Comics

Closure

Closure is one of the most central aspects of comics literacy.

It defines the creative mental operation that a comics reader makes when going from panel to panel. When we read a comic, we have to use many kinds of clues to understand what happens in-between the pictures - in the gutter, that space between panels.

Crucially, we need to decide how much time has elapsed between the panels; a few seconds, or a few years? Or whether the action is seen from the same perspective, or that of another character’s; or whether the mood has changed; etc.

In other words: closure is what the reader does to piece together the narrative from the sequence of panels.

In some comics, closure is more difficult than in others. Sometimes, it is not easy to understand how much time has passed, or what has happened; we are confused, perplexed, when images don’t seem to link fluidly - when the gutter, so to speak, is particularly broad. Remember how we talked about postmodern picturebooks last time - some postmodern comics, similarly, are especially hard to make sense of, and rejoice in playing with us.

However, Scott McCloud argues, the human mind is always desperate for narrative closure, and therefore we are constantly trying to make conclusions as to what happened in the gutter, even in the face of very contrary panels.

A perfect non-sequitur - two or more panels that would truly make no narrative at all together - is extremely hard to craft.

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This article is from the free online course:

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

University of York