DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT THE PENCILJACK OFFICIAL CLASS ON STORYTELLING. THIS IS MY PERSONAL TIPS THAT I'VE DISCOVERED OVER TIME AND I FEEL LIKE SHARING. SO IF YOU DON'T LIKE THIS THREAD, IT'S OK. JUST DON'T BLAME THE FOLKS AT PENCILJACK, OK. BLAME ME.
Ok. This is my attempt to let you in on what I've learned through studying comic books for years. Hopefully, it can be something to think about the next time you open a comic book.
Using MS Paint, I can illistrate examples of what I am ranting about.
Let's first talk about panel divisions.
Four ways people setup comic book panels. These are the basic puzzle pieces that make up comic books.
The horizontal panel is used by many nowdays. They just divide the page using only horizontal panels. Mark Texaria is only one example I can think about that uses this type of layout. The advantage is that it is similar to the aspect ratio you get when you see a movie.
Equally divisioned panels are also common. Most common in older comics. Jack Kirby use to have his pages with the panels allready printed on them. That way he didn't have to draw them. This is also effective because each panel stands alone. No panel stands out alone in this sequence. Each panel gets the same attension.
Sometimes panels get greedy though. They want more attension, so they have to get more space than other panels get. This is good if you want a particular moment in the story to stand out.
The horizontal and vertical divisions are commenly used by Manga artists. Adam Warren uses this type of sequence a lot. Sometimes you need a taller panel to excentuate the height of a building or room. Sometimes it can just help keep a page fresh.
The insert panel I've most commonly seen in the Kubert Family. Joe Kubert uses this especially in his Tor comic. It's good for when you want to go into a close-up of something allready in the shot.
These are just the main puzzle pieces folks. I will continue to disect comics in this thread. Hopefully this is informative for some of you.
I plan to go into further detail on subjects such as:
using the pieces to complete a page
panel to panel flow
panel to panel do's and don'ts
Good idea putting together something analytical like this. I think a formal understanding of the medium is important to those of us who draw sequentials. I'll be interested to see what you do for some of your topics listed for the future. Good luck.
Hell yeah, keep it comin'!!
This is exactly the sort of thing I've been struggling with lately, so anything analytical like this is helpful in getting you to really understand the process.
Ok. This is where the hype usually stops. Since I don't have a scanner, I gotta do this with mspaint. But it's still a valid point.
This may not sound like much, but when you spend the time to make a good solid establishing shot, where the spacial relationships are shown, it makes it so easy to draw the next panel, because then you can just zoom in and use that information to draw the next panel.
It makes it easy because you've allready drawn it, and as a tight close-up, it is a nice transition for the eyes from a medium shot to a tight shot.
Too many CLOSE-UPS= BORING!!!
Too many WIDE-SHOTS=HEADACHE!!!
AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS!!!
Panel Variety is a double edge sword. It's tricky, but you can also use it to your advantage. Use it the right way and you don't have to draw so much detail panel after panel. It's tough on your hand and tough on the eyes.
But be careful and don't change the angle too dramatically, otherwise it will create a jump-cut and it will be a headache for the eye.
Ben you old fart, sticky this damn thread before it gets lost!!! :D
This uncovers a lot headaches I've gotten when I've attempted at creating a page. There's probably a lot more I'm missing, but simplifying the dynamics of panel-by-panel storytelling makes it sooo much easier to understand. You oughta makes this into a tutorial or something. ;)
MORE ABOUT TRANSITION FROM PANEL TO PANEL
I wrote this ninja turtle script that Alric so brilliantly illustrated.
These are semi-big files, so I've left them as links to keep this page easy to load.
The first two panels we go from a two shot to a close up of April. Then the next two panels we cut back to dexter, then go in closer so we can finally see Baxter. This is also a good time for to point out entrances.
Sometimes, its good to tease the audience, and not show what the character looks like until the final payoff. I'll elaborate on making an entrance later.
The first two panels here, we have a two shot with Bax and the Turtles. Then we cut to a close up of the hand and button. The next two panels its a reversal for what I've done before. Now it's the reveal. It's a close-up shot of the door opening, then we pull back to reveal the chaos.
So just keep in mind how cool the zoom transitions can be. It's good because it's easy to draw the close-up from the establishment shot, and it's good because it helps with panel variety.
Let's talk about anchor panels. I first heard this term when watching either Wilce Portacio's or Jim Lee's starbur home video COMIC BOOK GREATS video tape. It's the emphasis of a moment. By making special room for particular moments. Whilce emphasised 2 moments. But for this review, I was inspired by looking at Jim Lee's Batman#613 and Divine Right #6. Not required reading by the way, but still a good read.
Let's get started.
A) works well if you want to build up to something. And introduction, where the first 3 panels the figure is mysterious. Or the timer is clicking and the bomb finally goes off.
B) works well as a page turner. Both A and B were used above on the ninja turtles examples and I think they were used very effectively.
C) is also used as a good introduction or page turner.
D) But if you revers it it can be tricky. You got flow problems. Your not sure where to read after panel one. Letter ballons are your only safety in doing this effectively. Lettering can be very helpful in leading the eye on the right path. But be careful when using this type. You could also help the flow by making the first two small panels one big panel, so the eye flows smoothly from left to right.
E) I notice a lot of people use this setup when doing double page spreads. When you try this setup on a normal page, it gets a bit squishy and claustraphobic. When used on a double page spread, it becomes a very nice space tool.
CLICK HERE FOR THE EXAMPLE:
Let's write a comic book story. If you are planning on sending original submissions, it helps to have a bit of writing knowledge.
