Comicadia Group Chat: Panels

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Welcome to the first installment of the Comicadia Group Chat. Each week in the Comicadia Discord we tackle different topics in the world of webcomics and creativity. Our first group chat highlights we’ll be rolling out is our discussion on panels.

The topic introduction…

Jim Perry (CHIPPY) started us off:

Hello and welcome to the first weekly topic conversation piece! This week, I would like people to talk about their experiences with those ever-important, but often not thought about PANELS!

Breakout panels, panel layouts, panels as devices to push the story ahead! Not to mention showing us example panels, layouts, and your personal favorites to help to get people thinking about how wonderful panels are to the comic world!

Some people use panels as simple transitions towards scenes! Some people use white/black in their back pages of the panels to help convey mood. Others have used panels to identify changes in the story and there are even some that have used them as direct story interactions! What have YOU used for panels? What are your thoughts? There are no wrong answers!

Ghost shares panels from Monster Soup

GHOST For the most part, I use black gutters/white outlines to show that it’s night, and white gutters/black outlines to show it is day. (It’s a rule I sometimes break, though.)

These panels here I want to show a shift to a memory. The panels also become sketchier in the newer scene (to mimic the sketch art, too).

I’ve also added things to the gutters to go with the current scene.

CHIPPY – I love the example on the second page of the panel kind of ‘bleeding’ into Bo.

I also love how your panels also convey a lot of emotion, Ghost. They go from symmetrical, straight lines during normal scenes and when things begin to get uneasy/tense, they seem to become shaky, like the nerves of the characters in the scene.

GHOST – I also do breakouts from time to time, but those are rare.

Sometimes I’ll experiment was panels if the scene has no dialogue. Those will have more curved panels. There’s this page that uses 13 panels. I wanted to show the passage of time on one page without going too crazy with panels.

CHIPPY – It reminds me of a clock face. Therefore, time is passing through the panels as if each of these took up a certain amount of time in a day. That’s how I see it in my head.

Your work is always an inspiration, Ghost, lol.

GHOST – Thank you. One last thing, I have a Batwoman book and the paneling in it is really interesting.

When not Batwoman, the panels are simple. Yet as Batwoman, the panels get all crazy and creative.

Claylex joins in

CLAYLEX – Paneling can definitely help you out. Like originally I just wanted The hyena mutants power to blow up in her face and take out the bad guys with her but Sunny did it to where Clay aims and uses her own powers against her. Much much better than what I thought up, and the paneling certainly helps!

CHIPPY – An excellent use of a dynamic panel for the headshot there, Clay

CLAYLEX – Panels 1, 2, and 3 are my favorite!

hpkomic dumps some resources

I am gonna dump a couple good resources. First is this hand reference of all the panel layouts found in Jack Kirby’s work. I found this on Google Image search. Don’t have a source.

Bizhan Khodabandeh wrote a good article on the Golden Ratio in panel layouts. There is also this great article about Jack Kirby’s usage of a four-panel grid where even a simple four-panel layout of panels can be incredibly effective.

CHIPPY – Layouts are good. Also, with the introduction of the endless scroll comics, there are a tonne of different and new ways panels can be used to help tell a story.

Novasiri shares the wealth

NOVASIRI – I bounce between gutters based on the locale or the theming of what’s happening in the panels. I oftentimes use Black gutters for calm moments, or moments in areas known for darker ambiance, while I do white when it’s something more active, or in some cases, during the day. And I’ll typically do this via a transition as seen on this panel when I first started experimenting with gutter work.

For panels, in AE I’ve started using them as part of telling the actual story. Perhaps a character will execute an attack through it to interrupt another, or get shoved out of a panel and breakthrough another to move the scene in a way outside of just depicting standard travel. They’re fun to mess with.

I’m of a mind that panels can be used to enhance the story, while also guiding the reader’s eyes to the stories flow.

CLAYLEX – Yup! I may be a writer but I need to work with my editor and artist hand in hand to get the best out of the paneling.

