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Closing the Gap:

Examining the Invisible Sign in Graphic Narratives

Roy Bearden-White

Ask a literary scholar to interpret a graphic narrative and the resulting interpretation will probably be focused upon the textual aspect of the work. Conversely, ask a scholar from a visual field, such as fine arts or film, to perform the same task and, without surprise, this time the interpretation will be weighted in the opposite direction, towards the images instead of the words. In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, however, Scott McCloud (1994:85) claimed that "the art of comics is as subtractive an art as it is additive." He argued that comic artists purposefully avoided exposing every nuance and detail of a story because readers automatically interpreted certain gaps of information as a means of closure. In moving from one panel to the next, he said, "the audience is a willing and conscious collaborator" (1994:65). Indeed, the very nature of comics, the sequential presentation of text and image combinations, depends upon readers constantly negotiating ways to bridge the gap. One of the often-cited features of comics is the active creation of meaning by the reader. As Julia Round, another critic of graphic narratives, recently explained, "the reader works alongside the creators as a kind of contributory author, both by interpreting the panel content, and by filling in the gaps" (2007:317). The gaps, whether between text and image or between panels, have the potential to provide substantial and important amounts of meaning to the reading experience.

In discussing comics, however, defming these vague areas of significance in terms that could help determine why certain interpretations emerge can be quite difficult. The reasons for this are obvious. Words and images are familiar points of reference; they can be easily located since they both occupy physical space. From a semiotic viewpoint, both words and pictures operate as signs and provide meaning to the reader. When one sign, however, is placed beside another, as in a comic panel, a new sign emerges and extra significance is conveyed to the reader. Graphic narratives depend greatly upon these invisible signs found not only in the gap between images and words, as in a single panel, but also throughout the various storylines. Roland Barthes discussed the formation of this invisible sign when he examined the graphic narrative version of The Story of 0.1 He said,

When all is said and done, it may be that eroticism (i.e., desire meeting an object) is never found in representation (the analogical image), nor even in description (the evoked image). When all is said and done, it may be that the eroticism in The Story of 0 (as illustrated by Crepax)

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occurs neither in what one sees nor in what one reads; it occurs in the universal picture, immanent in all language, which does not result from either image or discourse (Barthes, 1985:53-54).

From a semiotic viewpoint, both words and pictures operate as individual signs and each provide meaning to the reader. When one sign, however, is placed beside another, as in a comic panel, a new sign, what Barthes terms the universal picture, can emerge which provides extra significance to the reader. Graphic narratives depend greatly upon these invisible signs found not only in the gap between images and words, as in a single panel, but also between separate panels and throughout the various storylines.

In order to understand how readers identify and construct meaning from these unseen gaps, it is first necessary to determine how juxtapositions of text and image in a single panel convey information. Examples from Guy Delisle and Jessica Abel will show various ways in which cultural experience and knowledge impact interpretations. Th~y will also provide a basis for the way comic artists use disconnected mediums to convey narrative pace. Moving beyond the single panel, the relationship between invisible signs and the single narrative will be explored with short excerpts from the works of Richard McGuire and Adrian Tomine. Finally, sample pages from Jason Lutes and Rebecca Dart will show how interpretive gaps help the reader juggle, and interpret, multiple narrative lines in a single graphic narrative.

While each separate side, the text or the image, can be theoretically broken down into signs and signifiers, the juxtapositional foci is the area between, the place where new signs are created. The human mind has no problem in repeatedly constructing understanding by identifying, evaluating, and translating gaps. Allthis, of course, occurs very quickly in a single comic panel. With this thought in mind, it is important to remember that, even though there have been many discussions concerning the exact definition/ of graphic narratives, the addition of succeeding panels complicate the reader's formulation of meaning gained from the invisible sign. The relationship between the text and image in the first panel will also react with the relationship in the second, generating a cumulative effect throughout the narrative. Spatially then, similar sign-generating gaps, often called gutters, occur between panels as well, but, as with everything else in a graphic novel, these easily-located and discussed areas of referential meaning are far from inclusive. In constructing significance in a graphic novel, a gap can be provoked in the reader's mind with any two or more signs located at any point throughout the book.

