Depiction and demarcation in comics: Towards an account of the medium as a drawing practice | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-3232
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3240



Despite the insistence of many authors on the primacy of the visual in comics, there has been comparatively little attention given to the drawing practices that create comics texts. This article will argue for the value of, and make some initial proposals regarding the nature of, an account of comics production as a distinct drawing practice, not as a rejection of language-centred accounts, but as a necessary complement to the understandings they enable. Accounts of depiction by Kendall Walton, Michael Podro and Patrick Maynard describe a process of imagining into drawn marks, in which the viewer maintains an awareness of their own cognitive activity in taking the sight of the image before them as the sight of the depicted subject. Readerly awareness of this type is well-known to comics researchers through discussion of the cognitive effort involved in achieving what Scott McCloud famously describes as ‘closure’, yet such discussions generally begin with the assumption of the reader’s recognition of depicted scenes. A full account of this fundamental operation of comics reading also requires an account of the methods by which readers use what is perceptually presented to them to imagine events taking place within the images. Walton’s theory of ‘mimesis as make-believe’ will be used here to suggest the way in which fictional truths are generated by drawing styles common to comics. Drawing on the phenomenological grounding of Walton’s approach, I will argue for its compatibility with conceptual metaphor theory, and that the less obviously pictorial drawing conventions of emanata operate as visual metaphors that emerge from our embodied experience of the world.


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