Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware is a graphic novel that makes use of framing incredibly often. This comic began as a serialized strip in newspapers which accounts for the many panels and subsequent frames around those panels. According to Graphic Design: The New Basics, frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object. It essentially provides a visual cue to the reader that the image has stopped at a certain point. The frames in Jimmy Corrigan are all the same width, thin black borders that allow some of the negative space behind the panels to appear. This repetition is most likely due to the fact that this strip was serialized and releases week by week in newspapers. That requires a certain level of duplication because strips only have so much space to work with.
But what really matters is the size of the frames, not the width, but the circumference. Chris Ware represents the importance of panels and images with scale. The larger frames represent moments of great importance to the main character, while the smaller ones are more frequent and are used to highlight every little movement Jimmy makes. This comic takes painstaking detail to just illustrate Jimmy blankly looking around a room. This can be seen in the example image. A man dressed as a superhero falls to his death, representing Jimmy losing his dreams and adoration of heroes he had as a child. It’s a large silent moment. The next page features several smaller framed panels of Jimmy at a complete loss as his mother continuously calls him.
Another interesting detail is how the ringing of the phone and his mother’s text is outside of the frames. He isn’t thinking of them. He’s thinking about the hero that just plunged into death. Jimmy’s mother was shown to be uncaring and unobservant of Jimmy when he was a child and that lack of being invested and involved in what her son cared about has led to her still being outside of his world. And his world, in this case, is within the confines of the frames.
The use of scale and negative space outside of the frames not only adds visual variation and interesting page layouts, but connect deeper into the themes and ideas the comic is trying to present to the reader.