Since I’ve been teaching Fun Home the past year and I just read Essentials of Visual Communication, I’ve thought a lot about what Alison Bechdel calls the “separate tracks” of comics, text and image. Scott McCloud categorizes these pairings in the “Show and Tell” chapter of Understanding Comics, but his emphasis is on which element, the text or the image, carries the most information. So he has categories like “word specific,” “duo-specific,” and “interdependent.” While I think these categories are useful, I’m more interested in what specifically the text and image are doing, what roles they are playing together. Obviously, wordless comics and dialogue-only comics are left out here, but Fun Home constantly pairs text and image and does so in different ways. I started making a list as a teaching aid and added to it a lot the past few weeks as I was going through Essentials of Visual Communication.
So I wanted to share a visual list of some of the pairings I came up with. Most of these came out of analysis of actual comics, especially Fun Home, while a few are theoretical. This is not supposed to be a complete list, but I am curious to hear if anyone reading this has other pairings to suggest. Besides the intellectual interest in making this list, I thought it might also be useful in teaching as well as creating comics. On the creation side, it could inspire creators to think of other ways in which text and image work together. In terms of teaching, I was thinking of putting some of these up for my students and getting them to look for which appear in Fun Home and where. If I were teaching a class about creating comics, then I could have students choose a certain number of pairings and use them as the basis for a comics panel or page.
So let’s start with narration and monstration. These are my pet terms of the past year. Narration is what is told, verbally. Monstration is what is shown, visually.
Sometimes the image shows what happens and the text explains how or why it happens.
In Modern Cartoonist, Dan Clowes says to think of the text as the mind and the image as the body.
And here’s one about the image/text red herring I mentioned in the Essentials of Visual Communication post.
The opinionated lizard narrator in Enigma made me think of this next one.
These next three come from teaching Fun Home.
And two theoreticals.
Do you have any others? Or any specific examples of the above pairings?