Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Panels and pacing from a non-manga point of view?
CateranLlama at 3:47PM, Sept. 30, 2008
(online)
posts: 37
joined: 1-2-2008
So I'm still pretty new to comics. Read what I can get my hands on, studied as well as I can on my own. Took as many art classes as I could fit into my various school schedules over the years. (Though that was kind of a mistake, I could only find “traditional” art classes and the teachers all looked way down on comics, much less anything to do with computers.) I've also done a good bit of reading on the internet. But most of the “tips and tricks” or tutorials I've found are either 1) basic how to draw 2) how to put in speech balloons 3) some sort of specialized effect or 4) about sprite comics.

What I'm really interested in is why people use the page layouts they do. I've gone through every comic book I have, most of the ones in the public library systems around here and a reasonable number of webcomics and I see as many different styles of panels as I have sources. (Or more.) I did turn up one Panels and Pacing on livejournal last night, but it's incomplete and drawn by a manga artist. Not that there's anything wrong with manga, just that it's not what I'm most interested in. (And I want track down as many opinions on this as possible.)

My other question has to do with story speed and action, but I'm not quite sure how to phrase it. I guess I'm a little worried about the pages I've drawn. There seems to be a lot of talking and relatively little action. (No gunfights yet!) How long is too long to go without some kind of action? As long as you keep the story moving and the art dynamic (except when you have a reason not to) is a several page spread of scenery (world development) and character development OK? What about a quite-a-few page spread of them?

Thanks for your time and answers, Llama
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:37AM
lba at 5:37PM, Sept. 30, 2008
(online)
posts: 2,686
joined: 5-29-2007
I usually try to keep pure character building to a max of 5 or 6 pages at most. Anything more and you end up describing the character which is boring. Generally, if the plot isn't advanced and the pages become solely about the character, then you're getting into dangerous territory. Things like flashbacks work because they typically serve to advance the plot in some way. So if you think your character building isn't advancing or enhancing the believability of the plot in any way, then you're probably going into it too much. It's ok to leave out some details. You don't have to have characters who are totally fleshed out right at the beginning. The best stories almost always reveal things about the characters throughout the story rather than start out by describing who the character is. That's because well-written characters evolve and react as their world changes just like real people.

Page layouts are something I've tried to focus on a lot ( 220+ pages worth. ). My general rule is that if I can look at a page and it has an interesting movement ( if it draws your eyes through the panels in the sequence you want. ) with the blank panels and is balanced ( ie: one large panel on the right usually needs a panel or two set up somewhere on the left to balance the page and keep your focus moving through the panels properly.) then it works. I try to avoid using the old standard 9 panel system a lot because it gets extremely boring after a while and doesn't let you get the most out of your art. It's great if you just want to get through story quickly, but it lacks other qualities that you may want for some things. Similarly, using a more asymmetrically balanced page slows down the pace, but gives you the opportunity to really zoom in on certain parts like action sequences where you want to show whats going on visually. In most cases, I wouldn't exceed the 9 panels no matter which way you go. Once you've got that many in there things tend to get a bit cramped and you may not be able to get everything in the shot.

I hope that helps a bit.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:29PM
mattchee at 9:34PM, Sept. 30, 2008
(online)
posts: 347
joined: 1-18-2008
Hmm… pacing is difficult to tackle, if only for the fact that different people approach it differently. There's a lot of different ways you can go, and you really have to match it to your style and what the story needs.

For instance, it drives me nuts when i buy a comic and characters have a full on conversation with huge blocks of dialog, all in one panel where they're doing some kind of action like jumping a fence. Okay… You just squeezed a two minute conversation– and all its subtleties– into a a 5 second time frame. I just can't do that. It might be different if they were, say, standing in front of a huge monitor discussing something….

Personally, I tend to drive my plot with dialog, and i focus a lot on that. I might break one person's side of a dialog into 3 or 4 panels if i think its necessary– including possibly silent panels. Other times though, if i want to ramp up the speed of whats going on, I won't spend so much time focusing on the dialog, and juxtapose it with the action more.

