Closure and Time Frames: Zach Morgan

Since my first project focused more on the mainstream side of comics, I wanted to dive into some deeper subject matter for this project. For that reason, I decided that I want to read Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. Listed on NPR’s “100 Best Comics and Graphic Novels,” Jimmy Corrigan is described in a way that I thought made it perfect for this project. NPR says that Chris Ware has “master[ed] the comics medium’s unique ability to create tension between words and images,” which to me sounds like Ware must be proficient in how he manipulates how much the viewer is required to participate in the story through the use of closure and time frames. I also read that this graphic novel is not only a masterpiece, but that it feels “like a series of gut punches,” (NPR). As I began to skim this graphic novel, I immediately felt the sense of sadness from the main character from everything about him including his apartment are bland, unexciting colors along with sad imagery of what his dad walking away from him. It, too, was immediately evident how great of a graphic novelist Chris Ware is.

An example of closure from Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan

One example of how Chris Ware uses closure is in this fairly simple sequence of panels. Ware shows Jimmy sitting on his chair in a room, doing nothing, which provides a sense of boredom from this character. Then in the next panel, the reader sees a shadow of man standing in the doorway outside of a kitchen. According to Scott McCloud, what has happened in between these panels is entirely up to the viewer. As a viewer, I pictured Jimmy standing up from his chair to walk into his kitchen. This is an example of subject-to-subject transition as it follows Jimmy through his home. As the viewer reads along, Jimmy is not shown in his entirety in the panel, but the viewer feels that he is there. I think what the viewer feels from two panels has a big effect on how they interpret what occurs in the gutters between the panels.

An example of the use of time frames from Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan

Looking at a more complex sequence of panels, one thing that jumps out at me right away from these three panels is that the words are not bound to single panels. Rather, there is a sentence that starts on one panel that concludes on the next. I think this is done intentionally to direct the reader, so they read the panels in order. But I digress, I want to point out how Ware uses time frames to help tell the story of these panels. Through the three panels, you see small pictures of a father and child with the man holding the child by the arm. Then, the father is shown walking away from the boy and the house. Finally, you see another angle more so from the boy’s perspective. Ware manipulates time between the two panels on the left by how much distance he puts between the father and they boy, which indicates to the reader that about 5-10 seconds have passed by and the child is sitting still on the ground. In the right panel, the boy is in the foreground sitting, seemingly in pain, holding his arm. With the painful feeling the reader gets from the boy, paired with all the open space at the top of the frame, time is conveyed in this sequence deliberately to convey the  feeling of loneliness and sadness. Since comics are a sequence of images intended to convey feelings in the viewer, I’d say Chris Ware has checked that box.

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