Scott Bukatman, in his essay Sculpture, Stasis and Hellboy found within Critical Inquiry, Comics and Media (Chute & Jagoda 2014), ponders on the ideas of connection, motion and reading within sequential art. Of course there is the much-cited theory of the reader’s part in connecting the inherent meaning between the panels, taking the change that occurs from one panel to the next and creating a unified whole within their minds. Bukatman claims that in this way, comics are “engrossing rather than immersive” (p104). He speaks to similarities and differences between comics and it’s illegitimate cousins, cinema and photography, concluding that sequential art’s strength lies in its static nature and its ability to be read in multiple ways, from panel to panel in sequence, or as a whole, a “tabular, synchronic unity” (p111). Bukatman posits that readers more than likely shift between these two states with regularity throughout a reading. Some might, in fact, read from front to back, at random, or in all manner of creative ways, unburdened by the narrative flow directed by the author. That is part of the freedom offered to the reader of sequential art. When faced with a rigid grid structure as below, how does the reader traverse it, as opposed to an organic, flowing layout? Do I impose a strict enforcement on the sequential reading, or does the balanced pattern lend itself to a viewing of the page as a tabular, synchronic unity? Do I strive for compositional balance of the entire page as well as from panel to panel? What is at the foremost of my attention? Is it leading the eye? Keeping clarity of storytelling? Focusing on proportion, anatomy, staying on model? So many things to keep in mind. And to think, when I was a kid it was just drawing pictures in little squares .
- by DCFisher