The sound of silence: Blank spaces, fading narratives and fragile frames in comics
How does one translate silence onto a silent medium? Printed comic books and graphic novels are generally a non-auditory art form. This has caused them to be traditionally perceived as ‘silent’. This also means that comics artists have come up with some of the most innovative ways of translating sound to a primarily visual medium ‐ bold letters, onomatopoeic words, fading images, etc. Nonetheless, these innovations have often in fact failed to address silence. As an art form where both the blank space and the printed word acquire their own unique visual signification, is comics rather a stubbornly un-silent medium? If so, then how does one depict silence in an un-silent medium? My article addresses these questions by first examining the works of Scott McCloud, Thierry Groensteen and Barbara Postema and their study of sound in comics. I then build on these theoretical frameworks to problematize the conventional correlation of visual signifiers with sound and silence, primarily examining the use of blank space or the lack of words as a default signifier of silence. Ultimately, I will argue that comic books provide a unique transmedial approach to re-analyse our conventional ideas for visual representations of sound.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 0000000086187363 University of Oregon
Publication date: November 1, 2019
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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