Some Help Reading and Analyzing Comics

This comes from Rachelle Cruz’s Experiencing Comics book.

Notice and Focus Method

In their book, Writing Analytically, David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen write about reframing a reader’s habits of mind: “Not ‘What do you think?’ & not ‘What do you like or dislike?’ but ‘What do you notice?’” They provide these questions to prompt the reader to guide his or her thinking: “What do you find most INTERESTING? What do you find most STRANGE? What do you find most REVEALING?”

Notice and Focus is a guide for close reading and drawing observations and inferences when reading comics. You can go through the entire process for an in-depth, thorough close reading, or you can select one or two questions from each reading to explore.


Step 1: Cast a wide net by continuing to list details you notice. Go longer than you normally would before stopping—often the tenth or eleventh detail is the one that eventually leads to your best idea. Make lists, multiple ones, of 10 items of image and dialogue you notice as you read.

Step 2: Focus inside what you’ve noticed. Rank the various features of your subject you have noticed. Answer the question: “What details (specific features of the subject matter) are most interesting (or significant or revealing or strange)?” The purpose of relying on interesting or one of the other suggested words is that it will help deactivate the like/dislike switch of the judgement reflex and replace it with a more analytical perspective.”

Step 3: Say why three things you selected struck you as the most interesting (or revealing or significant or strange). Saying why will trigger interpretive leaps to the possible meaning of whatever you find most interesting in your observations.”

Notice and Focus Applied

Choose a panel from one of the comics you’re currently reading. This can be a panel that confuses or surprises you or a splash page that demands your attention—your choice. It should be a panel that elicits your interest to dig deep into the craft elements and tools at work.

  1. Go through all three steps of Notice and Focus.
  2. Write 500 words that coalesce your findings in Notice and Focus.
  3. Write on these questions: What did you notice as you slowed your reading process down? What did Notice and Focus allow you to see in the text?


*From Rachele Cruz’s Experiencing Comics: An Introduction to Reading, Discussing, and Creating Comics

Watchmen, Ch.IV Exert

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 12.31.45 PM

Exercise involving this on Moodle.

TEMPLATE: Notice and Focus Assignment Template



BA in History from Northwestern State, MA in English from Northwestern State, and PhD in Rhetoric from Texas Woman's University. Big into comic books and visual rhetoric. Assistant Professor of English at Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s