Analysis on TedTalks of Scott McCloud Graphic Novels as an Art Form, English homework help


The following lecture is by Scott McCloud who is best known for his books about the comic genre. This lecture deals more with the concept of comics and bit of its background. Feel free to use these questions as guides when watching it:

  • How did McCloud get into comics?
  • What are the three types of vision he lists and which vision represents the world of comics?
  • What are the four patterns he recognizes in comics?
  • What is meant when McCloud says that comics are a visual medium that tries to embrace all the senses with it?
  • How are the senses and time portrayed in comics?
  • Are comics something new?
  • To what extent are comics cinematic?
  • Having watched this talk, do you see comics differently?


Hopefully, you have reviewed the Graphic Novel TermsView in a new window and have a basic understanding of them; with that said, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take some of those terms and apply them to the book’s excerpt “The Veil” from Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis.


Persepolis P788 Panels 1-2.jpg

Panel: Above are panels 1 and 2 at the beginning of the story. As is indicated on the terms handout, each panel contains a combination of text and image that is ordered in a particular sequence to create a certain effect. Here, Satrapi uses the first panel to introduce herself and how old she was when the story took place. In the following panel, she shows an image of her classmates. By deciding to put herself in her own panel, she articulates to the reader that she is different from her peers.

Frame: Like photos or ads that are cropped to create a controlled image for the audience, each frame in a graphic novel is also a decision made by the illustrator/author to give you (the reader) a particular perception, so it’s important to think about why content is framed in a particular way.

Gutter: Likewise, it’s important to think about what the gutter (the white space between the panels) represents. As the reader, you want to think about what is not being shown as much as you think about what has been framed.

Persepolis P788 Panels 3-5.jpg

Graphic weight: Satrapi’s style is always an interesting visual exercise because her work is in black and white. In panel 4, the image of the teacher handing the hijab to the students immediately caught my attention, the use of black in the teacher’s clothing, the hijab, and the school sign create a connection between the three that associates the teacher with the larger governmental system. In panel 5, however, there are a lot of figures to look at, so much so that it’s difficult to isolate one image in particular; here, the pattern of of students interacting with the hijab has a unique effect on the reader’s perception of the school’s policy, and the juxtaposition of the students’ playfulness with that of the hijab’s religious associations reveals a disconnect between the children’s use of it and the hijab’s symbolism.


Persepolis P790 Panel 1.jpg

Faces: In the terms sheet, it states, “some [faces] depict an actual person, like a portrait; others are iconic, which means they are representative of an idea or a group of people.” Would you identify the women in the above panel as portrait or iconic? To me, it seems like a mixture of both, and though all of their faces have some expression, it is the uniformity of their expressions that stands out since it illustrates how each side is equally angry/passionate.

Persepolis P790 Panel 2-3.jpg

Hands/Feet: In the case of the last couple of panels, we cannot see the characters’ feet, but the use of the raised fists in panels one and two reinforce the anger felt by the people. Even in panel 3, where Marjane, holds a photograph of the image we see in panel 2 reveals something – the way she holds the photograph with both hands emphasizes the pride she feels about her mother’s activism.


Persepolis P790 Panel 4-6.jpg

Captions: The use of captions in certain panels provides provides narration for the dialogue/actions taking place. Panel 4 has both narration and dialogue; whereas, panels 5 and 6 only contain narration, which gives the reader time to reflect on the images.

Take a few minutes and free-write an answer to one or all of these questions.

  1. How does the discussion of specific elements help us read comics/graphic novels more deeply?
  2. Is there a particular element you find more valuable than others?
  3. How is reading a piece like “The Veil” different from reading short stories like “The Lottery”?

This will help you process your understanding of the concepts. Feel free to post it on the padlet below. State your name in the header and then in the post make sure it’s clear which question you are reflecting on. The reflection should be at least 250 words, and the password is…graphicnovelsasart.


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