Dec 12, 2010

Comic Book Glossary: Transitions, Part 1

Welcome to a new installment of Comic Book Glossary! One of the aims of the Comics Cube! has always been to help out the newer readers who may be interested in, but aren't all that knowledgeable in comics, and one thing everyone needs to know if they're interested are the terms. Click here for the index!

Last time, we discussed a gutter, and how the reader interaction with comics comes from it. Today, we'll discuss some of the transitions that take place in those gutters. Scott McCloud defined six main transition types in UNDERSTANDING COMICS (essential reading for those who want to know more about the technical aspects of the medium), and we'll look at three here.

The most often-used transition type by any storyteller is the action-to-action transition. This is pretty self-explanatory. It's when you show one character doing something in the course of two panels. This is essential for anyone who wants to tell a story properly. Case in point: Wonder Woman flips Superman, drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. (Read my analysis of the execution of this scene here.)


The next most used transition type is subject-to-subject. This is when you keep things in the same scene, but the subject of the panel changes. Obviously, this is important to keep the scene interesting (especially, I'd argue, when people are talking).  Here's a sequence from THE ESCAPISTS, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Steve Rolston.


And the next most-used type is the obvious scene-to-scene. Unless your story all occurs in one place and no one moves (it's happened), the scene has to change. Here, you've got Steve Ditko jumping around the Marvel Universe for an opinion on Spider-Man (note the lack of borders, although the gutters are implied, to show a montage effect).


Comics can and have been told using just these three transition types. But what if you want to achieve another effect? Say, a larger sense of place, more buildup? Well, next time, we'll look at the three scene transitions that are used significantly less!

Thanks to Scott McCloud and UNDERSTANDING COMICS for his definitions!

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