Paradoxically, interpreting the interplay between words and pictures in a single panel is almost unnoticeably easy and, at the same time, incredibly complex. The human mind not only automatically translates the complicated relationship resulting from the juxtaposition, but actively seeks out a continuous source of new combinations. Each individual panel presents an

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opportunity for the reader to negotiate the problem of connecting the text to the image, to interpret the significance created when a particular set of words is combined with a certain picture. Every problem, of course, is not only different, but unique. The interpretation drawn from the panel can be, and often is, subjective, personal, and layered. As readers, we bring cultural baggage into the reading process. More than one meaning, based upon experience and knowledge, can often be determined simultaneously; in which case, individual realizations can possibly augment or even contradict others. A reader can also discover one idea which, when recombined with the same mixture of words and pictures, generates a successive series of meanings. Once an image is combined with text and then perceived by the reader, there can never be any successive and decisive separation between the two. Once a reader views a single panel from a graphic narrative, the panel can never be unread. Details from either the picture or the words will remain as intrusive memories which will always overshadow future rereadings. Any attempt at isolating details, whether textual or imagistic, will fail because of the residual meaning left in the reader's mind. The amount of meaning expressed by one side is always influenced by the amount of meaning expressed by the other side. The overlap of influence, the additive amount of meaning expressed when text is juxtaposed with image, cannot be categorized since it is not only subjective to interpretation but also because the medium of graphic narratives consistently employs varying sizes of information gaps.

Because of interpretive necessity, every single detail within, or around, each panel results from authorial intentionality. Once the unified artistic presentation is breeched by a single question of error, or randomness, every critical interpretation becomes infected with doubt. This doubt is directly oppositional and contradictory to the reading process itself, which operates by a trial and error procedure. Although the defining boundaries between either text and image or between panels may not be, and are often not, immediately recognized as an interpretable problem, when the human mind does attempt to translate the gap, the sign on one side of the gap is immediately accepted as a given until shown otherwise. In fact, the actual sudden recognition by the reader of an invisible sign is an integral part of reading comics.

When the text and image in a single panel are redundant, both in terms of space, time, and cultural context, the distance between the two is minimal, leaving very little room for interpretive differences. A single panel from Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (2005:21) provides an example of a repetitive message. In the story, the narrator travels to North Korea in order to work for a large animation company. Due to his American citizenship and North Korea's policy towards foreign visitors, he spends a great deal of his non-working time in a hotel room. The example portrays him relaxing on the bed in his room (Fig. 1). The text in the panel simply describes

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his actions at the time. One message merely reinforces the other. If one half of the panel was removed, either text or image, the message wouldn't change. As an excerpt from a larger narrative, the panel may contribute in other ways. The repetition of word and image can connotate a pause in the storyline. In this respect, the idea of boredom may constitute an invisible sign. Readers who recognize both sides as an ordinary cultural occurrence would find very little interest if the panel were viewed in isolation. For readers who have some background knowledge of Korean traditions, however, the invisible sign in the context of the story may connotate American disrespect or ignorance of other cultures. In Korea, as in a number of other Asian countries, there is a custom against wearing street shoes inside. Anyone who fails to remove his or her shoes not only shows contempt for those who live there, but is considered unclean. Readers who are unfamiliar with such cultural knowledge will, of course, view the panel as uninteresting or simple.

Fig. 1.

The unity of the text and image in a simple panel, because of its limited message, does not generate any curiosity for the reader. This, of course, only applies to a single panel in isolation. In comics, the reader views simple panels in sequence with surrounding panels. The very fact that the reader knows another panel follows a simple panel creates a type of uneven tension. The reader automatically perceives that the ordinary, undisturbed scene may, and probably will be, disrupted momentarily. Since not every panel contains a disjuncture between text and image, the major job of simple panels in a graphic narrative is to create and establish the dramatic pace in a graphic narrative, a pace which the reader implicitly knows will lead to the creation of greater significance and either leads to the implied promise of a resolution or accentuates the tension of unsolved problems.

