The Portrayal of Time in Comics

In the comic “Waiting” by Maurice Vellekoop, there are four panels, with each one being set in a different season. What is fascinating about this piece is that each panel is set in the same location and perspective overlooking a city street, with the only changes being the weather and vehicle placement. The weather changes in each panel, from winter to spring, to summer, and then to fall, giving the reader a perception of passing time. Other than the images presented, it is up to the interpreter to determine how much time the piece is meant to depict. There are a variety of techniques that comics use to provide a concept of time that is suitable to individual works.

“502 West Main Street” by Onsmith, contains twenty-four panels in total that are grouped into sets of fours, each depicting an event within an unnamed boys life. Each group of panels portrays a different moment of time, which is indicated by the titles the author provides above each set. The first set of panels takes place in “spring 1987,” beginning with a third-person description of a boy who discovers a waterlogged pornographic magazine. In the next three panels, the boy tears out a page to put in his wallet and prepares and excuse in case his mother discovers it.
The first panel contains a black and white image of a fence with pieces of wood placed next to it, showing the location of where the magazine was found. The next image features an areal view of a neighborhood, which seems to have no relevance to the plot whatsoever. In the following panel, a pickup truck is shown driving away, and the set ends with an overhead view of a house. While the plot seems to take place within a few seconds, the images create the perception that the events take place over a longer period of time.

The story appears to be taking place moment by moment, with recollections that seem random and incoherent, as if each moment being remembered, demonstrated by the images that are connected to the words. Every comic gives some sort of indication of time correlating with the plot, whether through images, text, or a mixture of both, providing readers with the information needed to understand the time frame. The context of a comic determines how the author chooses to reveal time, but despite these differences, every comic indicates its time frame in some way.

Jay Gervais


Works Cited

Vellekoop, Maurice. “Waiting.” Ivan Brunetti. Ed. Yale University Press, 2008. Print

Onsmith. “502 West Main Street.” Ivan Brunetti. Ed. Yale University Press, 2008. Print

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3 Responses to The Portrayal of Time in Comics

  1. yuenly says:

    This comic you’ve presented here is simple but done well. Similar to what you said about each image being as if a moment was being remembered, I find the texts help set the pacing at which the narrator is remembering this moment. To me, this creates the illusion within my own mind that I am recalling this event as well.

  2. jsexner says:

    When reading this comic, I found it quite useful that the author uses aspect-to-aspect to depict the notion of time in each 4X4 grid, but then uses scene-to-scene to depict the overall change in time, as each season and year passes. Based on the size of the gutters between the side-by-side grids, one can conclude even without seeing the season or year written above, that it is a shorter duration of time that has passed than the subsequent tiers, as the size of the gutters in between each tier are larger.

    Jared Exner

  3. hugotse says:

    As I read this comic, I found myself intrigued by the image to text relationship more than the aspect of portrayed time. While you state the majority of images bear a lack of connection to the narrative, I find that they coincide with a “rambling” nature as if the narrator were recalling the written moments but drawing the most familiar setting to the memory. The quiet neighborhood drawn in the panels fits the subtle mood of the story and could be representative of a random, passing thought in the narrators head, who thinks so far as to only describe the acts instead of drawing the fine details of what actually happened.

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