Thinking in the Gutter

The McCloud comic-strip pointed out a few theories I never truly considered. From observation, I have learned that McCloud’s illustration on object permanence, panel  three on page 62, is an accurate reflection of child behavior. My niece, at one year and five months, finally understood the concept of object permanence this past summer when she learned to hide her toys in the couch cushions and retrieve them upon request at a later time. McCloud takes the idea of object permanence and extends it to the idea of closure. Closure being the idea of “observing the parts but perceiving the whole” (63). The most intriguing and valuable to our discussion would be the application of closure to literature, particularly Nat Turner. Each image only showed a part of the story, like the early pages set in Africa, where the reader must assume the complete setting. The most important spaces of the text are those moments between the panels which McCloud names “The Gutter” (66). His chapter title, “Blood in the Gutter,” now makes sense, and the connection between McCloud and Baker’s Nat Turner is made. Baker has many bloody gutters, with shadows creeping up on helpless victims, Turner’s attacks hidden and obscured, and only the brutality of Turner’s co-conspirators is clearly illustrated. McCloud’s comic brings forward the ‘blank’ space, which I once would have called ‘empty.’ In this space between Baker’s illustrations is the majority of the story of Nat Turner. What did he do when nobody was looking, what did he not report after he had been captured? It also seems unusually convenient that all of Turner’s co-conspirators died in their rebellion and Turner survived to tell the tale of how he primarily directed the violence, that little blood was on his educated hands. Perhaps the gutter can do more than fill in the gap between one moment to the next, perhaps it can allow readers to question the work. The gutter allowed Baker to avoid the reality of the situation, that Turner’s attempt to catch up with the rest of his murderous group is as unlikely as a dog trying to catch a mailman in a densely packed neighborhood. They had to stop to kill at each house, yet Turner was free of that time consuming task and was successively unable to catch up. Baker’s panels seem to excuse Turner from the most heinous acts, but the gutter allows the reader to question and interpret the time not illustrated.