Learning to Read

Okay, so I know this sounds like a funny comment, but as someone who has only recently really started reading long form comics and graphic novels I have realized there is a difference in how I need to read. I am a reasonably fast reader and I grew up devouring books. The text makes your imagination come alive and the suspenseful moments I would always read faster because I need to find out what happened. I have read some book series over the course of a couple days.

With comic books and graphic novels if I go to fast I tend to miss something because it is about more than the words. The combination of text and images means that there is a lot more that you have to look at to fully absorb the story.

Reading to Forget

The biggest thing that I discovered is that when reading a comic I can feel that I am actually understanding what is happening, but then when I think back on it I do not actually remembered what happened. Some of that seems to come from the fact that I was reading the text, but skimming over the graphics. If you are used to just reading the text and the images are non-essential it makes sense. In comics the text and images combine together to create the story.

If you skip over the images you miss half the story, which explains why I forget what is happening when I read to fast. To really absorb the story I feel like I need to take my time with it and really understand what the visuals are attempting to convey. In books we describe what is happening, in comics they show it. The only comparison I can think of is trying to fast forward a movie and still understand what is happening.

Different Styles

I do not know if anyone else has this issue, but it is definitely something that I had to figure out to make comics more enjoyable. There is a way you have to engage the medium that is very different than just reading. Now with short form comics that are single panel I can do that just fine, but when there is page turning involved for some reason I had to switch how my brain is thinking of it. When I figured that out it has made reading comics a lot easier, but it does take a different amount of time and frame of mind than reading a novel.


2 responses to “Learning to Read

  1. Good point. I have the exact same problem, so unless it’s something that I just didn’t enjoy, I read it twice. The first time is usually quick and just to find out ‘what happens’. Then I usually set the comic aside and come back to it later and do a slower second pass, really absorb the artwork and nuance. On the second pass I’ll usually read several issues at once, as well, to see how the story hangs together as a unit.

    This is one of the things I *really* love about the guided view of digital comics when it breaks the story down into panels — it makes me slow down and because the panels are often displayed much larger than they would be on the physical page, it draws me into the visual aspect of the storytelling more. Also, you can’t accidently scan the overall page with your eye and pick up on some crucial ‘spoiler’ element. (As a downside, though, if the art is poor or mediocre, it becomes *really* noticeable).

    I think there’s some real potential with the panel-by-panel digital format that if something was created specifically for that format, could make a big difference because it’s less about layout and fitting everything on a page and more freedom to make great individual panels. Creating comics, there’s a lot of times where you have to slightly sacrifice a scene because you can only get so many panels on a page and the ideal pacing has to be altered to fit the physical restrictions of the format.

    I’ve read some things in both formats and if the guided view formatting is done correctly, the digital can be so much better, especially in black and white material.


  2. Pingback: A Year and a Half of Comparative Geeks! | Comparative Geeks

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