NOVASIRI – Typically I also use out of panel scenes to show something of importance or set a tone. Easily, my favorite example of that:

Hazeamaze pops in

HAZEAMAZE – Depends entirely on scene context for me. The middle here from the BITE ashcan worked very well in the sense of Warrick talking about the past.

CLAYLEX – I really freaking like that. Roger just drew it so well.

CHIPPY – Roger really did make that “trip down memory lane” feel hectic. I’m always impressed when you find a new way to make use of your panels, Nova. One thing I really love about AE is your continued dedication on experimentation with your pages, Nova. And yeah, Roger made that entire scene feel like a lifetime running by in an instant

Dojo goes off script

DOJO – Panels are bad, no panels anywhere, just drawings leaking into the void-

CHIPPY – Dojo, we discussed you letting your nightmares out of the crawlspace!

SHRIMPULA – But in that vein of thinkin’, implied panels are mighty class.

There’s no limit to how one can trick the human mind into believing time has passed in a static image. And there’s nothing quite like getting one over on the rubes readers.

Simplicity isn’t a sin

SEETHERABBIT – I’m a simple man who uses simple basic panel set up, and the only “fancy” stuff I do are these types of transitions.

hpkomic talks Cosmic Dash

HPKOMIC – My panels tend to be pretty straight forward unless I need to break them up for storytelling purposes. I do find a lot of my page layouts reflect some of those Jack Kirby layouts, and I am not sure why, but it might be that it just makes the most sense for showing sequences.

I do have some unorthodox paneling periodically. The third episode of Cosmic Dash had those memory bubbles.

The page is still grid-like in structure, but the panel shapes are unique to the issue. One thing I picked up on early was using panels to set up certain moments, like using a small panel or a wide panel to establish a location before I “zoom in” on something in that location. Often these panels work as kind of transitions between sequences. For example, the first panel is small but it does enough to establish the location as needed. It’s worth sacrificing some room on the page for it.

Another example of using a small first panel as a sort of scene change by establishing a location. I use a lot of these.

MonicaNG talks MoonSlayer

MONICANG – Normally I tend to use the structure previously posted, with a minimum of 3 rows. But I tend to use diagonals and overlap elements in action scenes, like this one. I love to make the characters pop out the panels to make the scenes less boring and so I also use the characters or certain elements to divide the panels!

Using a character to create or introduce another panel…

Same as above, the character o some element contains the next panel.

Overlapping elements to divide and create other scene or introduce a hidden detail…

I follow the common rules for creating panels and don’t confuse the reader.

Chippy shares the goods

CHIPPY – Excellent examples David and Monica. I think the main goal for panels is to help the reader along as well. The template provided by hpkomic earlier is quite a resource for the creator who wants to dip their toes into the scene.

We used the break-out panel scene to draw attention to the strangeness happening around Hasera. The fact that something is wrong with the outcome is hinted with not only the strange ice behind Hasera, but the fact that she is outside of the frame. Much like Monica mentioned – we use a lot of break-out panels to draw attention or for exaggerated reaction use.

For a scene where ‘time’ doesn’t matter, we use the same sort of trick as Ghost did in Monster Soup where the panels seemingly surround the main focus. The only real difference is that we made Hasera super imposed over the events happening.

For this page, we could have had just a speech bubble to indicate Hasera’s… rather interesting response to the news of the previous Guardian, but due to the body language that we wanted to express, it was decided that we needed to have a small insert of her over the panel. This both added to the idea that she was ‘not interested’ in the story being told as well as visually show her distance from the actions being talked about:

And who could forget the arrival of the fanservice maiden of death, Jeni? Due to the extravagant nature of this character and the overly dramatic way she was to be introduced, Alli decided to dedicate an entire page, including a bust-out name frame for the character. This was done specifically to be jarring in comparison to the rest of the comic, as if the character was actively trying to wrest attention away from the story.

We also break off panels in some shots to help indicate freedom of movement, as done in the following image. By not having the squared off lines, the panel feels more open, thus allowing us to play with the idea that Magnus has somehow moved so fast that he has defied the laws of the comic. Though, looking back, I think we could have added more ‘oomph’ by having Hasera’s purple dress actually overlap the expected ‘edge’ of the panel.

