Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The other day

-a true story

So take a close look at this comic and then tell me again that space=time. Sure the first and last tiers of panels are fairly conventional comic narrative, but the middle three tiers each represent simultaneous events. Reading right to left, here, is the same as left to right or reading the panels in a random order. All the panels are necessary for a completion of the main theme but sequence (within the tier) is arbitrary. There is some space/time relation only between the separate tiers as the sequence does go top/middle/bottom. But space=time seems to be too limiting an equation for describing the process of reading comics narrative. Why is that still so commonly used as shorthand?

But seriously, though. Cloud Cult really does KICK ASS!!!! Get yourself a copy of Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus. I cannot recommend this album enough!


DerikB said...

I'd say that "space=time" is used so frequently because a) it is true in most cases with conventional comics and b) people like an easy pre-packaged definition/phrase. Most people don't really want to think too hard about it.

I like the comic, it's a fine example.

Tymmi said...

You're right, of course. I think what i was trying to get at in my clumsy way was: why are peoplewho should know better still using the equation. People who show that they do want to "think hard" and better understand the mechanics of comics narrative. Scott McCloud is a big example, using the term often and even coining "temporal map" as a description of comics mechanics. Seth has used the "space=time" definition, ironically, as an argument against oversimplifying comics form. These are both serious and well respected practitioners of the form. Too many people take their words for this.

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm glad you liked the comic.

DerikB said...

Well, I think the two examples you cite (McCloud and Seth) are neither known for real open-mindedness. Both are fairly dogmatic about their ideas/likes.

One could look at the space=time issue as a reading time issue. Kevin Huizenga recently posted on his blog about realizing that comics were about a way of reading, in this case comic space translates to reading time...

Yeah, that's stretching it. Though it might be an interesting avenue of investigation, reading time vs. narrative time as compared with space (space seems like such a vague word to use to, when really most seem to use it as meaning the spacing of panels on the page/screen).

Tymmi said...

I'm not sure if I completely follow you there. "Reading time" as in the time it takes you to read a comic? Space, and it's divisions (panels) are not the only factor there. Narrative density (McCloud's term - mostly manipulation of elements within the panels/page) comes into play. And some comics invite you to linger in their space more than others.

I would say the manipulation of space does affect the readers perception of (narrative) time but there's no set rule as to what elements can do what or what elements are even "allowed." That's part of what makes a formal definition of comics so difficult to obtain.

I'd agree with Huizenga (and Ware, and Neil Cohn, for that matter. And McCloud, really) that comics is (mostly) a manner of reading, rather than a formal definition. Defining what is or isn't a comic is a favorite game of cartoonists but it never really gets anywhere.

Not to say it isn't fun to try it every once in a while.

(Well, fun for comics nerds like me).

Tymmi said...

Oh, and the vagaries of a term like "space" is an interesting point too. Reminds me of something I was working on with Phil Sandifier a while back, regarding the concept of "space" specific to webcomics. Have to dust off the ol' files there...

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