27 Dec 2015

Groensteen (1.3) The System of Comics, ‘The Hyperframe and the Page’


by Corry Shores

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[The following is summary. My own comments are in brackets. Boldface is mine.]


Summary of
Thierry Groensteen
The System of Comics

Chapter 1:
The Spatio-Topical System

The Hyperframe and the Page


Brief summary:
The hyperframe is the outline, either visually explicit or implied, that frames all the panels on a comics page.




We ended section 1.2 by discussing the site or location of panels on the page. Groensteen now notes that this idea of the location on the page is still a somewhat vague concept. We will bring more clarity to the notion. Before that, we will be more specific about “the reference space within which the reading is carried out. (The concept of the ‘page’ is revealed, in this respect, to be insufficient.)” (30).

Panels are separated by blank spaces between them. This might seem to make them independent. But in fact, they interrelate to make up an organic whole on the page. All the panels make up a larger shape whose outline, normally rectangular, we call the hyperframe. The whole of the paper-space on which the panels are placed is the page. And the panels in total make up the drawing board.

Although often separated by the thin blank spaces, panels can be considered as interdependent fragments of a global form, something that is made all the more clear and consistent when the exterior edges of the panels are traditionally aligned. This form generally takes on the aspect of a rectangle, where the dimensions are more or less homothetic to those of the page. The exterior outline of this form, its perimeter, can be given the name hyperframe, in borrowing a term suggested by Benoît Peeters.11 It is possible to continue to speak of the drawing board (planche) in order to designate the “complete” group of panels arranged on a page (page).

The whole of the panel’s imagery on the page, which is normally one large rectangle containing the smaller rectangular panels, we call the hyperframe. [ft 11 cites Benoît Peeters, Case, planche, récit. Comment lire une
bande dessinée
(Tournai-Paris, Casterman, 1991), p.38, no. 6.]

 photo Eisner page board frame combine_zpspadyug85.jpg 
[I do not have a strong grasp of the terminology yet. I would have assumed that the “frame” is the border that can be found enclosing a “panel”, although there can be panels without such framing borders. However, if the page includes the margin around the hyperframe, then I do not understand Groensteen’s following analogy:]

“The hyperframe is to the page what the frame is to the panel” (30). [The next point seems to be that the panel’s frame is normally a solid visible boundary, and it encloses visual heterogeneity of some sort. The hyperframe, however, merely encloses a group of fillable spaces.] “But, in distinction to the panel’s frame, the hyperframe encloses nothing but a given homogeneity, and its outline is, with exceptions, intermittent” (30). Yet, sometimes the hyperframe is delineated with a clear line that may even be thicker than the panel frames. In fact, “artists such as Philippe Druillet or the Cosey of the first Jonathan books, provided their pages with an ornamental border, which reached to elevate the page to the ‘dignity’ of a painting” (30).

 photo Cosey. Jonathan 3_zps6odsg6yu.jpg 

Groensteen will now clarify the distinction between the hyperframe and the multiframe. [It seems that the multiframe is the system of interrelating frames on various scales of organization.]

The notions of the hyperframe and the multiframe must not be confused. The notion of the hyperframe applies itself to a single unit, which is that of the page. The forms of the multiframe, on the other hand, are multiple. The strip, the page, the double page, and the book are multistage multiframes, systems of panel proliferation that are increasingly inclusive. If one wishes, it is possible to speak of the simple multiframe that is the page, or of every unit of lesser rank that joins several panels (the half page or the strip). Piling up the printed pages on the recto and the verso, the book itself constitutes a paged multiframe. It cannot be comprehended in the totality of its printed surfaces; at any place where it is opened it can only be contemplated as a double-page spread.

Thierry Groensteen. The System of Comics. Translated from French to English by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Originally published as Systém de la bande desinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999.

Images from:

Cosey. Jonathan #3. Pieds nus sous les rhododendrons. Brussels: Lombard, 1978.

Will Eisner. The Dreamer. New York: DC Comics, 1985.

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