Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics, did a great job of explaining different aspects of how comics communicate. One element I latched onto is “the gutter,” the space between panels where a reader must draw his/her own conclusions about how we got from one panel to the next, how they fit together, in order to obtain closure. In class, we applied this concept to a recut Mrs. Doubtfire trailer, and now I would like to try the same with the book covers of a trilogy.
These are the covers for the three books in the Theatre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev. From top to bottom, they are: Eyes Like Stars, Perchance to Dream, and So Silver Bright. I haven’t read any of these books, so I’m looking at them as picture/text panels 1-3 (like comics) without the books’ innards affecting my interpretations.
My objective is to see what kinds of connections I can draw from one panel to the next, what kind of sequence/story I can come up with based on the panels and the order in which they appear. The cover for Eyes Like Stars features a blue-haired girl opening a curtain or drapery with three fairy-like creatures flying around her. She looks stern, self-assured, and the caption at the bottom – “all her world’s a stage” – combined with the fairies tells me she’s involved in something magical.
The second cover, Perchance to Dream, keeps the fairies, but now the girl from panel 1 is being held by a guy and looking off-screen worriedly while another boy(?), stands faintly in the background. What happened in the gutter between these two panels? My closure tells a story of the strong independent suddenly going sappy and getting herself into a love triangle. (It’s a common enough factor is so much of today’s YA, I think it’s a safe assumption.)
The third cover, So Silver Bright, brings us back to the girl alone with her fairies and draperies/curtains, but the girl looks like she’s just taken a bow and is now saying, “Oh no, you’re too kind” (and still sappy). What happened in the gutter between panels 2 and 3? Being the final panel, I’m assuming that she’s won some battle and probably picked a boy.
I love the art style on these covers, but it’s interesting to look at the stories covers tell apart from the words inside them. For example, I feel like each Harry Potter cover depicts a new threat, a new conflict. These Theatre Illuminata covers, the 2nd one aside, feel more like close-ups of the main character at different points in time. It’s a little harder to form a story around, but this focus on portraying the protagonist also seems to be part of a trend in YA literature today.