Seth Godin on Comic Books (and life)

This is part of the Seth Godin on Story wiki. Check out my chat with Seth, dig deeper into the art and science of business storytelling.

In 1995, I spent some time around New York and Long Island. I was mostly sailing, but found time to dive into a comic shop near Huntingdon Harbour.

I came out with a book that blew my mind. It’s mentioned in the interview because –16 years later – Seth dug into it in Poke The Box.

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud explains not just how comic books work, but how life works.

The secret of the comics isn’t what you see in each frame. It’s the little gutter, the space in between the frames. Because the artist doesn’t draw it in, that space is left up to you. It pulls you in.

You create the narrative as the story moves along.

Go read some comics and you’ll see. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

One thing that most comic artists avoid is showing decisions. They show action, sure, and they show results, but they don’t show decisions (because it’s difficult to show) the hero or the villain making a choice.

And it’s this between-the-frame action that makes poking the box so powerful. Action is easy once you have a plan. Formulating a plan, however, is a rare and valuable skill.

Poke the Box (2011) – Seth Godin

Scott McCloud’s classic book on comics, Understanding Comics, explains a lot more than comics.

A key part of his thesis is that comic books work because the action takes place between the frames. Our imagination fills in the gaps between what happened in that frame and what happened in this frame, which means that we’re as involved as the illustrator and author are in telling the story.

Marketing, it turns out, works precisely the same way.

Marketing is what happens in between the overt acts of the marketer. Yes, you made a package and yes, you designed a uniform and yes, you ran an ad … but the consumer’s take on what you did is driven by what happened out of the corner of her eye, in the dead spaces, in the moments when you let your guard down.

Marketing is what happens when you’re not trying, when you’re being transparent, and when there’s no script in place.

Consumers are too smart for the frames. It’s the in-between-frames stuff that matters. And yet we marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames.

The two elements that must come together are: The story you can confidently tell and The worldview the buyer tells herself.

Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?: And Other Provocations (2013) – Seth Godin


See Also:

On Art | On Authenticity | On Humans | On IntangiblesOn Marketing | On Your Story | On Tension



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