I agree with Iba about character building. I try, as much as I can, to let the story show the characters for who they are more than anything. You really don't want your readers to know EVERYTHING right off the bat anyway. There are times where you really need to let your readers know stuff– i mean its gonna happen– so a little expository device here and there… its gonna happen. Yep.

As far as action, that's really more particular to the comic. If its a shoot em up type of deal… yeah there needs to be a lot of that, but there are plenty of great comics without all that. BUT it is good to remember that comics are a medium of presenting time and motion in a pictoral fashion, so you might want to veer away from non-stop talking heads, if you want to be taking full advantage of the medium (yes, i need to take my own advice.. working on it!).

Blah… good topic!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:55PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 2:55PM, Oct. 1, 2008
(offline)
posts: 577
joined: 9-12-2008
1) There are no rules as such governing page layout. You're free to try anything, as long as you don't allow your readers to get lost on the page: they'll soon lose interest if you do.
It should be noted that, whilst you may gain kudos for creating inventive layouts, points will definitely not be deducted for keeping it simple.

2) Points most definitely will be deducted for passages of lengthy exposition accompanied by boring and/or repetetive visuals! If you want to present a weight of text or dialogue, you don't need to throw in action sequences, but it's even more important than usual that you have a grasp of ‘cinematography’.

I would strongly recommend a tutorial called Citizen Kane. Watch this movie and see where the camera goes. Good luck!
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
darko4ever at 5:29PM, Oct. 1, 2008
(offline)
posts: 39
joined: 9-19-2007
I manage to convince my art teacher to let me do a comic for art.

In terms of layout, what help me was to watch a lot of movies to get a cinematic effects to my comic. Think outside of the box literally I like to play around with my panels but remember to always keep the page balance when being a bit experimental. I always find that talking scene is a a good opportunity to set up characters looks and expression but also the environment they are in so if you have to much talking send the viewer on a little tour of your comic world I think it's on the right track but I wouldn't spread the pages out to much.

I dunno really it's sort of like something you have to find yourself just keep practicing and reading comic. Soon you'll have a conversation with your friends and start to image the whole conversation as a comic layout. (then you know you forgot to take your pills in the morning)

I hope in someway that whole post was not useless and help you in someway.These guys above prob have a better idea.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
NickGuy at 5:38PM, Oct. 1, 2008
(online)
posts: 988
joined: 2-22-2007
I have started a three part tutorial on dynamic storytelling here http://www.drunkduck.com/tutorials/view.php?id=180

unfortunately, storytelling and page layouts are something that cant be taught, but it can be learned (if that makes any sense) watch movies that show alot of good interesting camera angles. Id recommend 28 Days Later(and weeks) Speed Racer, and the Matrix Series (the first two are required watching in how to compose images, especially the highway scene in reloaded). and read a lot of comics. I mean, LOOK at them. ignore the words and look at how the pages are set up. Again, some good reference there would be Erik Larsen, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane.

Hope this helps!

“Kung Fu Komix IS…hardcore martial art action all the way. 8/10” -Harkovast
“Kung Fu Komix is that rare comic that is made with heart and love of the medium, and it delivers” -Zenstrive
“Kung Fu Komix is…so awesome” -threeeyeswurm
“Kung Fu Komix is..told with all the stupid exuberance of the genre it parodies” -The Real Macabre
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:15PM
mlai at 6:49AM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 3,035
joined: 12-28-2006
Excellent tutorial, Nick Guy. For anyone wanting to learn comics page composition, this is how you have to approach every comic book you read (and like). You have to ask yourself on every page "Why is the author drawing it this way? Why is the camera here? Why is this panel wide and short rather than tall and long, or square? Why is this shot focusing on this and not that? Why are the balloons arranged the way they're arranged?"

Because obviously, reading 1 short tutorial by 1 person will not suddenly make you good at panels/pacing. You have to *study* (not just read) lots of comics on your own, with a critical eye.

It's actually why I stopped reading much comics now… it's too much work!

