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Tag: comic book page composition

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Anatomy of a Comic

We recently completed our 20th comic for Tzivos Hashem's Kid's Zone, a magazine for Jewish kids, so we can finally show off the previous one since it's now seen print. Aquatic Adventures starts off with a SPLASH! as Joey and his pals are pulled into the river while fishing off a dock...

...where they come face-to-face with a huge talking fish! It was fun to have room to blow out this panel to a sizable semi-splash at the bottom of the first page. Now underwater, little bubbles/circles begin to appear, which I used throughout the three pages as a design element, in the panels and gutters, leading the reader's eye. We carried this through to the word balloons of the fish, which we also gave a different font, more open and round than the comics font we usually use (one based on my own hand-lettering). Mary approached coloring the fish differently than I probably would've, weaving warm and cool colors together, and shading various blues and greens. A nice touch, adding depth and color to the fish, helping to pop the Big Guy from the watery backgrounds.

On page one (below, left), I established the scene, the boys fishing off the dock on the river, the city in the distance. We used cool and warm colors to distinguish one panel from another, and to break things up. I prepared a diagram (below, right)  to show shapes and flow of the page. The orange line shows a couple main shapes. The blue line tracks the flow of the text/word balloons and sound effects. The red line shows further the composition of the page, how I used the fishing poles and line to direct the reader's eye so the action flows naturally from panel to panel.

I wish I had even more room one page 2 to show the magical underwater world in which the crew finds themselves, but somehow was able to pack a lot of stuff into this panel (shown larger here than in the printed comic). For all the underwater scenes we considered and could have cast everything in darker hues, but decided to bring it to life, keeping things colorful and magical.

Pages 2 & 3 (below) appear in the mag side-by-side, bleeding together a bit. The red line I drew for page 2 shows the general flow for the page and panels. We kept the background for the masthead white to pop the title, utilizing the bubbles as I mentioned earlier. On panel 2 I used a series of arcs (as suggested by the sunken ship), carrying them through the whole panel and to direct the eye to the proper following panel. I bled out all the background for page 3 to establish an underwater backdrop for the talking fish and Joey, using panel borders for cutaway shots and an inset. Because this page is therefore more free-flowing and open, I overlapped word balloons over panels to make sure the reader followed along in the right order.

Here's a close-up which shows how we bounce and balanced warm against cool colors. Notice again the difference between the fish font and boy's speech.

I've written and posted more about how we've created this comics series, which we've now been doing for five years. Read all the comics at Google+,  or Facebook. It's already been a good run...with more to come!

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Comic Book Page Composition

When doing layouts for a comic book page, the artist considers a variety of options quickly. Working with the script to tell the story as best as possible, one breaks down the page in a series of panels. Each of those panels has its own composition, but must also work within the overall page composition. Each panel is presented from various points of view, which correspond to and support all the other panels. And through it all, the artist must make sure the information and story is communicated clearly and doesn't lose the reader. The challenge is to make the art and layout fun and interesting, while still following sound and solid storytelling and layout principles. For example, here's a page from Dreams Of Looking Up, an historical and educational comic book I drew for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. dolu13_diagram.jpg In this page, we see an old woman looking at photos and a painting of an eagle, recalling her youth. The page begins in the past, the young woman holding her baby, looking up at an eagle taking off from its nest on a high peak. I decided a long, vertical panel would best depict this, also establishing a connection (both physical and emotional) between the young woman and her surroundings. This long vertical panel on the left is balanced by a column of panels on the right. The trick is to make sure the reader doesn't just skip to the last panel. In that regard, I have a few things going for me here. In America, folks are trained from early on to read from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, so it's ingrained and natural. In that first panel, though the vertical shape pulls the eye down to the woman and the baby, even for a split second, the reader's eye is pulled back up (rather than to the right) to see the eagle, and follows its flight path to the first caption, which is bridged between frames one and two, linking us to the row of panels on the right. Now, it's possible the reader will be drawn to the eagle, then to the caption, or directly to the caption (as indicated by the diagrammatic dotted red line above), but people take in images rapidly, and you'd be hard pressed to convince me a reader wouldn't see the entire first panel, even if only for an instant, before their eyes dart back to the top. Once there, readers will follow smoothly south, reading words and pictures 'til rejoining the present day conversation between her grandchildren. This is just one page out of twenty-four in this particular comic book story, each presenting its own layout and storytelling challenges. A lot of thought goes into each panel, each page, each story at this stage, before the real drawing begins. This page, and more pages from this book and its companion volume can be viewed in our Prime Projects section. Or order your own copies at the official Mille Lacs Band web site.