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Panel By Panel: Reader Request - "Blessed Days" - How Do You Read It?

hpkomic at 6:40PM, July 28, 2023

Hello everyone, and welcome to Panel by Panel, a periodic exploration of comic panels around The Duck. This week I am tackling yet another reader request! This time I received a request for some feedback by InkyMoondrop regarding a particular page of their comic, Blessed Days. That proved interesting, leading me to consider clarity and panel order regarding non-standard panel arrangements.

Let's look at the page in question.

My immediate question is… what is the reading order of the panel. Is there one? As it stands, I can see at least three potential orders.

This one more or less follows a standard grid's traditional left-to-right reading order. Notice a slight stutter as we move horizontally and ultimately vertically upward periodically to follow a zig-zag path. This was ultimately how I first read the page, but it also gave me pause, leading me to consider the following alternative take.

This one follows the grid system a little better, appearing like a standard grid given an arcing form. I think this one also works, but it wasn't my first impression, so I am unsure how strong it is, nor if it was intended. Of course, I also saw something else.

This one is my favorite, but it is non-standard and seems like it was not an intentional choice. The radiating nature of the panel arrangement makes this one work for me, with each column representing a series of moments that radiate from the origin point. Again, this wasn't the first read I had of the panels.

So, here is what I am curious about: how do you read the page? Please tell me or show me how you approach the panels on reading them. I would also love for InkyMoondrop to share their thoughts on how they expect us to read it. I'd also like to know how they feel about alternative forms of reading the page I suggested here, which might pop up in the comments.

If I may critique here, I am unsure how well this panel arrangement works. Ultimately, I am unsure of the order of events here, which strikes me as a particular issue. Perhaps some insight from the artist might give us more to work with, but as it stands, as interesting as this radial approach is, the sequencing proves more confusing than exciting. I think something neat can be done here, but I may save that for my next article with the original artist's permission.

But please, everyone, let me know how you read the page. I can see more possible sequences here beyond what I already included.

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ksteak at 8:48AM, Aug. 1, 2023

when its visible all in one like here my eye is drawn into the bottom left. at the original size and needing to scroll down i suspect that wouldnt quite happen.

InkyMoondrop at 7:15PM, July 29, 2023

It would work better if the comic was a single page or given different context, but in the context of the previous pages it does not work well with the core panel placed top left, as I stated. Bottom right could be better maybe, it's experimental, it's not a layout I'd use for any set of events that chronologically follow each other, because of the reasons mentioned by pretty much everyone. I so walked into a trap with this panel by panel, I feel like people now think the page somehow failed its purpose, because as a stand-alone it's hard to figure out.

KAM at 6:30PM, July 29, 2023

My first thought was how this would work better as a two-page spread with the center bottom panel radiating outward. On the other hand if we are meant to read the bottom left panel first it would work better to be at the top left (unless you're doing it Japanese style, then top right). Interesting layout though. :-)

InkyMoondrop at 1:45PM, July 29, 2023

Oh, those who read it will figure out a way or will just let the order go and try to take it in as a whole. :)

J_Scarbrough at 1:33PM, July 29, 2023

Stylistically and visually, yes, it's quite a unique and distinct layout and composition, but from a technical standpoint, I agree that it's not exactly clear just how exactly and specifically the paneling is supposed to be read and viewed . . . I guess the world may never know.

InkyMoondrop at 2:32AM, July 29, 2023

Anon and the blue arrow version came probably the closest to what I've had in mind, it's a page very difficult to interpret without context, also my most experimental so far. These are a collective of events, almost all the images were already presented in other panels just a few pages before, there is no one correct reading order for it, because with the core panel being in the bottom left corner, it depicts a rush of images to someone's mind, the moment of awaking from a vision or from a near-death experience, when life "flashes before their eyes". Your confusion is understandable, but that is why it's experiemntal for me, I was curious to see if it works as a stand-alone as well (with context, it does), but I suppose as as stand-alone it would require more visual aid or rearranging, that could hurt it in context (like placing the core panel to the top left) and having it in the middle or the bottom right would lead to similar confusion. It does depict chaos and confusion though. :)

Tantz_Aerine at 10:50PM, July 28, 2023

I'd probably go with the pink arrow option too. I think this kind of layout would work best for reading in the style of the blue arrows but for that I'd have placed the "core" panel in the top left (for a left to right reading comic) and made the space between the cascading/radial panels more solid to indicate radiating stripes or some such thing.

Ironscarf at 8:58PM, July 28, 2023

My natural inclination would be to read in the order of your pink arrows, but then view the page as a whole, assuming the unusual layout must have special significance, hidden meaning, or works as anonymous suggested below. It's an intriguing page and I don't think I've seen this layout before.

anonymous at 7:11PM, July 28, 2023

It would have been cool if you asked for feedback from the author about reading order. But... if the panel layout is this unorthodox, why do you assume that there is a set reading order? I don't know the comic in question, but the stand-alone page looks like it could be a collection of simultaneous chaotic reactions to some event. This type of thing is something I might be considering for a later page of own comic.

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