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:06PM
Daiconv at 12:32PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 133
joined: 2-7-2008
The only “rule” I can think of per-se is that when you are first starting out, not to get too elaborate with your panel layouts and not to use anything but rectangles and square shapes for your panels. The main thing to consider is READABILITY and FLOW. You don't want to confuse your readers and have them wondering, “wait, which panel happens next, this one or this one?”. I can't tell you how many ‘professional’ books I've read where I can't tell which panel is supposed to precede the other. It's really frustrating.

The best reference to look at are really old comics from the late 80's and early 90's before the manga influence took over. You'll see that most of their layouts are pretty straight forward. I also recommend that “making comics the marvel way” book.

Oh and your other question:
a general rule is to always open strong because you've got to snag readers with the first couple of pages because people are impatient. You want to show your readers what kind of comic they're jumping into. I would suggest opening with a gunfight and using that as an opportunity to introduce the characters. That's just my opinion though, somebody feel free to disagree.
without buttcheecks, it's just a hole.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:03PM
Daiconv at 12:42PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 133
joined: 2-7-2008
oh yeah, and something about pacing:

usually, the more intricate and detailed a panel is, the slower it “moves”. That's why a lot of comics tend to not do a lot of detailed backgrounds during fightscenes. Too much visual information slows down the action. On the other hand, if you want to do a “long” establishing shot of a location, you just do a large, very detailed panel or splash page.
without buttcheecks, it's just a hole.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:03PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 1:38PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(offline)
posts: 577
joined: 9-12-2008
Daiconv
I would suggest opening with a gunfight and using that as an opportunity to introduce the characters. That's just my opinion though, somebody feel free to disagree.
What if it's the Gunfight at the O.K. Coral? That would be a really short comic.
Well you did say to disagree.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
darko4ever at 3:28PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(offline)
posts: 39
joined: 9-19-2007
There is a pretty wicked series by the writer of DMZ Brian Wood and the artist of American Virgin. called Demo, I brought the graphic novel which included 12 short stories, this is a great text book example of how to write a comic with no Actions scene but still entice the reader. It's what the kids in the street call, the shiz, niz.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
NickGuy at 5:49PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 988
joined: 2-22-2007
mlai
Because obviously, reading 1 short tutorial by 1 person will not suddenly make you good at panels/pacing. You have to *study* (not just read) lots of comics on your own, with a critical eye.


but thats why its part 1. after you read the next 2 parts (whenever i get around to writing them) you'll be a master! lol ;)

“Kung Fu Komix IS…hardcore martial art action all the way. 8/10” -Harkovast
“Kung Fu Komix is that rare comic that is made with heart and love of the medium, and it delivers” -Zenstrive
“Kung Fu Komix is…so awesome” -threeeyeswurm
“Kung Fu Komix is..told with all the stupid exuberance of the genre it parodies” -The Real Macabre
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:15PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 5:53PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(offline)
posts: 577
joined: 9-12-2008
NickGuy
but thats why its part 1. after you read the next 2 parts (whenever i get around to writing them) you'll be a master! lol

Not unless you WATCH CITIZEN KANE.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
NickGuy at 5:56PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 988
joined: 2-22-2007
Ironscarfs Ghost
NickGuy
but thats why its part 1. after you read the next 2 parts (whenever i get around to writing them) you'll be a master! lol

Not unless you WATCH CITIZEN KANE.

man you didnt give me any chance to even write my next two parts! part two was going to be simply WATCH CITIZEN KANE! :P

“Kung Fu Komix IS…hardcore martial art action all the way. 8/10” -Harkovast
“Kung Fu Komix is that rare comic that is made with heart and love of the medium, and it delivers” -Zenstrive
“Kung Fu Komix is…so awesome” -threeeyeswurm
“Kung Fu Komix is..told with all the stupid exuberance of the genre it parodies” -The Real Macabre
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:15PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 6:02PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(offline)
posts: 577
joined: 9-12-2008
NickGuy
man you didnt give me any chance to even write my next two parts! part two was going to be simply WATCH CITIZEN KANE! :P
When will it be ready? I can't wait to read it!

Don't tell me how it ends.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
mlai at 8:51PM, Oct. 2, 2008
(online)
posts: 3,035
joined: 12-28-2006
I got my Citizen Kane from watching The Real Ghostbusters.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:06PM

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved