Choosing a Comic for Christmas

Erik Marty van Mechelen
4 min readSep 29, 2020

Making connections with neighbors & how to pick comics for your nephews

Photo by Luka Korica on Unsplash

The fire crackled, harmonizing with the whistle of wind, the whir of raindrops, the chatter of humans.

I’d had a frustrating day. No, it had only ended frustratingly. While getting set up on new web infrastructure — ghost.org — which I’ll probably learn to love, my impatience during the inevitably gradual onboarding was getting to me already at 3:30pm and more so by 5pm and by then I was already late for our neighbor’s happy hour over the fence. My wife had gone ahead. So, my day had ended frustratingly.

So I’d thought.

The day was far from over.

On arrival, after I thanked our hosts and was delivered a drink, tequila with apple, star d’anise, and a cinnamon stick to stir — wow to this margarita — my friend asked me how I’d liked Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which I was returning to him.

From McCloud’s popular — and popular for the right reasons — work on what makes a comic a comic, how comics affect the reader, how artists produce them, and what the engagement between author and reader means, I took away at least a dozen insights. Even though comics are most simply ‘sequential art’, they are far more than that. The beginning of sequential art that we know of stretches back at least to the Egyptians and no doubt far into the future. Of all our human senses, the visual domain dominates. Comics play along with this constraint but also implicitly ask for readers’ participation, principally by calling upon their imagination.

We imagine the space between panels, in the gutters, the motion that is suggested by merely a stroke of ink, the sonic elements, the passing (and distortion) of time. All these elements, attributes, and dimensions — and not only these — are hinted at or suggested by the author of the comic. In this way, no reader’s experience of a comic will be like anyone else’s.

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