A portion of a page from Jessica Abel's La Perdita (2006:20) is one example of the gap between text and image which necessitates the reader to find a link between the two. In the example, Carla, an American woman in

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search of her own identity while living in Mexico, visits the home of Frida Kahlo, the famous painter (Fig. 2). The second panel portrays her standing in front of a largepainting ofKahlo with her arms raised as if to indicate that she is lost in thought. The text box at the top of the panel says, "But I was faced with a lot of obstacles. Not being able to draw, for one" (Abel, 2006:20). Although the image is perceived as a current event, the narrator, who is Carla as well; employs the past tense, indicating the textual Carla is temporally, as well as spatially, disjointed from the imagistic Carla. The disjoining creates a problem of interpretation which strikes out from the panel and generates another level of meaning. The invisible sign stimulates the play between the "faced" of the text, the face of Kahlo, and the inability to see Carla's face; all of which emphasize Carla's struggle for identity. Carla is not simply looking at a painting. She is looking for herself. 3 The representation of her struggle in this single panel cannot be found in either the words or the pictures, but only in the area between the two. The gap between the image and the text provides the reader with the extra meaning that helps to explain why Carla is enraptured by Kahlo's image, but, at the same time, it also poses a further question for the reader to consider -- whether Carla will ever find her own identity. It should be noted at this point, however, that interpreting a single panel, although it does

Fig. 2.

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display an invisible sign, could be deceptive since it highlights one panel extracted out of context. No panel in a graphic narrative is ever read in isolation. As the reader is required to close the gap between text and image, he is also required to close the gap in other narrative directions as well.

In creating the link between disjointed texts and images, the reader will always choose the shortest distance across gaps. This idea is supported from two different perspectives. David Mamet, in discussing how images and dialogue on film captures the viewer's interest, describes this tendency to close the gap as efficiently as possible and says, "The conscious mind is going to suggest the obvious, the cliche, because these things offer the security of having succeeded in the past" (1991 :6). By building from this idea, he believes that the juxtaposition of images serves as a way of freeing the unconscious mind, and thereby increasing the viewers' interest. While Mamet terms the cause security, theorists of cognitive science claim that readers always strive for the familiar because of simple expediency. David Bordwell explains that "as with every physical device, the brain's resources are limited, and this entails that in any task, say recollection or problem-solving, there will be a trade-off between speed and accuracy" (1989:14). When reading, the brain plods on as fast as possible and translates what is transmitted by the eyes based on memories of similar panels seen in the past. Problems posed by an odd juxtaposition of words and pictures disrupts the steady reading process by offering the unexpected. The reader wants to close the gap by the shortest distance, but the dissonance between image and text operates as a resistance.

Because of the significance discovered in panel two, the third panel holds and sustains the extra meaning the reader previously gained. Without the existence of panel two, the same interpretation may still be extrapolated by the text and image mixture in panel three, but this is uncertain. An argument could be made that the word "Mexican" combined with the picture of a young girl standing in front of Kahlo 's portrait prompts an identity question for the girl, although, in the context of this article, a reader could not be assured that the prior discussion of panel two informs the interpretation. In isolating this single panel, the distance between the image of a woman braiding her hair and the written narrative would probably be too far apart for the reader to create any significance. With the foreknowledge gained from panel two, however, the image of Carla braiding her hair in front of the painting of Kahlo with braided hair expresses the character's act of mimicry. Lacking her own identity, Carla models herself after the painter. In the next series of four smaller panels, however, the new-found interpretation fades into the background of the reader's mind. In the movement from one small panel to the next, the reader gains very little new knowledge. McCloud would designate these transitions between panels as simply moment to moment and would contend that this type of transition "requires very little closure" (1994:70). While this may be true if two of the panels were considered out of context from the book, Abel is

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establishing a rhythm which will eventually accent the transition to the larger, final panel at the bottom of the page. As the reader moves from the first, smaller panel, a pattern is established. Each simple panel repeats the portrayal of Carla styling her hair. Each pause creates an expectation in the reader's mind of Carla successfully modeling herself after her idol. Once the reader encounters the final panel, however, the pattern of the four smaller, simple panels emphasizes an interpretation of Carla's frustration. Carla's exasperation displayed in the final panel is much larger than if Abel had decided to substitute one large panel for the four small ones.

