Big bubble letters read, BOOK AS BLOCK UNIVERSE. To the right of the title is a book with Elk's face on the cover Elk's brows are furrowed and he's stroking his chin with his right hand, as if in thought. He says, Alright, we're gonna be getting into a little geometry, here, so strap in, friends. Then, we're going to apply this to the work of Belgian comics formalist Thierry Groensteen. A little copy of his book, the System of Comics pops up in color surrounded by excited emanata. an arrow points at the book with the remark, Go read this, for real! If you click the book, it leads you to the text in full on Google Books Elk continues below in another speech bubble: As I discusse previously here [link to the 4D eye page] and here [link to the spacetime sausage page], we can transpose a 4D experience into 3 dimensions. Comics creates an implied fourth dimension in three dimensions, much like film. Pictured is a coordinate plane with x, y, and z axes. Elk points at the graph, and asks: You recall the coordinate plane? With height, length, and width? To the right is a second coordinate plane, with each axis labelled. Elk continues: You can ascribe any 3 qualities to these axes, so in this case we'll use time as our third dimension. x = D1, y = D2, and z = D3. D1, dimension 1, is labelled as length. D2, dimension 2, is labelled as height. D3, dimension 3, is labelled time. Next we have a small rectangle with x and y axes marked. To the right of this small rectangle, it reads = plane, = panel, = frame. This is to show that the rectangle can be read in any of these ways visually/metaphorically. To the right is another coordinate plane with x, y, and z axes. The rectangle, or, plane, is evenly placed across the z axis, overlapping one another. The image to the right is just the overlapping planes sans graph, and the planes are outlined collectively inscribing the shape of a cuboid, or rectangular prism. Text boxes below these images read in sequence: So, take a few 2D planes... and juxtapose them across the Z axis, which we have now dubbed time... and you get a 2D representation of a 4D hyper-object in 3 dimensions! A block of spacetime! Another bubble appears, reading: The film strip uses this same strategy to superimpose a four-dimensional experience. Again, pictured to the right of the bubble, we see a rectangle with x (height) and y (length) marked, with the whole rectangle designated as 1 frame. Next we see a film strip. Each frame is labelled with x and y on their respective axes. There are four frames pictured, the first labelled t=1, the next t=2, and so on. Below the film strip, it reads T1+T1+T3+T4=Z. The next narration bubble reads: Placing these 2D planes in sequence when projected adds a 3rd dimension: time. A second bubble continues: The movement of these juxtaposed images as they are illuminated in sequence creates this filmic temporality. Next is pictured a reel of film, with the tail end moving towards the viewer. Another bubble reads: But the physical reel of film itself adds a fourth dimension: thickness. The next bubble reads: Think of the reel as a 4D hyper-object; or, a spacetime sausage. Each frame is a slice... We see four frames next to one another spaced evenly so as to not overlap, much like the previous shot of the laid-out film frames. A bubble reads: And together, they create a chunk of spacetime! We see the same image as previous of the overlapping frames delineating a cuboid, this time with emanata surrounding it. Elk takes up most of the screen, waving wide-eyed with little excitement lines beaming from his face, and he shouts: And that's it! You just made your first 4D hyper-object! On either side of this speech bubble are little party poppers shooting rainbow confetti. Next we see Elk wearing a bowtie and a top hat, and he is holding a magic wand with his sleeves rolled up. He says: And for my next trick, I'll need to invite my assistant to the stage, Thierry Groensteen!! He gestures to the right, at an older white man wearing glasses who is waving kindly at the viewer. He is wearing a rumpled blazer and collared shirt. Thierry takes over for Elk, and continues speaking with guillemet, or, french quotation marks, implying he is speaking in French. «Just how cinema has the frame of the film,» he says, gesturing a blank square labelled frame, «comics have the panel.» «The difference is that the comics frame is spread out across a page, which I have called the 'hyperframe'.» He points downward at a fascimile of a comics page littered with panels, where the outer edge of the page is labelled hyperframe. He continues: «Each frame relates to the others, and is read through the connection it has with the other images, and with the page as a whole.» These speech bubbles have all been attributed to his book as direct quotes, taken from page 111. Here we see Minkowski Space diagrammed once again. The present is the 0,0,0 of the x,y,z axes,which spread out over two dimensions (x and y) becomes the plane of the present. Shooting backwards on the z axis is the past light cone, shooting forwards in time is the future light cone. Elk is on the right hand of the diagram to re-introduce it to us. He says: Let's compare Minkowski Space from the chapter The Moving Present: Each panel is informed by and dependent upon the panels around it to make meaning. A bracket surrounds the minkowski space diagram, and leads to three frames in sequence, reading sequentially from left to right: past, present, future. Elk continues: Further, any panel can be 'the present' while the reader is reading it! Each panel is past, present, and future simultaneously, a slice of the eternal spacetime sausage of the book itself. Just like in a film, each frame is a slice... (We see again four blank frames in sequnce) ...and together they make a block of spacetime! We see pictured again, the film real book-elk, and the overlapping frames enclosed in a cuboid. Book Elk says, And just like in film, the thickness of the book is akin to the thickness of the reel! Thierry Groensteen intrudes, eyebrows raised. He says, MAIS-! which in French means BUT-! He continues in a series of small speech bubbles: «Elk, don't forget! Unlike film, the flow of time is controlled by the reader! (111)» «Each panel-moment is closed by the space of the gugger, allowing the next to come into existence... the reader takes the mental 'leap' to the next panel, completely in control of the flow of the story. (113-4)» Elk agrees: Yes, exactly! We see him as in Zeno's Arrow reading his bow pulling the arrow's fletching right under his cheek. He