Comic books, known by scholars as sequential art, where sequences of images arranged spatially convey the passage of time visually. Comic books earned their nick name, comics, because they were originally compilations of comedy-based comic strips sold as magazines. Modern comic books cover many genres such as super heroes, drama, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers Comics are published in most countries and read by audiences of all ages.
In his famous book Understanding Media, Toronto media scholar Marshall McLuhan (1994) described comics and comic strips as cool media. McLuhan’s cool and hot media theory focused on the effort a responder needs to spend when interacting with a media. Comics, according to McLuhan, asked the reader to fill in information gaps unlike hot media like the television, which provided a wider array of information, and thus less interaction (McLuhan 1994).
Unsurprisingly, when comic theory theorist and cartoonist Scott McCloud (1993) investigated comics, in his similarly titled Understanding Comics, he argued that the particularity of comics was the reliance on closure. Closure, according to McCloud, was the space between panels where the story within a series of comic panels changed (McCLoud 1993). Closure, unlike what many parents had claimed about the unsuitability of comics in helping kids learn to read, forced the reader to fill in the blanks between panels, just like McLuhan had argued 30 years before.
Both McLuhan and McCloud perceive comics through the lenses of what is better known as information theory. Information theory was first conceived by physician Claude Shannon (2001) in the 1950s. Scholars using this theory argue that information is the basic building block of the universe. Not in the sense of a physical element, like energy or matter. Information is organized signals that are transmitted and perceived. The absence of information is entropy, or nothing at all. In this sense, each comic panel is a snippet of information organized through visual means and deciphered, as semantic information, which is meaningful to a reader.
McLuhan and McCloud’s theories of comics go against the semantic theory of comics as an organization of words and images to convey meaning (Harvey 1994). In this perspective, comics are not a visual and spatial form of information. They are texts with meaning mixing different media. This theory of comics is often favoured by humanists as opposed to information architects and media theorists. In this perspective, comics are a document meant to convey meaning and knowledge and to produce affect in a reader. All elements of a comic, be they images, captions representing sounds, dialogues, stories, colours, and space, are equal part of the comic and its experience.
Strangely enough, this popular definition of comic as words and pictures also perceives comics as an organization of information. But the information architecture elements have been subdued for a linguistic and semiotic qualification, instead of an organization defined as information architecture. I find this an interesting premise, because it puts comics squarely in the humanist box and precludes any discussion of comics from a post-humanist point of view.
Humanism is a perspective where the world and how we perceive it is described through the point of view of the human. It is similar to arguing that the Sun or the Earth are at the center of the universe and that everything revolves around them. Post-humanist positions accept that the human point of view is just one out many and that other perspectives can shed a lot of information about our universe. This is an old debate where environmental information – signals compete against semantic information – information that has meaning, presumably for humans.
But comics are created for humans! So on that score, humanists win the debate. Unlike pollen, which is information for a bee but not much for a human, comics are information for us. It is our interaction with them, filling their gaps in information that allows us to decipher them and attribute meaning to the overall experience and interaction we had with them.
Yet, comics are sequential. We need, as argued by McCloud (1993), at least two frames to make sense of them. Otherwise, they are just cartoon art. Closure is forced on the reader. Gaps have to be filled. What information theory does not prevent is the layering of subsequent levels of information within an architectural whole. While the spatial gap between two visuals is all that matters for a comic to be it doesn’t prevent the addition of words, sound effects, captions, dialogues and stories to interject and add meaning. Information theory does distinguish between environmental information and semantic information. Semantic information, before any signal can be deciphered and given a meaning is nothing but environmental information, after all!
Last Updated: May 28, 2016 - 7:30
There are (18552)
DC Comics History: Tales of the Arrow MakerMay 28, 2016 - 7:25
Native legends got explored and related in the Tales of the Arrow Maker series, which ran in Tomahawk's comic during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era.
DC Comics History: Chris KL-99May 27, 2016 - 9:14
Chris KL-99, nicknamed the Christopher Columbus of Space, was an ongoing series that debuted in the first issue of Strange Adventures. Despite some good stories, the character would not continue his explorations beyond the conclusion of the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era.
VIZ Media Announces "Gakkimals" AnimeMay 24, 2016 - 21:40
@VIZMedia announces its plans to develop an original animated kids series based on the Japanese children's property that combines animals and music.
ULTRAMAN: Volume 4 manga reviewMay 24, 2016 - 20:26
@VIZMedia presents Ultraman Volume 4, in which Shinjiro Hayata struggles with how far he should go as Ultraman, when another dude is lightin' people up.
