - comics generally as cool medium
types of moment change
Types of Moment Change
  • Moment-to-Moment
  • Action-to-Action
  • Subject-to-Subject
  • Scene-to-Scene
  • Aspect-to-Aspect
  • Non-Sequitur
differences in representing moment
Differences in Representing Moment
  • North American/European comics vs. Japanese - content analysis shows different ratios of moment transition
  • Experimental comics also break with “standard” North American ratios
  • Closure differs with each approach, as does the amount of moment transition
  • Comics focus reader’s attention on particular elements, creating sense of place, position, focus
  • Similar to other visual media (e.g., film, photography) - panels as designed, not accidental.
  • Even more so in comics– the frame is malleable, can expand, be misshaped, disappear entirely
framing elements
Framing elements
  • “Camera” angle
  • Lighting (or lack thereof)
  • Closeups vs. wide shots
  • Distance and perspective
  • Symmetry and centering
  • The“gutter” – presence/absence, shape, colour affect both what is seen and transitions
  • Comics as iconic, symbolic medium
  • Often comics deliberately leave details vague to encourage reader participation in closure – e.g., our ability to see human faces everywhere
image elements
Image elements
  • Level of detail - photorealism vs. iconography and effects of each
  • The role of icon in comics - simple comics often evoke interesting emotions (e.g., Peanuts)
  • Relation between background and foreground characters - (e.g., iconic characters and realistic background, e.g., Hergé’sTintin)
  • Expression (especially facial expression) and body language
  • Sound as image
  • Role of colour – colour as symbol and accent
  • Comics mix visual and literal forms, arguably more so than other visual media
  • A picture might equal 1000 words, but words can quickly contextualize and represent pictures in various ways
  • Words as sound effects – representation of aural channel in literal form
word image interplay
Word/image interplay
  • Word specific
  • Image specific
  • Duo specific
  • Additive/intersecting
  • Interdependent
  • Parallel
  • Montage
  • Comics as sequential art - sequence of images becomes important in representation of time (e.g., photo of family gathering and reaction example)
  • Moment, frame, image, word choice work together to create (or sabotage) flow
  • How much of flow to show? Example of multi-panel comics on drunk driving - different stories are told, even with same beginning/ending points
flow concerns
Flow concerns
  • Cultural norms (e.g., North American/European - left to right – manga flows differ, require instructions for non-regular readers)
  • Pace of transitions - Japanese comics and graphic novels spend more time for fuller exposition and slower moment changes
  • Breaking norms (experimental comics)
  • Extent to which creator guides flow - hot vs. cool again
comic analysis xkcd
Comic Analysis: xkcd
  • Simple style, but subtlety complex – not “just” stick figures
  • Occasionally plays with webcomic convention
  • Occasionally very serious:
    • Money (
    • Fukushima (
  • What If? – new series
in class assignment
In-class Assignment
  • Apply one of McCloud’s principles to an XKCD comic of your choice (point form notes fine.)