The Static Illusion of Dynamic

Like Scott McCloud says, as a medium where one sense is responsible for conveying all of the senses, comics rely on comics to open the world past just the visual. But even the sense of sight is limited through panels on paper, because motion is something not able to be frozen in time.

static problem sm
Panel from page 110 of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.”

Yet comics have conquered that battle with added visual elements.

"If you're going to paint a world filled with motion, then be prepared to paint motion!"
Panels from page 109 of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.”
"Somewhere between the futurists' dynamic movement and duchamp's diagrammatic concept of movement lies comics' "motion line."
Panel from page 110 of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud


And we have been given “motion lines,” drawn in varying degrees of complexity.

This concept has escaped the limitations of panels, however, and lends itself often to instructions of actions that require movement, such as signing for communication.



In these depictions, lines, circles, arrows, and even not fully present hands show the intended motion that is needed to speak with hands.

open sign language
Sign instructions for “open.” Retrieved from Arts and Education Adventure.

Sign language is not something that is typically easily communicated by words, yet many signs cannot be accurately shown with one static image. The motion lines provide clarity and direction for someone interested in learning this language.

What benefits comics does not only benefit comics, but shows itself in other areas like sign language and scuba diving signs.
Scuba diving signs retrieved from “design context.”

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.


2 thoughts on “The Static Illusion of Dynamic

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  1. That’s so cool! I never made that connection, but it makes complete sense. We use motions in diagrams and such all the time to give directions and communicate. I’d like to know which medium started this; did the arrows and motions convey action/movement for instructional purposes before their story-telling purpose?


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