techniques and secrets of Arsenic Lullaby



here just a sample/test page of some of the techniques that are used in telling a story with the comic book the weeks that follow I'll put up more and more.  it's not just pictures with word balloons.  a lot of things must be considered. timing, panel composition, page composition, leading the eye, putting emphasis on specific objects/information/movements, mood, and on and if you are an aspiring Comic book illustrator or just a fan who wants to know what separates the men from the on and come back for more next week

First I'll just reassure you fans that you are not getting a free education here.  The techniques I'm explaining in this blog are the VERY BASICS, things I learned years and years ago.  As basic as they are it seems that some  "top tier" pros out their have never learned them.  They just started drawing pretty pictures in their notebooks in grade school and never advanced farther than that as far as learning any SKILL.  See there is TALENT, that's what you're born with, and there is SKILL, that's what you learn.  Telling a story with words and pictures working together in sequence is a SKILL with theory and technique and so on.  

It's the difference between "Apocalypse now" and..."Morbius"

A few basic things you need to know- a panel is a single frame/square…one single box.  And tier is a row of panels.  We read from   left to right in this country…and so the action and timing should also go from  left to right.  Because we read from left to right things on the left are perceived as having happened BEFORE things on the right…this is the number one RULE not theory but RULE….we can't get around this one- things happen first on the left and from the top THEN the bottom of the panel.  The top to bottom rule is somewhat looser you can, through technique, wiggle around that a little.   

In the golden age of comics most pages where two panels wide and three tiers.  When you see people making books where every page only has two tiers it is not because they are really good.  Think of them as musicians who only know two cords…they don't know how to use the panels to set a mood or create a sense of timing.   

Certain panels are used for certain reasons. ONE- timing. A long panel is perceived as taking a longer amount of time to happen than a short panel (see below)

Now if the entire page consisted of short panels the "slap" would have much less impact.  But putting several wider panels before it gives the slap more impact.  This is what I'm going on about with using at least three tiers.  You are leading the reader…setting the reader up.  Think of it as a pitcher throwing five fastballs in a row, then out of the blue throws a curveball.  It's much more effective because the batter is used to seeing the ball come in straight.  It's about discipline. The pitcher would love to mix it up more but that would harm the effectiveness of the curveball.  a comic books is 32 pages and you have to think of it as one long con job.  Every page has to help give meaning to the other. 

The next thing panels are used for is creating mood.  A lot of this is theory but theory that is widely agreed on.  A simple square panel is ordinary…comfortable…it gives the reader no unease simply by it's shape.  A tall narrow panel is uncommon; we don't see tall narrow picture frames with our mothers in them.  We get a tall narrow view when we are peaking through a crack in a door. Take the page below.

Figure 2

The top tier is meant to be creepy and unsettling the tall narrow panels help this.  And when the story's mood needs to change from how creepy Joe is to how ordinary and usual he can act, the panels become square…ordinary.  See creepy Joe- narrow, average Joe Complaining- Square. 

Is this the only thing that made this page work? No, but that is my larger point. many many techniques must work together and be thought out.  I'll also point out here that a sense of timing worked hand in hand on this one.  The short panels went by quickly then the longer panels slow the reader…we quickly point at the fetuses and slowly dwell on the situation along with Joe.  Sometimes techniques are at odds with one another; I got lucky on this page.  When they are at odds is when the storytelling must come first, which is more important? The timing or the mood? 

lets take about what goes on IN the panels.  I already mentioned that things happen from left to right, and for the most part top to bottom.  The action needs to follow this path just like the word balloons follow the path.  You have to lead the reader around the page. 

Let's take a page made up entirely of Joe beating a guy with a tire iron.

Figure 3 

Nowadays your average loser would just draw one panel of Joe beating someone with a tire iron and then copy and paste it 7 is why that person would be a loser…

Panel one Joe's arm leads the reader into the next panel

Panel two Joe's left arm is pushing down into the third panel

Panel three Joes swing leads the reader into the fourth panel

Panel four HERE is where we want the action to slow but keep the same panel size...SO we eliminate any motion and add a word balloon...this makes the reader slow down just a bit because there is something to read rather than just movement to follow.  Tricky eh?

Panel fives' swing leads into panel six

Panel six's' swing leads back and down into Panel seven.

Panel seven Joe is stomping towards panel eight. 

All of this rhythm and movement would be lacking by just cutting and pasting like a child. 

Here's another one that is a good example

Figure 3

1 The boy looks over his shoulder and down into the next tier 

2 Joe and the boy are moving forward into the next panel 

3 Joe shoves the boy towards the next panel 

4 Joe pulls the boy back and down to the next tier 

5 Joe pushes the boy into the next panel. 

Now the last panel the boy is walking off the page.  In the golden age of comics the agreed upon techniques was to lead the eye back away from that bottom right corner of the last panel…somewhere in the marvel age they just let the readers eye flow right off the page.  No one I've talked to seems to know why it changed or if one is better than the other..OR they are so old they can't remember. 

WELL there you go a glimpse into the phone books worth of things you should know before crafting a story with a comic book.  Some pages need all mood and no timing some need both some in turn rely on techniques and tricks of the eye I haven't gone into here, yet.

I hope this wasn't to dry for you all and hopefully you'll have a better appreciation for the medium itself.