An excellent example of the juxtapositional dissonance disrupting the familiar in more than one panel comes from Richard McGuire's "Here" (2006:88- 03).4 The first four panels set up a pattern for the reader -- a couple in 1957 are experiencing the birth of their child (Fig. 3). As with the four small, simple panels in the Abel example, these panels provide little interest in and of themselves. Their purpose, because there is little gap between either images and text or between the panels, is to heighten the dissonance the reader encounters in the fifth panel. The storyline seems to continue in the smaller panel, which is overlaid on an image of two women holding a conversation. The disruption of the pattern is not total, leaving a solvable problem of connection. The underlaid image is labeled "1922" and the inset, "1957." Because of the clothing, furniture, and room decor, the reader quickly interprets the numbers to reflect the date of the scene. The connection, however, between the two groups of people from two different time periods is unclear and, because of the reader's desire to constantly close the between signs, an uncomfortable tension results. The sixth panel continues the portrayal of disconnected scenes, each labeled according to year. The remainder of the six-page story follows suit and presents panel after panel of constantly changing scenes with dates ranging from 500,957,406,073 B.C. to 2033. After the fifth panel, the reader's mind sets the confusing dissonance as a pattern. In the sixth panel, even though the reader is unstire of the storyline, a different pattern emerges and the invisible sign becomes clear. David Mamet explains part of this when he says, "The job of the film director is to tell the story through the juxtaposition of uninflected images -- because that is the essential nature of the medium. It operates best through that juxtaposition, because that's the nature of human perception: to perceive two events, determine a progression, and want to know what happens next" (Mamet, 1991 :60). Even though the reader may not perceive how the text and image link, the reader feels a syllogistic need to continue. Through the heuristic, this progression of disjointed panels, an interpretable connection finally emerges. Even though each scene McGuire presents, except for the first panel, is from a different time period, the setting, or, more specifically, the exact point in space where each scene occurs remains the same. With the juxtaposition of the linear progression of time in a single place and the actions of mankind, the

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reader's interpretation, whether it is optimistic, pessimistic, or any point in between, creates the invisible sign. Because each reader processes information differently, the exact place where meaning is created will be, of course, subjective. Unlike the previous example in which the significance is a brief instance of epiphany, McGuire's technique creates and sustains the interpretive problem like a drone note throughout every page until the very last panel.

Fig. 3.

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Readers of graphic narratives, then, move in a constant linear progression towards the next resolution. Since a story may have any number of interpretive problems, the rise and fall of the action helps to continuously tempt the reader onward. After a dissonance is encountered and the reader successfully closes the gap and gains meaning, the reader also realizes the incomplete nature of his knowledge. The existence of the next unread panel tempts the reader onward until the final meaning is reached. The undulating, linear path from interpretive problem to interpretive problem is, in essence, the narrative line or, in more practical terms, the plot. This forward movement, however, only defines one way in which interpretive juxtapositions connect to each other. Points of reader-created significance in a narrative can be connected in an almost unlimited number of ways. Each individual narrative can depend upon several connecting links for the reader to engage with. If more than one narrative is given, then each storyline interacts through similar gaps which the reader fills in.

Even though points of significance in a, graphic narrative interact in a seemingly endless variety of ways, these connections can be generalized into two broad categories. Ferdinand de Saussure's ideas about semiotic structural analysis can provide a very useful framework to describe the various relationships between invisible signs. The focus of Saussure's work was on linguistics and, as such, a direct application of his theory as practiced by other literary analysts would stress the interactions between words or phrases.

