Help in Reading Comics

Notice and Focus Method – Take from Rachelle Cruz’s Experiencing Comics

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.” You make several lists as you read your work.

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

Choose a panel from one of the comics you’re currently reading (I have one attached at the bottom). 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 and answer them: 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

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Notice and Focus Assigment 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.

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