Suggests that the work of the comic artist lies in framing / reframing - mirroring his preoccupation with the formal properties of the comics (as explored in Raw / collected in Breakdowns).
His more recent self portraits highlight the doodle.
The doodle - perhaps the very icon of drawing-as-self-contained-activity - draws attention to the line as trace. Not so much its 'representational' function (as picture of something), but its indexical link to a drawing body (although the doodle here is also a highly conventional comic pictogram, signifying dizziness…). In his interview with Spiegelman in Critical Inquiry, Mitchell quotes Chris Ware, who calls comics 'empathetic doodles.' Mitchell: "A drawing which has something to do with empathy, sympathy, with reaching out to another soul. But it doesn't have, necessarily, an object, except for doodling itself." (24)
Perhaps the intermediary stage is this:
… the leftovers of the iconography of comics, such as the funny animals, or minstrel figures…
To state the obvious: 'comics' refers to three things: 1) something formal (sequential art, frames, spatio-topical representation, etc); 2) An iconographic tradition; 3) lines, graphs, doodles.
Each of these requires a different type of cognitive work from the reader, and each brings its own affective dimension.