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Saussure writes, "Words as used in discourse, strung together one after another, enter into relations based upon the linear character of languages" (Saussure, 2006: 121). In a graphic narrative, however, the language of images depends upon a sign-signifier relationship in much the same way that text does. The reader creates meaning by progressing through the text from the beginning to the end. The linear movement from one panel to the next works in the same fashion as the movement from one word to the next in a sentence. Saussure defined this relationship as syntagmatic. The relationship between text and image and the interpretive resolution, or between one resolution and another in a single narrative structure would be termed syntagmatic. When an interpretative juxtaposition relates to knowledge from outside the single narrative structure, either to another narrative or to an implied cultural reference, the relationship, following Saussure's model, is associative. A preliminary consideration of syntagmatic movement will serve to better describe associative connections in graphic narratives.

Syntagmatic relationships can be seen best in Adrian Tomine's "Lunch Break" (1995:20-24). In a five page story, the author uses the first two pages in depicting an old woman who carefully makes a sandwich, packs it into a brown paper bag, and then walks outside to an old Chevy Bel Air where she sits and begins to eat (Fig. 4). The simple panels on the first two pages, like in Abel's set of four smaller panels, heighten the reader's desire 'for completion. There is no dialogue and the action is minimal. Tomine pushes the patternof this first scene to the limit. He offers the reader a typical scene, that of sandwich making, long enough for the reader to become bored and then subtly shifts one side of the information gap to have the woman walk outside to the car. She doesn't do the usual; she sits on the passenger side, alone. The oddness of the scene yearns for the resolution of why. The third page, however, shifts dramatically. There is always a strong connection between the pattern of the story and the establishment of the invisible sign. The very nature ofa flashback in a single narrative line requires the reader to be aware of the shift in time and then hold, in essence, two storylines simultaneously. The harsh shift from the image of the old woman eating a sandwich to that of the young woman calling out to her friend disorients the reader, but the gap remains too large. The "honk honk" noise startles the silence and disturbs the reader's formation of significance. The exact location which provides meaning to the reader can be subjective depending upon the reader's ability to make connections, but Tomine helps the reader find it through the large center panels of the Chevy Bel Air on pages two and three. Because both images of the car are presented similarly -- parked along the curb and facing the same direction -- the car provides the best visual clue for the reader to link the flashback to the present. As the reader processes the new information that the car is the same, a suspicion is created in the reader's mind that both images of the woman getting into the car are of the same person. Tomine works on the edge of the

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reader's tolerance for disorientation and uses the desire for closure as a means of pulling the reader through the story. The original problem of the woman eating the sandwich is only partially solved. The reader is still presented with the question of why, but the piecing out of information temporarily satisfies the reader and offers hope that resolution will come.

In the example from Tomine, all the panels connect to one another in a syntagmatic relationship because there is only one narrative line. Even with the narrative technique of a flashback, the reader, through knowledge gained by the story's point of juxta positional meaning, reconstructs the chronological order of events in order to resolve the first problem posed by the author -why does the old woman eat alone in the car. After'the flashback, Tomine returns to the old woman and on the final page shows her leaving the car with her half-finished lunch. She returns inside, throws the remainder of her meal into the trash and the story ends. For the reader to interpret the woman's actions on the final page, there must be an associative relationship between the actions portrayed and the reader's cultural experiences. Depending upon the reader's past experiences with elderly couples, different interpretations are possible. Those who have seen or have experienced positive marriage relationships will view the disposal of the sandwich with sadness and grief. From this vantage point, the old woman had a perfect relationship with her husband, but because of death or some other tragedy is now alone with her memories. F'or readers who have had a negative experience with relationships, other interpretations emerge. The flashback to the diner scene could have signaled a turning point from which a life-long tragedy slowly developed. Having emerged from the other side of a bad relationship, the act of throwing away the sandwich symbolizes an act of throwing off the restraints of the past and signals a new beginning 'for the old woman. This final interpretation results from an associative link because the significance is gained when information inside the story connects to information from outside. '

