'Solve and coagula': Alan Moore and the classical comic book's spatial and temporal systems | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-3232
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3240


This article starts from the neo-formalist assumption that any fictional narrative comic book is governed by three systems: a system of narrative logic, a system of time and a system of space. In conventional comic books, both the system of time and the system of space are subordinated to the system of narrative logic, which demands clear causality and easily comprehensible linearity. For comics creators, achieving this dominance represents a particularly difficult feat, since the overwhelmingly spatial disposition of the medium has to be overwritten by narrative cues in order to prevent the reader from becoming aware of his or her highly abstract constructive activity; if not done properly, there is a considerable risk that , artistic style and/or material and diegetic space will take centre stage in the reader's attention instead of the action. The work of Moore and his collaborators, however, often turns this classical predisposition for action on its head; in comic books such as or , the system of comics space (both material and diegetic) comes to dominate the systems of narrative logic and diegetic time by various metafictional means. In Moore, these self-reflexive operations often tend to have a have a didactic dimension. In constantly alerting the reader to another layer of meaning generated by the quasi-diagrammatic spatial features of the comics medium, an ontological rift is opened between the respective comic book's diegetic world and the reader's perspective. Moore will thus always draw our attention to the fact that many of his narratives cue two different : one, usually severely limited in scope, assembled by the diegetic characters, and another, much more far-reaching, that is constructed by the reader. To provide an example for the many potential uses of this narrative strategy, sample pages from Moore and Oscar Zarate's (1991) are analysed.


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