Between the gutters of series covers

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 StarsPerchance 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.

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This entry was written by Kel and published on March 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm. It’s filed under Book Covers, Comics, Kelly's Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Between the gutters of series covers

  1. Nice analysis of what takes place in-between the gutters. I’d definitely have to agree with you. However, I’m wondering if you are sure that the protagonist is the same girl in each book. I’m just asking because of the different hair colors, but since it’s a magical story, maybe her hair can do that naturally…or maybe she’s just going through one of those teenage identity crisis phases. I had never thought of looking at book covers as panels because the gutter is so large, but this is a unique way of presenting them.

    • kelpeterson on said:

      I confess…I cheated. Not a pirate, but I cheated. (Blaming Jack Sparrow’s bad influence.) I haven’t actually read any of these books, but I have glanced at the synopses. It’s definitely the same girl on all the covers. I’m not sure about her hair color changing either, but I like your idea of a teenage identity crisis. It makes perfect sense! 🙂

      • Ah, well I think you did a good job analyzing it regardless. You took the genre’s conventions into consideration, and that alone can tell you a lot about the general plot line of a story, especially in YA fantasy.

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