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Panel By Panel: Spirit Monk and Crossing Boundaries

hpkomic at 7:18AM, Nov. 4, 2022

Hello everyone, and welcome to Panel by Panel, a periodic exploration of comic panels around The Duck.

Last week I invited creators to send pages and panels they are proud of for me to look at and potentially write about. The response was good, and I am glad to say the next few installments of this column will revolve around submitted comics.

As for this week's topic, we're looking at a page of Spirit Monk sent in by user GeekyGami. Specifically, we're looking at page six.

I won't get too into plot details, but we have a dead monk who transitions to a new state following their death. The page does this pretty well overall, which is excellent. There are discernable beats that use time from panel to panel quite well, especially as time accelerates. The first three panels, most of the page, reflect mere seconds, while the final four reflect a more unspecific but longer period of time. The flow of time sells well on this page.

However, the curious case of the spirited apparition breaks the panel boundaries. I think this works to a large degree as a physical boundary of a panel can no longer constrain this figure. The overall implementation is effective as the figure occupies a nebulous state between and over three panels. Even the disruption to the flow of panels makes a lot of sense because this is a liminal state for the character.

Yet, I think some changes could be made to better lead the eye to a degree and give this more impact. Granted, these are just suggestions, but I think a little more punch can be achieved here. My main area of concern is that third panel. The angle ironically flattens the image to a degree and reduces what should be the impact of seeing the body. Most of the drama of the image is in the first two panels, and that third panel feels a little less impactful when the beat of the first two panels feels like it should be leaning into something more dramatic looking.

My suggestion would be not to see the entire body. Not as some way to get around a depiction of death but rather to emphasize the shock of the other monk entering the chamber. Perhaps something like a low angle, perhaps at the floor, with the dead monk's hand in the frame and an enshadowed, living monk framed in the doorway. Please refer to this hastily drawn panel doodle I did.

This also carries the benefit of continuing and disrupting the build-up of close-ups. Panel one and two grow progressively closer to a subject. In contrast, this hypothetical third panel does so with an extreme focus on a hand while simultaneously pushing the subject of the initial move into the background. It lends a little chaos to the discovery of the body.

Depending on how shadows are handled in that panel, there is a benefit of having the amorphous-to-defined shape of the monk's spirit “bleeding” from the reveal panel and into and over the remainder of the page, unifying things a little bit more while also continuing the unease present.

Anyway, GeekyGami has a strong page. There is some cool stuff going on here. However, we can always benefit from looking at our work and seeing how we might approach them differently. Not to go back and change them, but rather how we might approach things in the future.

But, dear readers, what do you think? How do you feel about the overall look of the page? Do you feel that the third panel could be made a little more impactful? How might you approach it? Please let us know.

I would like to thank GeekyGamy for participating here, and I encourage everyone to go check out Spirit Monk.

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GeekyGami at 1:58PM, Nov. 4, 2022

That critique is very welcome, I totally see this making sense in the page's context! I figured having the same angle again but from afar would've been a bit redundant however, which is why I opted for what I did. I like it though! Thank you

PaulEberhardt at 1:01PM, Nov. 4, 2022

I think this is a cool way of showing someone quite literally falling out of this world. The monk's soul leaves his body and thus isn't bound by the panel architecture (representing worldly things) any more, putting it beyond any control including its own. For a character to break out of the panels is often played for laughs, but here it genuinely manages to convey a sense of helplessness in the face of death. Applause to GeekyGami! The body in panel three and what's going on around it ceases to be important for the monk as his soul becomes detached from the world. The man and the others are shocked, to be sure, but it's basically just their own little problem now, and from this point of view it kind of makes sense to shift the focus away from the drama. That was just my spontaneous interpretation, though. Besides, I feel I learned something from reading how you would add some dramatic punch to the scene.

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