Reading the comics

A report on research at the University of California, on “The visual linguistics of a comic book page”:

Inside Science recently wrote about the study by UCSD’s Neil Cohn, Navigating Comics, which looks at the underlying structure of the comics language:

People who read the English written word scan text from left to right. Once our eyes hit the end of the page, we stop. Then ding!, like an old-time typewriter, our eyes shift downward and snap back to the left to start reading the next line. This is known as a “Z-path,” as our eyes whip about like the end of Zorro’s sword.

But that linear track gets derailed in comics with complex layouts and Cohn wanted to know if experienced readers had strategies to follow along.

The short answer is yes, but matters are complex:

Cohn asked participants to number each panel in the sequence they would read them.

There were no correct answers. But he found that more experienced comics readers were more likely to abandon the Z-path reading approach when faced with layouts more complicated than a neat grid.

Certain design techniques led to similar reading strategies. For example, if a panel ran down the entire length of the right side of the page, experienced readers were more likely to read each panel on the left side before moving to the one panel on the right. In this case, the readers were reading vertically instead of across the page.

However, some other design techniques did not provoke such predictable responses, perhaps suggesting that the context is also necessary for readers to navigate the story.

(Hat tip to Norma Mendoza-Denton.)

One Response to “Reading the comics”

  1. Comic Book Talk with Gabe Mendoza & Pat Loboyko (Week of June 12, 2013) | MyBsideBlog.Com Says:

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