Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

A. Masterman King


This study devises a method of rhetorical criticism, panel analysis, for the comic book medium. Panel analysis focuses on how the unique form of the comic book medium communicates content. Panel analysis consists of three components: historical context, micro analysis, and macro analysis. The historical component makes use of a humanistic historical approach to place a comic book or a body of comic book work in the contexts of the creator's personal history and the evolution of the comic book medium. These contexts provide understanding of the origins of the various formal aspects of the work(s) being studied. The micro component uses psychoanalytical, psychological, and semiological approaches to examine how meaning is produced in the individual panels of a comic book. The psychoanalytical approach analyses how recurring symbols and myths incorporated in the images and text of comic book panels might communicate meaning to the subconscious of the reader. The psychological forces (intellectual meanings and emotional reactions) created by shape, pattern, color, and the operation of gestalt principles. The semiological approach uses the linguistic concepts of semantics and syntactics analyses the individual visual signs in a panel. Syntactics analyses the encapsulation, framing, and composition of panels. The macro component examines how montage, the combination of comic book panels, creates meaning and manipulates time. Creation of meaning is analyzed in the montage methods of simultaneity, contrast, parallelism, symbolism, and liet-motif. The use of montage to expand and compress time, and control tempo is also examined. Panel Analysis utilizes scholarship in history, psychology, semiotics, and film criticism to construct a rhetorical approach to the most significant aspects of the comic book medium--the panel and the blend of words and pictures. Panel analysis is a broad and flexible critical approach that can be tailored to the characteristics of a particular work, or the goals of the critic.