Mar 05 2009
The typical comic book page is a grid of panels. That’s fine, but it can get boring. This article will help you play around with your panel layout. Your pages don’t all have to look like this.
Slanting the panels usually makes the scene look more intense and chaotic. For example, in the above page you can see that the panels are slanted only when the dinosaur attacks.
Here are a few possible situations that lend themselves well to slanted panels.
1. There’s a wild fight scene or action sequence. For example, this page uses slanted panels on a chase sequence as well.
2. The main character learns something startling or disturbing. “I want a divorce!” Slanting the edges on that panel will make it stand out in an appropriately jarring way.
3. The main character of the panel is greatly disoriented. For example, if he’s drunk, delirious, badly wounded, etc…
Insert panels are panels that are set inside of other panels. Here are a few reasons you might use an insert panel.
1. It helps draw the reader’s attention to an important object or character that might otherwise be hard to notice.
2. You want to bring in something closer than you could “accurately” depict it. For example, in the above panel, the shot is zoomed in on a naked guy showering. It’d look creepy if the journalist were actually two or three feet away from him.
3. To make characters look farther apart than they actually are. The panel border can be used as a barrier between the characters.
4. To draw the reader’s attention to artistic contrast. For example, the colors and styles of the journalist and the showering guy above are very different. Setting the journalist in his own panel helps remind readers that that isn’t accidental; the journalist is supposed to look warmer and more decent.
INSERTED OBJECTS BRIDGING PANELS
Here are a few reasons you might try bridging your panels.
1. The scene is progressing very quickly, or more quickly than the action/dialogue would suggest. This is one way of blurring one panel into the next.
2. Bridging the panels can make them feel very crowded and uncomfortable. That might be thematically useful if a character is confined or cornered.
3. To center the reader’s attention.
4. To create distance.
5. To suggest a connection that might not otherwise be obvious. For example, let’s imagine a scene where panel 1 shows a character holding a gun on someone. The apparent victim asks him why he’s doing this. Panel 2 shows the gunman shooting the victim. The bridge might be a photograph of the gunman’s family (if he’s trying to protect them), a smiling shot of a criminal mastermind, an image that represents justice or revenge, etc.
UNUSUALLY TALL PANELS
(Art taken courtesy of Benny Fuentes; please see the original here).
Unusually tall panels are more noteworthy than wide panels because comic book pages are substantially taller than they are wide.
Here are a few reasons you might want to use an extra-tall shot.
1. You want to emphasize that one character or object is higher or taller than another. Above, we can see that the figure in black is substantially higher than the soldiers.
2. To show us a narrow slice of something, usually for frightening or mysterious effect. For example, you might have a character standing with something enormous looming behind him. We probably won’t be able to see all of the sinister creature, but that just emphasizes how big he is.
3. You want to draw the reader’s attention to something that’s narrow and tall, like a building.