Saussure explains the associative relation when he says "while a syntagma brings in straight away the idea of Ire- fixed sequence, with a specific number of elements, an associative group has no particular number of items in it; nor do they occur in any particular order" (Saussure, 2006: 124). A reader's past experiences and cultural knowledge are never intrinsic parts of the narrative sequence and different readers will bring varying amounts of outside information to the reading process. Saussure's original concept of associative relationships, however, differs slightly in the way modem theorists use his ideas. .Contemporary linguists, focusing mainly upon the aspect of word choice, consider such a relationship as paradigmatic. In considering the options of a particular adjective in a sentence, the relationship between the word used and those words not chosen is paradigmatic. Saussure's original term, associative, better describes the relationship between signs from different narrative lines because he also says, "Groups formed by mental association do not include

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only items sharing something in common. For the mind also grasps the nature of the relations involved in each case, and thus creates as many associative series as there are different relations" (Saussure, 2006: 123-124). The reader's culture and experience greatly impact the reading of graphic narratives because they embody important and critical aspects to associative connections within the story.


Since syntagmatic relationships are limited to a single narrative line, stories which employ multi-narratives use associative connections between different storylines to create significance. A page from Jason Lutes' Berlin:

City of Stones (2004: 183) demonstrates how associative links work in comics to instigate the reader to construct greater meaning. Lutes provides a narrative pause in the example page. The page shown in Fig. 5 is actually a contradiction because, on the one hand, there is no required sequence for the reader to read the page, the panels can be read in virtually any order. On the other hand,

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because of the resemblance between the scenes depicted from each of the six storylines, the implication for the reader is that each story is paused at the exact same instant, requiring that all the panels should be read at the same time. For each individual panel, the reader needs to close the syntagmatic distance between the present image being viewed and the last remembered

. panel from that particular storyline. In panel two, for example, the reader is encouraged to reevaluate the love relationship between Kurt and Marthe and consider how they are positioned on the bed. Kurt is holding Marthe, but her arms are empty. The imbalance could be coincidence, but it could also contain an important sign. In light of their growing love affair, his previous experiences with Margarethe, and her mysterious past, the author asks the reader to question whether the tranquility portrayed is only temporary.

Because of the replicated simple images, the reader is also compelled to consider the associative gaps between the separate storylines as well to find other similarities. The closeness between Kurt and Marthe in panel two, for example, is juxtaposed by the extreme separation of Gudrun and Otto in panels three and four. Positioned at opposite comers of the page, the reader is forced to consider how ideological differences between a husband and a wife can rip a family apart. The distance between them begs the question whether such a rift can be ever closed. The comparative aspect of associative relationships between narrative lines provides possibilities for the reader to better understand problems presented in each individual story.

Fig. 6.

In Lute's example, while the narrative pause highlights associative relationships and possibly presents further problems for the reader to solve, there is virtually no narrative movement forward. Only the cropped image of

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Lemke's back in panel six leads the reader to the next page. By positioning the greater portion of his body outside the page, the reader can interpret that other parts of the story are beyond this page as well. Associative relationships, however, are not confined to instances of narrative pause. On the contrary, they most often occur while narratives are in motion. In this fashion, tracing associative relationships throughout a graphic narrative can quickly become very complicated.

Considering the quickness and agility by which readers automatically identify and close gaps inside graphic narratives, both syntagmatically and associatively, the number of constructible bridges of significance a reader is able to simultaneously work to build meaning can be rather large. This fact is exemplified in Fig. 6, a page from Rebecca Dart's "Rabbithead" (2006:105- 129). Dart begins with a single narrative which follows a rabbit-figure as she rides a horse-like creature into town. The rabbit-figure spits along the side of the road. One part of the spit lands on a tree while the other falls on the ground. With the act of spitting, two new narrative lines branch off from the main story and follow each splatter as they both become animated. Eventually, the three narrative lines branch to become five, then later to seven seemingly separate storylines. From the center point of the story, the branching effect reverses so that the seven storylines merge into five, then three, then finally back into the main narrative line. This graphic narrative is unique, however, because of the associative relationships between storylines through which readers can create a unified meaning, a meaning not found in anyone narrative line. Each of the branch stories portrays a surrealistic and gruesome view of nature as one creature devours another until it is also devoured. At the center point of the graphic narrative, the main narrative line presents a disruption in relation to the other lines as the townspeople murder the horse-creature and begin to torture the rabbit-figure. In the branch lines, the violence is an act of survival. Working syntagmatically, nature is portrayed as a cycle wherein the basic needs of one creature are provided by another. The violence exhibited by the townspeople differs dramatically when considered associatively because the eventual mutilation of the rabbit-figure does not serve any basic need. This juxtaposition between acts of violence, the pivotal point of interpretation of the graphic narrative, suggests that the actions of the townspeople are not only unnatural, but also in contradiction to the continued cycle of life. In order to reach this extra level of meaning, the reader is required to juggle a huge amount of narrative information. As with the Richard McGuire example, though, Dart depends upon the reader's syllogistic need to construct meaning by connecting streams of seemingly unrelated bits of information.