I’m always interested to see the different styles everyone uses when it comes to enhancing their story through the structure of their pages. Panels are an essential part to not only help keep the story ‘in line’, but also to help indicate so many unsaid things to the reader. From simple time passing to important indications of details on the page to dynamic movements and ‘surprise’ enhancing shots. If you haven’t tried playing with panels, I highly advise it. It’s fun and can really shake up your storytelling, let alone give you a brand new tool in your creator’s kit!

MONICANG – I used the same full page for presenting the main outfit for Syrma as you did with Jeni. it’s very manga-esque. But instead of having the detail panels, I used these for the reactions of the others.

CHIPPY – Yes, I loved that page![8:14 AM]We may or may not have stolen inspiration from it c.c

MONICANG – As I said it’s very typical from manga presentations

CHIPPY – Yes. Alli was a huge manga fan growing up. It can be seen in a lot of her art when you peak behind it

Now, I will say, we were very constrained when we began Out of My Element. We got some bad advice that told us to not break from the established panel layout. We thought it was frowned upon greatly to use break-out panels and the like. It wasn’t until we got some advice from other creators that we decided to try flexing our panel powers – and boy did it suddenly make the comic more ‘dynamic’

MONICANG – Tbh I don’t like traditional panel layouts like the ones from the article above.

CHIPPY – They’re an excellent guide on how to ‘make it work’. But you cannot always have generic panel layouts or else it’ll wind up with the comic feeling entirely, well, generic

MONICANG – The separation, size and shape of them add a lot to the reading experience

CHIPPY – This is one of the reason I want to continue the weekly topics – by talking about the various different techniques, styles, colours, shapes, etc, that all the creators use, I hope to foster thought and experimentation with the creators who read these topics.

Some out there may have gotten the same bad advice we did. Some may be worried that by changing their shading style, they’ll lose fans, or some may think that there is only one way to properly set up page dimensions, or may not even know about CMYK printing issues.

I’m not saying that anyone here is an expert, but by talking about our own experiences, growing pains and discoveries, we can help other creators out!

Infinite Scroll – Infinite Possibilities?

DOJO – I can’t talk long, but I’ve been wanting to share some scroll format stuff, since a lot of traditional comic folks I know frown on it as “panels with way too much space inbetween” but that often occurs because the artist isn’t playing with panel layouts, something that I feel is just as important in scroll comics as it is pages, just with different constraints.

Here’s a page I did a few years ago that where I really played with the fact that I was working in a scroll format and did something that would not have worked in page format. The two characters are sitting in a subway train so I formatted the panels to try and give a sense of the train traveling while the two characters are talking.

… and here’s the thumbnail of the first slide of the comic I’ve been working on, where I’m really trying to push the first panel to be as dramatic as possible to give a sense of just how big the arena is a crowd is gathered at, all looking down on a single-stage followed up with a countdown that shows up periodically throughout the episode for pacing.

I think you can come up with some REALLY cool stuff when you take advantage of the format with scroll. A part of why I like it is its new ground that doesn’t have decades of people mastering it. But I will admit it’s far less frustrating to work in when you make it your goal from the start to use it as opposed to rearranging panels from comics that weren’t designed to be scroll. I’ve seen some people reformat pretty beautifully but it takes a lot of practice.

PHINMAGIC – I know I bust on infinite scroll alot. I think it could be cool, but often times, it’s not. And what donyou do if you want to collect it for print?

CHIPPY – There are templates

DOJO – It’s similar to if you want to take a comic from a print format to scroll: you reformat it. either way, you’re going to end up doing a lot of work but most scroll comics never do print (just as most print comics will never do scroll).

SEETHERABBIT – Do it like Tezuka’s Treasure Island?

PHINMAGIC – I mean I’ve tried it. Especially with Webtoons, but it’s a pain.

Final Thoughts

Learn anything new? Care to let us know your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!