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Analysis of Motions in Comic Book Cover Art: Using Pictorial Metaphors

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Motion can be depicted using literal pictorial devices (representing features present in the real world) and metaphorical pictorial devices (representing features that do not occur in the real world). How are literal and metaphorical pictorial devices used in comic book cover art? We analyzed the pictorial devices used to depict the motion running in 400 Silver Age (1956–1971) and Bronze Age (c. 1970–1985) superhero comic book covers (Frankenhoff & Thompson, 2012). Literal devices (such as arm and leg positions) were used additively; that is, artists preferred to use many literal devices. On the other hand, metaphorical devices (such as action lines) were not used additively; artists preferred to use only one metaphorical device. We propose the Literal Additive Metaphorical One-And-Done (LA-MOAD) theory to account for the use of literal and metaphorical devices in comic book cover art. The differential use of literal and metaphorical devices by comic book artists may be unique to comic book cover art, or it may reflect a basic function of our visual system.

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Understanding comics: The invisible art

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Representing motion in a static image: constraints and parallels in art, science, and popular culture.

Representing motion in a picture is a challenge to artists, scientists, and all other imagemakers. Moreover, it presents a problem that will not go away with electronic and digital media, because often the pedagogical purpose of the representation of motion is more important than the motion itself. All satisfactory solutions evoke motion-for example, dynamic balance (or broken symmetry), stroboscopic sequences, affine shear (or forward lean), and photographic blur-but they also typically sacrifice the accuracy of the motion represented, a solution often unsuitable for science. Vector representations superimposed on static images allow for accuracy, but are not applicable to all situations. Workable solutions are almost certainly case specific and subject to continual evolution through exploration by imagemakers.
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Grasping the Nature of Pictures

Author and article information

Department of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend, South Bend, United States
School of Professional Studies, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Columbia University, New York, United States
Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship
Open Library of Humanities
12 April 2016
: 6
: 1
Copyright: © 2016 The Author(s)

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

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