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Film, photographs and saccades: Richard Outcault’s experiments with the comic strip gutter in the Yellow Kid

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Although Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid comic strip originally had no partitions between scenes, he soon began experimenting with use of empty space and different types of partition. When he began to use full gutters in Yellow Kid, they functioned differently than they had in the comic strips drawn in his previous comics. Based upon Outcault’s known familiarity with the new developments in the creation and projection of motion pictures, we argue here that, originally, Outcault intended in Yellow Kid strips to produce an effect comparable to the ‘moving pictures’ that we see today. However, he eventually came to realize the advantages of using a series of still photographs as the model for his comic strips, especially in shorter sequences of five to nine pictures. This realization was roughly simultaneous with the translation into English of important discoveries in eye movement. The discovery of the saccade, in particular, supported the view that a strip of photos, intended to be viewed in a series, is processed as seamlessly by the mind as a motion picture film strip. We postulate that Outcault’s eventual uniform adoption of full gutters might have been influenced by this contemporary shift in the understanding of visual perception.
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Keywords: Richard Outcault; Yellow Kid; comic strip; film; gaps; gutters; saccades

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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