Playing with the Invisible

Novel, Movies, Comics


  • Daniele Barbieri

Parole chiave:

invisible, comics, novel, cinema, semiotics


The told/untold dialectic is not entirely coincident with the shown/unshown. What is told presupposes (and therefore implies) an enunciator voice (i.e. a narrator); what is shown, only and sometimes, a point of view. What is untold simply is not: it is just an absence. What is unshown, instead, can be blank/white: the presence of an absence. In comics, a blank/white space or field can represent the missing action between one panel and the following one; or it can represent the background that is missing within a panel. In any case, the unshown, exactly like the untold, consists of what is not necessary to show (or tell) either because it is irrelevant, or because it is very easily inferable from what is shown (or told). But the unshown, unlike the untold, can appear before us, making visible the invisibility of what is not shown.  In verbal discourse, i.e. in the novel, nothing is actually visible. Everything is mediated by the story made by a narrator who takes all responsibility for truth and point of view. In visual discourse, and particularly in comics, what is seen, and therefore visible, is crucial, but the gaze that makes things visible cannot in turn be seen, only inferred. The word focuses by naming, image by representing. However, while the narrator of a novel, unless proven otherwise, is always one and the same throughout the whole course of the text, the observer of a story in comics, like that of a movie, can change at any shot. Her/his invisibility is not compensated by any convention of sameness. An indeterminate observer is therefore accompanied, in comics, by an absence made visible. Cinema can make absence present by mean of the voice, but it cannot make absence visible. In comics, everything, except the gaze, can be shown, even invisibility.




Come citare

Barbieri, D. (2023). Playing with the Invisible: Novel, Movies, Comics. Mediascapes Journal, 22(2), 29–34. Recuperato da