I like to call it plotting, because it makes it easier for Artist's to feel free to tweak things. If a writer has the whole page planned out in their head, they better draw a thumbnail, otherwise, give artist's creative control with panal arrangements. I prefer thumbnails, because it helps the writer with writing visual stories. If it's too hard to draw, change the script.
People say stories should have a beginning middle and end. I allways thought that was so stupid. What were they talking about? But then I thought of it in another way. You gotta have a story with a good beginning, a good plot, and you have to end it right.
The beginning of the story, you gotta hook the readers in. Especially here on penciljack. How do we get them to notice? SUSPENSE. Make them wonder what's going to happen next. Look at Scream. The first scene, Drew Berrymore gets whacked. That set-up the whole movie. Hook the readers in by getting to the point. And make them want to turn the page to find the solutions.
The plot. The guts. There are tons of plots. You can look in the TV GUIDE or just summarize existing plots.
Try ripping off the classics.
Alice in Wonderland has inspired so many stories. She is in a normal world, but follows a rabbit to this whole other underground world that no one knows about. She's out of her element and just wants to get back home. The Matrix is probably the biggest example of the first part. Then we got pleanty of fish out of water trying to get home movies such as Black Hawk Down, Cast Away, Back to the Future, E.T.
Frankenstien. Man creates life. We got movies such as Edward Scissorhands, A.I., Robocop, even comic books such as Madman and Deathlock.
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. A man changes into a monster. We got the Incredible Hulk, Akira, The Shining, The Fly. Even wolfman and vampyre stories. And Superman to some degree.
King Kong or Godzilla. Some big monster attacks the city. People gotta stop it. Ghostbusters and Honey I Blew Up the Baby both did this pretty well.
Other catagories include:
Mob Heists? Oceans Elleven. Pulp Fiction. It's good to see criminals succeed or fail.
Who Done It's? Murder mysteries. Clue was a great movie. So was Psycho.
GET IT BACK. Something is gone and you want to back. In Ransom Mel Gibson wants his kid back. In Star Wars, Luke wants to save the princess.
STOP A MADMAN. We got the whole horror genre. Michael, Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Speed, Psycho, Akira.
Endings are tough but simple. You have to answer any question the readers might have about what happened. Tie up all those loose ends.
Ok. Let's do a horror comic.
Anyways, how many pages should it be? Average 22? I don't have that good of experience, so to make it easier on me, lets make it a four page story for this example.
Let's break it down.
ROUND ONE. THE EASIEST PART. Just number pages 1-thru-whatever to break it down.
ROUND TWO. SIMPLE STORY BREAKDOWN. The meat of the story. Introduce what the situation is and how to end it.
Page 1. Let's cut to the chase. Two teens get hacked up. We introduce the killer.
Page 2. Police arrive at the scene, they make the call to the old detective gets the call. More victems have been found. So he goes to the airport.
Page 3. More victems get killed. A slaughter.
Page 4. The final showdown. The detective arrives and saves the day.
Ok. Let's treat each page like a chapter. They say each story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Well, to some degree, each page of a comic book needs it's own beginning, middle, and end. (even each panel has a piece of the beginning, middle, or end, but I'll expand that later.)
Page 1. Establish where the teens are in the first panel- a car making out in the hills. Next we'll cut closer to the guy putting the moves on the girl but she's resisting. Next panel, they hear a noise. Next, they go check it out. Next, the killer comes out and....
SUSPENSE...turn the page.
NOTICE: By the way, we don't show a detailed drawing of the killer, because we want to keep that a suprise. Another suspense factor. We will reward the readers at the end. This helps keep them turning those pages.
Page 2. The police arrive, their car is found, but they are searching for the bodies. Next, they find them and an officer tells the rookie to get Detective Don on the phone. Next, Don is in his home office, on the phone. Next, he's in an airplane.
Page 3. Kids are having a party in a cabin close-by the murder scene (most likely an exterior shot). Next, interior, we show the three teens partying, a Jock Jake and Cheerleader girlfriend Jessie and the virgin tag-a-long nerd-girl friend Judy, so of coarse the couple is making out while Judy is just reading a book when there's a knock on the door so jake says he'll get it, hoping it's not his Uncle. Next, an officer is at the door telling them about the situation and thinks they should skip town, but of coarse they don't. Next, the virgin asks the Jock who was at the door, and he says not to worry about it. Next, the stoners disappear in the back room leaving the lonely virgin, the cheerleader whispers sorry smiling guiltily as they walk to the next room. Next, the stoners are happy making out, but from the closet comes the killer with knife in hand...SUSPENSEFUL PAGE TURNER...
Page 4. (I'm running out of room so I have to really get to the point here.) Back in the living room, a big scream is heard, and the Virgin is really freaking out. NEXT, she sneaks up to open the door and since it. Next, a two shot of her and the killer. Next she runs away. Next, she's trapped in the corner, the shadow of the figure hovers over with knife in hand. Next, the door busts open, its Don the Detective, and his gun is aimed at the killer. NEXT, the killer is getting blasted away. NEXT, the girl hugs don as the killer lays dead on the floor and Don explains to her who the killer is and why he did it and how he knew he'd show up here.
Now you might be asking if this is hard to draw. Well, I've done crappy thumbnails to make sure it works, and I'll post them as soon as I can make some descent looking ones.
That's good stuff, yeah... :D
Your method for breakdowns is pretty good... I never thought to do it that way. I'm definitley going to play with this technique for plotting out a book and see if it makes things easier for me.
Don't worry about this thread fading away folks, I think this one's destined for a sticky.
Helpful stuff. If you got more, that would be really cool.:)