says: Just like in Zeno's Arrow, slicing time into moments is all arbitrary. In comics, the artist contains a moment in a panel, but the reader gives it duration with the movement in their eyes, and the movement within their minds. Scott McCloud pops up in a tiny panel of his own, a man wearing a loud plaid shirt with a swooped black hairdo and impenetrable glasses, which he is fixing with his arm hanging half out of the panel. He says, Allow me to butt in! Elk shields his face, pained, and says: Ugh- Scott McCloud! Your shirt is hurting my eyes! He replies, Well, you drew it! McCloud dominates the next panel, commenting, *ahem* Oh this shirt looks much better, thanks. I actually articulated 6 different types of panel transitions in my chapter on time from Understanding Comics [link], the only comics theory book anyone has actually ever read! Groensteen sneers on, saying «Hein!» and whispers to himself, «Arrogant Americain!» McCloud continues: That thing Thierry was just talking about - the gutter between panels - is my whole gig, man! What the reader does is called CLOSURE! In a new panel, Scott McCloud has a sort of spotlight drawn on him. He's holding up his book Understanding Comics, and it breaks through the edge of the panel as if he's handing it to the viewer. He says, Closure allows us to unify temporally fragmented panels across a page into one line of action (67)! I meant it when I said, Comics is closure! Elk holds up a copy of McCloud's book, studying it while scratching his chin. He quotes from the text: Observing the parts while perceiving the whole (63)... Then he exclaims: Yes, exactly like what I want people to get from Block Universe Theory! He goes on to McCloud, You say yourself that time and space are the same in comics - so it is in the universe! Is comics, then, innately four-dimensional? While Thierry Groensteen focuses on panel-to-page relationships... And Scott McCloud focuses on panel-to-panel relationships... We can go FURTHER! exclaims a very focused-looking Elk, whose brows are furrowed in thought as the knocks his fist on his palm, signifying he's ready to get to work. Recall... THE SPACETIME SAUSAGE! which is written in bubble letters hanging over the image of a sausage being sliced. A narration bubble hangs: As I mentioned elsewhere, sausage has slices but is also a whole! A bubble reads, Let's think of a book as a spacetime sausage. Or, maybe a whole series. A block universe in and of itself. Pictured is a stack of several books all pushed together, hanging over a transparent cuboid that looks like a case one would have for a box set of books. Hanging mid-air, we see a comic book with a glowing line encircling it. Circled on the page and pulled out is a single panel, and a single page full of panels. A speech bubble reads: As we said in Zeno's Arrow [link], a slice of spacetime is always arbitrary. A panel could be a slice of a page, a page a slice of a book, or a book a slice of a series. Here we see the panel contained in the page, the page in the book, and the book contained in a stack of books, labelled volume 4 within a series of 9. A bubble reads: Each book creates a block universe where spacetime is denoted through the thickness in pages, where each page, every panel, entire books, and whole series all exist simultaneously. We see the rectangular cuboid containing a bunch of slices with a slice labelled NOW in red is pulled up from the rest. A bubble reads: The 'now' of the book is only the panel or page or volume you are reading at any given time. We see an eyeball hanging over three frames, reading from left to right: then, now, and later. The eye has a light cone coming out of it that only illuminates the frame labelled 'now'. Next wee see a portrait of a grinning young mand with a short goatee, glasses, and short dark hair. He's wearing a collared shirt and tie. There are little red hearts drawn around his face. A big bubble with an arrow pointing towards the figure reads: Enrique del Rey Cabero, in his incredible article on Comics Grid [link], showcases comics' ability to be read linearly from panel-to-panel, but also holistically from page-to-page to across whole books! Another smaller arrow pointed at Del Rey Cabero reads, So handsome, and teaches at Oxford! A narrative bubble reads: He also speaks to Groensteen's notion of 'braiding' and its use in telling translinear narratives. Pictured is a braid with loose ends that traverses the screen from left to right diagonally, cutting through the word balloons. The narrator continues: These are used to cue the reader to plot lines that occur across the whole book! My favorite use of braiding is the visual leitmotifs used in Alan Moore's Watchmen [link]. Hanging in space is a blobby, roughly-circular cutout of outer space. Hanging in front of it is a purple and gold bottle of perfume being spilled but frozen in time, a recurring image from the Watchmen comic book. The narration continues: These leitmotifs are all used as referents to the timeless quality of the hyper-events that occur in the story. Watchmen is all about time, but also about fatalism. At the bottom corner of this blob of spacetime we see Jon Osterman [link] AKA Dr. Manhattan, a giant blue man with all-white eyes and a symbol of a circle within a circle on his bald forehead. He is crying, and a small arrow pointing at his face labels him as a 'sad lad'. The narration explicates: Dr. Manhattan can see all of spacetime at once, and the reader is invited to do the same in the comic. Next we see Elk cosplaying as Dr. Manhattan: he's all blue and has the same symbol on his forehead, but is wearing his own clothes and still has his own hair. A small arrow is pointed at him, labelling him 'Also a sad spacetime lad'. He says, hand stroking his chin: But beyond braiding, I think there are tons of techniques to create timeless blocks of spacetime in comics... He shouts: IN FACT, this brings me to my biggest beef with Scott McCloud! The subtitle blazes across the page in big bubble letters: IN DEFENSE OF FAMILY CIRCUS. Elk is standing right below, looking competely exasperated. His forehead is wrinkled in frustration, bags under his eyes, neck muscles clenching, and he is gesticulating his frustration by throwing his hands palms-up in a GOD WHY sort of expression. He says, YES, I recognize Family Circus is asinine garbage, but hear me out. Then he whispers: (Or, go read Nietzsche Family Circus [link] and come back. I'll wait.) image description image description image description image description image description image description


©Elk Paauw