DC Comics History: Darwin JonesMay 24, 2016 - 9:38
Scientific investigator Darwin Jones made his debut in the first issue of Strange Adventures. But it was not intended as an ongoing series, and in fact this was the only appearance Darwin Jones made during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era, not getting a second story for four more years.
DC Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:01
New series "DC Universe Rebirth" begins; plus, new issues of Batman '66 Meets The Man from UNCLE, Omega Men, Supuerman, and more.
Marvel Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:01
New series: "Captain America Steve Rogers" and "Nighthawk" begin; plus, new issues of Captain Marvel, Extraordinary X-Men, and more.
IDW Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:01
New series: "Disney Magic Kingdom Comics" and "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" begin; plus, new issues of Ghostbusters International and more.
Dark Horse Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:00
New series: "Lobster Johnson Metal Monsters of Midtown" begins; plus, new issues of Aw Yeah Comics Action Cat & Adventure Bug, and more.
Image Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:00
New issues of Aloha Hawaiian Dick, Legacy of Luther Strode, Tokyo Ghost, Octopus Pie, Cry Havoc, East of West, and more.
General Comics On-Sale 05/25/2016May 23, 2016 - 12:00
List of comic books and related merchandise, publications, and products from Diamond Distributors' non-premiere publishers for the week of May 25, 2016.
Review: AMC's Preacher Episode 1 May 23, 2016 - 0:20
Cult favorite Vertigo Comics series Preacher finally makes it debut, but does it do the original comic book series justice?
Terra Formars: Volume 12 manga reviewMay 22, 2016 - 21:01
@VIZMedia presents Terra Formars Volume 12, in which the fight on Mars intensifies on all sides, including an approaching Chinese vessel.
DC Comics History: Astra, Girl of the FutureMay 22, 2016 - 8:46
Astra, Girl of the Future was a series about a television newscaster in the 22nd century. Running in the interior pages of Sensation Comics during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era, it was the first DC science fiction series with a female protagonist.
DC Comics History: King FaradayMay 20, 2016 - 7:50
DC's premiere Cold War spy, King Faraday, made his debut during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era, but was not a hit by any means. He appeared in only four issues of Danger Trail, getting dropped from the book for it's final issue.
The Transformers as Transgender?May 19, 2016 - 9:15
The reaction transgressing Transformers have is closer to the hardship felt by transgender folks in our society
DC Comics History: Full Steam FoleyMay 19, 2016 - 0:31
Full Steam Foley was a crime series with an unusual cast, set on tugboat. The titular character was the captain of the ship, but an aging one, and considered demented by his daughter and the rest of the crew. The series ran for only a year, in the pages of World's Finest Comics, during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era.
DC Comics History: Dr. PatMay 17, 2016 - 23:35
Dr. Pat was a series that dealt with the trials of a woman who had gone into the medical profession, during a time when that was all but unheard of. Running in Sensation Comics during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era, it is a much more progressive and enjoyable strip than either of the other two it debuted along with.
DC Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:01
New series" "Future Quest" begins; plus, new issues of Injustice Gods Among Us Year Five, Legend of Wonder Woman, and more.
Marvel Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:01
New: "Deadpool Last Days of Magic" begins; plus, new issues of Karnak, Uncanny Avengers, Astonishing Ant-Man, Haunted Mansion, and more.
IDW Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:01
New series: "Archangel," "Biggest Bang," and "Brutal Nature" begin; plus, new issues of Micronauts, Mars Attack Occupation, and more.
Dark Horse Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:00
New series: "Mae" begins; plus, new issues of BPRD Hell on Earth, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Usagi Yojimbo, and more.
Image Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:00
New issues of Spawn, Beauty, Black Road, Invincible, Manifest Destiny, Citizen Jack, Drifter, Mirror, Snowfall, and more.
General Comics On-Sale 05/18/2016May 16, 2016 - 12:00
A list of comic books, graphic novels, magazines, books, and other products from Diamond Distributors' non-premiere publishers for the week of May 18, 2016.
DC Comics History: Romance, Inc.May 15, 2016 - 16:00
Romance, Inc. was the second of three new series to debut in Sensation Comics 94, and had a brief run during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era. The strip had one recurring character, Ann Martin, whose career was devoted to helping women find their true loves.
DC Comics History: Headline HeroinesMay 12, 2016 - 9:17
Headline Heroines was the first of three new series that debuted in Sensation Comics 94 during the period 1948 - 1951: End of an Era. It's an unusually bleak strip, which tells the stories of women who died helping others.