The US release is still a little ways to go (January 30), so across the intervening time I plan to do several posts discussing some of the book. So, let's start with a little overview…
The book is divided into two main sections. Part 1 discusses "Structure and cognition" while Part 2 discusses "Visual language and the world."
The first part of the book lays out the basic structures involved in visual language:
What are the structures of drawings? Is there a lexicon of images? How do sequential images form coherent narrative sequences? What are the rules for navigating page layouts?
This first half also has a chapter summarizing the various research that has been done on cognition and comprehension. I believe that any theory about the understanding of comics should be able to be backed up by psychology experiments, both on behavior and the brain. So, this chapter summarizes this work done by me and others.
The second half of the book spends three chapters exploring how visual languages are different across the world. Visual language is not universal, and just like spoken and signed languages are diverse across the world, so are visual languages.
Why do American and Japanese comics differ in how they look? It's because they are written in two different visual languages: American VL and Japanese VL. So, there is a chapter on each of these systems, using them as platforms to discuss a variety of other issues involved in the learning and diversity of visual languages.
The third chapter in this section then provides an overview of Australian Aboriginal sand drawings—a visual language far removed from the context of comics, yet still a visual language in the sense of my theory. This chapter is especially important for clarifying how visual language is not just about comics, and it also provides a nice contrast to the systems found in comics. If we are to get at what might be "universal" about visual languages and drawing systems, then its important to look at these types of comparisons in detail.
That's the overall layout of the book… in future posts I'll try to discuss other "behind the scenes" aspects of the book's content, intentions, and preparation.