While meaning can indeed be gained through isolated interpretations of either text or image, additional meaning that is unique to the graphic narrative format can be found in the area between various combinations of image and text throughout the various storylines. The additive nature of graphic narratives

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suggests that interpretive theories should account for the various ways in which the separate mediums of expression interact and create new meanings not found when either the text or the image is examined in isolation. Unfortunately, Scott McCloud promoted that critical isolation between disciplines and between the hybrid nature of text and image when he claimed, "Words and pictures in combination may not be my definition of comics, but the combination has had a tremendous influence on its growth" (McCloud, 1994:152). The unique combination of words and pictures, the way various juxtapositions provide opportunities for readers to construct meaning, is not simply an influential factor of popularity, but provides the means for understanding how graphic narratives work.


1 Guido Crepax illustrated volume one of His to ire d'O in 1975 and volume two in 1984. Sadly, both editions are now out of print.

2 For just a few discussions of the definition of comics, see McCloud (1994), Groensteen (2007), and Wolk (2007).

3 Abel uses this device throughout La Perdita. For a further discussion of how images of self create identity, see hooks (1992: 115-131).

4 Also see Hatfield's discussion of Chris Ware's "Thrilling Adventure Stories" (2005:32-67).


Abel, Jessica. 2006. La Perdida. New York: Pantheon.

Barthes, Roland. 1985. "I Hear and I Obey ... " In On Signs: A Semiotics Reader, edited by Marshall Blonsky. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bordwell, David. 1989. "A Case forCognitivism." Iris. 9:11-41.

Dart, Rebecca. 2006. "Rabbithead." In The Best American Comics: 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar, pp. 105-129. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Delisle, Guy. 2005. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly.

Groensteen, Thierry. 2007. The System of Comics. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Hatfield, Charles. 2005. "The Art of Tensions: The Otherness of Comics Reading." In Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, pp. 32- 67. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

hooks, bell. 1992. "The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators." In Black Looks: Race and Representation, pp. 115-13l. New York: South End.

Lutes, Jason. 2004. Berlin: City of Stones. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly.

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Mamet, David. 1991. On Directing Film. New York: Viking

McCloud, Scott. 1994. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York:


McGuire, Richard. 2006. "Here." In An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories, edited by Ivan Brunetti, pp. 88-93. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Round, Julia. 2007. "Visual Perspective and Narrative Voice in Comics:

Redefining Literary Terminology." International Journal of Comic Art. 9(2):316-329.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 2006. Course in General Linguistics, edited by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye. Trans. Roy Harris. 3rd ed. Chicago:

Open Court.

Tomine, Adrian. 1995. "Lunch Break." In Optic Nerve #1, pp. 20-24. Montreal:

Drawn and Quarterly.

Wolk, Douglas. 2007. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Cambridge: De Capo.

Roy Bearden-White lives in Southern Illinois with his wife, son, mother-inlaw, 27 fish, one dog, 19 cats, a canary, and three raccoons who claim they are "just passing by." He has been published by Grassroots, True Poet Magazine, Three Cup Morning, The Aurora Review, and Once Upon A Time,. He is a Ph.D. student in English Literature at Southern Illinois University.

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