Dites

 

Fishing is dangerous.
Figure 1. Fishing is dangerous. Image source: Watterson, B.  1988. The essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes treasury.

 

Dites is a term that is based on Mort Walker’s ur-term, hites. Hites are horizontal lines demarcating speed in a comic character. Dites are similar in construct–they are diagonal (although many times, like the April 1986 Calvin and Hobbes strip to the right, the same effect is achieved with curved or vertical lines) instead of horizontal–but they have a very different meaning.

Building character and creating the illusion of reflection and depth. Image source: Watterson, B. 1992. The indispensable Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes treasury.

Dites are diagonal lines that show the reader when a surface is reflective, such as a window or lake, as shown in the June 1991 Calvin and Hobbes strip to the right. Dites are one of many comic strip shorthands that convey complex meaning to the reader with minimal strokes of the pen or brush. Comics like Calvin have a strong sense of negative space–the “stuff that’s not the stuff” in the words of Mr. Kirby, my enthusiastic but somewhat inarticulate middle-school drawing teacher–and the dites help to simply express that Calvin’s family is canoeing through water and not through the blank white space that the panel actually contains.

Dites add elements of complexity and realism to windows that otherwise would just be blank squares, devoid of flavor or depth.

Buses suck.
Buses suck. Image source: Watterson, B. 1989. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes treasury. 

Sources

Walker, M. (1980). The Lexicon of Comicana. Port Chester, N.Y.: Museum of Cartoon Art.

Watterson, B. (1988). The essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes treasury. Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel.

Watterson, B. (1992). The indispensable Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes treasury. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel.

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