Is there is no such thing as Closure in Comics (the conta side)

I already wrote about Scott McCloudes theory of ‘closure‘ or the panel-to-panel relationships (1993) in comics, in short, the reading in between the lines/spaces (also known as gutters) of comics. His theory got many supporters but there is also the contra side with people such as Neil Cohn and Thierry Groensteen (1999).

McCloude divides his theory into six categories:

1.  Moment-to-moment: between small increments of time
2. Action-to-action: between full ranges of actions

3. Subject-to-subject: between characters or objects in a scene

4. Aspect-to-aspect: between aspects of a scene or an environment
5. Scene-to-scene: between different scenes
6. Non-sequitur: have no apparent meaningful relation


Niel Cohn however, argues that the ‘readers definitely make inferences for information that is not depicted, this inference does not occur “in the gutter” and also not in panel-to-panel juxtapositions’. This means that the reader understands that in a sequence of images one or more are missing/ that there is more to the story than there is depicted. However, this is not happening between the two panels in the gutter but actually based on the relationship between the last one to the first one. Due to experience does the reader know what is or is supposed to happen, he makes ‘Predictions’.suppletive_panels.jpg

The reader knows though these predictions that something fits or not fits into the story. The Example of Cohn illustrates this theory: while the first two sequences seem to make sense with either an action star panel or a fight cloud panel ‘describes’ the fight. But the heart as a panel makes within the story no sense the reader is confused. However knows from his experience that even though a heart is depicted a fight is happening.

And last but not least Groensteen argues 2007 in his publication ‘The System of Comics” that the spaces between the panels are mainly unimportant and meaningless in the understanding of Comics.  They should be understood as “punctuation marks”  which support the sequence and coherence but not the meaning of the artwork. The spaces are in brief only there to separate the text from the image.


Groensteen, Thierry. 2007.The System of Comics. Translated by B. Beaty and N. Nguyen: University of Mississippi Press.

Cohn, Neil. 2003. Early Writings on Visual Language. Carlsbad, CA: Emaki Productions.

Cohn, Neil. 2010,The limits of time and transitions:challenges to theories of sequential image comprehension,

Cohn, Neil. 2016, Dispelling myths of comics understanding

McCloud, Scott. 1993.Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York, NY: Harper Collins.




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