Visual storytellers own a time machine. They can control time, or at least how the audience; reader, viewer or player, perceive it. It's different in each visual storytelling media, only because each has a different level of control over the immersive environment. In film, the Director owns the whole show. He dictates when and where and for how long the viewer gets to see any segment, character or scene. In games, at least in the cut scenes, they're the same; very linear and in control of how its perceived. Part of what creates action, drama, suspense or even the punch line in a comedy is all about timing and pace.
In film, there's a fluid motion to most of the storytelling; a path created by the writer/director with specific movement from one scene to another and one character to another. The director assumes that the linearism of his vehicle of visual storytelling and the audience's sophistication is at a level where they're able to follow the story. There are certain directors and editors that have a certain style that is unusual in the sense that there are unique elements added or subtracted to either strike a cord or for the benefit of action, suspense and drama. John Woo, most notably recognized for his action sequences, which are well choreographed and balletic, has a specific style of filmmaking and a mastery of timing and pace.
He can make the audience feel what he intends them to feel and abruptly, interject elements to make sure the audience is paying attention. Tom Cruise, star of Mission Impossible II (of which Woo directed), called it "we got the Woo." Woo will use slow motion to represent speed, the reason why the Wachowski Brothers came up with the idea of "Bullet Time" because the wanted to shoot an event at incredibly high speed, which in order to keep the audience in on the action, meant slow motion. However, Woo also uses slow motion to emphasize an entrance of a character, such as John Travolta's character joining his team of evil-doers from beyond a hilltop in the film Broken Arrow. This gives the audience more time to absorb the event and take notice. The dramatic slow motion spin out in Mission Impossible II gives the viewer enough time to see the fear emerging from Nyah Hall's face (played by Thandie Newton), or the electricity charging when Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) first meet and the world around them disappears for a few moments.
In film, a primarily linear media, there's only one path; from the beginning to the end. In comic books, it's not so easy. Yes, there is a beginning and end to a story, but there is no way to guarantee the same identical path for everyone. When reading the Batman comic book, one person may hear Adam West as Batman's voice, another Michael Keaton, while another George Clooney or even his or her own voice, drawing themselves further into the story. As an interpersonal media, each person will experience the story differently; that includes the pace. Some people will be distracted by the female figure in black latex, others will not; some people will slowly turn the page and others may fumble with it. All these little factors contribute to the experience, time and pace. There are a multitude of ways to slow or speed up the reader and as with Lara Croft suddenly deciding to look up at the side of the cliff (instead at where she's walking)— it will make an impact and grab the attention of the audience.
Franco Aureliani & Art Baltazar
Creators, Patrick the Wolf Boy
"The panels in a comic book are used as a passage of time for the characters within the story. How the characters think and react is what most of our planning is about; producing the most effective way of visually telling the story. Even the smallest of nuances can give the characters personality."
1917 — 2005
Sequential Art is deserving of serious consideration by both critic and practitioner. The modern acceleration of graphic technology and the emergence of an era greatly dependent on visual communication make this inevitable.
—From Will Eisner's Foreword in Comics & Sequential Art
Extraordinary sequential artist John Byrne was once on a comic art panel discussion with Will Eisner. During the course of questioning, a member of the audience asked Byrne how you'd know the right balance between words and pictures. Byrne explained that you'd use words to communicate something essential to the path of the story, which would be impossible to do with imagery. As an example, he referenced adding the caption "4:30PM." It's impossible to accurately illustrate "4:30PM," exactly. After a moment, he glanced at his fellow panelist Eisner, then returned his gaze to the audience and said, "Well, I'm sure Will Eisner could figure out how to draw 4:30PM." Eisner has been influencing the development of sequential art for over sixty years, from his work in early newspaper comic strips to having introduced the graphic novel to American audiences that he continues to produce today. He brought a cinematic approach to the visual storytelling in comics, also creating many innovative elements unique to the art form.
The Spirit, which was a comic strip he created in 1940, was syndicated worldwide for a dozen years, having influenced generations of artists to this very day. Eisner moved into educational comics until the mid-1970s, when he returned to sequential art and visual storytelling.
In 1978, he wrote and drew the pioneering graphic novel A Contract With God, and continues to create internationally awarded graphic novels. Aside from the mechanical innovations to the art form, his creations are wondrous stories that are notable for their humanistic tendencies that are generally moralistic character studies. Eisner also taught cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and is the author of two definitive works examining the creative process; Comics & Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling.
Eisner continued to influence every visual storytelling art form until his death in 2005.