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The Medium of Comics and Their Message

In: Other Topics

Submitted By StangGT68
Words 878
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Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art introduces three concepts in understanding the medium and construct of comics. These three concepts are the icon, closure, and panel-to-panel transitions. These concepts, introduced by McCloud are illustrated in the Japanese anime Yotsuba, created by Kiyohiko Azuma. Yotsuba follows the precocious adventures of a seriously strange kid named Yotsuba, who moves to the city with her father and manages to get herself into familiarly hilarious situations. The frames I chose deals with Yotsuba being introduced to a playground swing by a fellow student. Anime presents, through a progression of panels, how this comic illustrates the communication of information, ideas and experiences through various mediums (words, symbols, illustrations, etc). Upon analyzing this comic strip, it illustrates ways in which the medium’s message will change due to styling, point of view, framing, and closure. The artist’s use of medium reinforced the idea that the message of any piece of art, specifically comics, is not communicated solely through words, but through illustrations.
One element of Azuma’s comics that illustrate how the mediums message is communicated through illustrations is the use of the Icon. Azuma’s drawing style is simple and therefore moves itself from any possible complexity within the characters, because a style that possesses realistic images can become more objective and can remove the image from the viewer. Within the medium of comics viewer identification is an important aspect to the success of comics. Generally, the more broadly or widely recognized the icons becomes, the more "iconic" it is considered to be. McCloud’s example of this being a happy face is more iconic than a realistic portrait of a particular person. Azuma’s clean style allows the viewer to identify with the character of the narrative and identifying with something or someone, allowing the viewer to mentally fill in characteristics in which to personally identify and complete the character. Yotsuba, whom is a child, has physical characteristics which resemble McCloud’s idea of viewer identification and how our mind is capable of making two dots and a line resemble a face by filling in the images from what we identify with, such as our own unconscious self-image. Comparison made between comic book characters and self permits us to become a part of the mindset of the character, good or bad. Therefore the medium, identified as the Iconic figure, because of its simplicity allows the reader to clearly grasp and interpret fragmented images within the comic strip.
The reader’s ability to interpret fragmented images is a key point in Scott McCloud’s argument towards illustrating closure and observing the part but perceiving the whole.” When dealing with comic books, the intentional exclusion of various elements makes it necessary to use assumptions in order to fill in the missing pieces. The context of Yatsuba frames are simplistic and the comic stresses scene-setting and a preference for excluding certain aspects of an action or event, leaving the reader to infer for himself the events that may have occurred between panel-to-panel transitions. McCloud’s idea closure is illustrated in Yotsuba’s frame five that has a subject-to-subject aspect because even though the swing is not visible we interpret the “squeak, squeak” as identifiable in respect to past experience and interpretation. With a lack of visual surroundings the reader is now able to establish closure and focus on the subject of each frames actions towards a greater whole or medium. Closure is observing the part but perceiving the whole, and within Yatsuba there are distinctive panel-to-panel transitions which further support McCloud’s idea of closure. Japanese comics traditionally contained a large number of action-to-action transitions, but Azuma creates primarily within this comic strip numerous subject-to-subject and moment-to-moment transitions. Yatsuba features a single subject in a moment-to-moment progression within frames eight to ten, this transition requires very little closure because it uses the transition of experiences within a limited amount of time. Yatsabu is seen in the same scene in three different panels in which little time has passed, and illustrates the idea of moment-to-moment. The next panel utilized in this comic is taking the viewer from the subject-to-subject yet staying within a scene or idea, once again illustrating McCloud’s concept of closure. Each action is purposefully constructed and requires the reader to interpret the space between each frame. Each action in Yatsuba guides the reader within the story and towards the greater medium of this comic. The way in which Scott McCloud and Azuma have portrayed the message of the medium within comics has allowed me to look deeper into the concepts of the icon, closure, and panel-to-panel transition. They have forced myself and the reader to interpret fragmented images, an aspect of comic I have never ventured further into. I have been shown that self-identification is a driving force within comics, and has opened my eyes to an opportunity to see myself in the material. McCloud’s idea of capturing moment, subjects and action and establishing closure further elaborates that no matter how much a comic strip possesses an artists and/or readers interpretation the over all message is not communicated solely through words, but through illustrations.

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