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Panel by Panel: The Waves Inside and Negative Space

hpkomic at 7:12AM, July 15, 2022

Hello and welcome to Panel by Panel, an analysis of panels from comics right here on The Duck and exploring what they do, how they work, and what we can learn from them.

This week we will be checking out a panel from the webcomic The Waves Inside by the user The Jagged. Our panel this week is from page 3 of the comic.

This week, the panel is actually a whole page. Look, it's my column; let me break my own rules. In this case, I want to focus on the use of negative space on the larger page. The larger can read as a panel, with two smaller inset panels within it.

The negative space does a great job of framing the elements of the larger panel, specifically the flower and the dialogue balloon. It also creates a natural sort of rhythm, as the generally unadorned space leads your eye through a void to an object of interest. Negative space is common in many comics. This is frequently true of scrolling comics, as empty space can be used to drag out a moment or serve as an element of transition.

I think the space here is well done, especially as it factors into the composition of the flower imagery and leads the eye to the dialogue. It also goes without saying that this page has some really excellent stuff going on overall. The usage of texture and watercolor style coloring is definitely eye-catching. The simple brushstroke style of the page does quite a lot of interesting stuff, ranging from the inset panels to the photographic found-art nature of that first panel to the boundary-breaking sound effects.

What do you think, though? Do you think the layout of the page is visually interesting?

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phinmagic at 8:29AM, July 25, 2022

I love pages like this. Very Mignola-esque. Breaks up the pages and opens up the view. I like these pages when I have a big reveal.

EssayBee at 8:31PM, July 15, 2022

I remember being blown away with some of the layouts (and 2-page spread layouts) of Swamp Thing during Alan Moore's run. The way some of the pages would have twisting vines and such creating natural panel edges really fit with the organic and grotesque themes and look to the character. Just gorgeous stuff. And, speaking of white spaces and gutters, I really enjoyed the meta references to these in the first season of Doom Patrol.

PaulEberhardt at 12:57PM, July 15, 2022

This technique is as visually interesting as it is from a storytelling perspective. As a reader we aren't introduced the character right away but are gradually brought closer - in effect it's like slowly zooming in and adjusting the focus. Your imagination instantly fires up and you become invested in whatever is coming next. This way it's much more dynamic and builds a lot more tension than just starting by showing someone hacking away at a computer and someone else pretending(?) not to listen.

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