90 pages 3 hours read

Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Nonfiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Adult | Published in 1993

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Chapters 3-6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “Blood in the Gutter”

McCloud begins this chapter with a pictorial process leading to a discussion of “closure”—the mind’s innate ability to assume aspects of the world it cannot directly sense, “observing the parts but perceiving the whole” (63). Closure is necessary for humans to negotiate the world as one must be able to assume certain realities despite only being aware of a few of them via the five senses. When a person sees a line drawing, the mind interprets it in an act of closure. Some media like television shows and movies grant closure to viewers instantaneously.

Turning to comics, McCloud says, “Here in the limbo of the gutter, human imagination takes two separate images and transforms them into a single idea” (66)—with “gutters” being the blank spaces between comic panels. The mind finds closure by literally filling in these blank spaces. McCloud demonstrates gutters in action via a comic strip of a panicked man fleeing a killer; the second and final panel shows a crescent moon above the silhouette of a city with the scream, “EEYAA!!” (66).

Closure is a form of participation as the viewer assumes characters’ thoughts and actions that are not actually displayed. McCloud demonstrates this via a three-panel cartoon in which a man kisses a woman.

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