Thoughts on Comics and the Passage of Time

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Eisner comments that “critical to the success of a visual narrative is the ability to convey time” (2008, p. 28).  For a student of comics, ‘reading responses’ may bring to mind the possibility of several layers of time.

In a single comic, the reader may perceive the passage of time in the gutters or from frame to frame (McCloud, 1994, pp. 70-72).

When bound together, a series of comics/issues/volumes (such as the four stories in Eisners’ A Contract With God [2006]) offers another layer of time, i.e., the perceived ‘flow’ or ‘jump’ from one comic to the next.  The reader manipulates their own experience, choosing to pause between comics/issues/volumes or to continue without a gap in reading time.  Each choice becomes a ‘gutter’ in time, affecting how the reader grasps and interprets the comic(s).


Eisner, W. (2006). Part I: A contract with God.  In The contract with God trilogy (pp. 2-23). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and sequential art: Principles and practices from the legendary cartoonist. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse.

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

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