While reading through the Golden Age comics, I’m always impressed to see how far layouts have come from the time of the earliest BATMAN and THE SANDMAN and SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY issues. Typically 3 rows of three or four sqaures or rectangles. The straight ahead comic strip style. What a dynamic difference it makes to emphasize certain hightened moments by varying the dimensions of the panel. Ties right in to choosing the right lens or camera movement for a movie.
I’d never thought of it like this before. Panel placement and sizing really does make a huge impact on storytelling! Makes it all pack more of a punch.
One of the reasons Jack Kirby is acclaimed as the greatest comic artist of all time is because he was way ahead of his time on layouts. While most golden age artists were content to simply mimic comic strip layouts, as early as 1941 Kirby was experimenting with much more dynamic compositions. If you have Marvel Unlimited go check out Captain America #1 and compare it to any Batman or Superman comic from the same year. While I would say Bob Kane’s best ghost artists (Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang and Jack Burnley among them) were superior draftsmen, nobody laid out a page like Kirby.
Another early layout pioneer is Gil Kane. Even though his early stuff on Green Lantern isn’t as good as his later work on that title or on Action Comics thanks to the rather heavy handed inking of Joe Giella and Murphy Anderson, his pages were a lot more open than stuff by most contemporary DC artists.
@BeastBoy It literally wakes you up. Makes the comics medium all that more special.
@TheDemonEtrigan Good call. I couldn’t agree more.
Check out World’s Finest #10. Whoever drew the Superman story made some really interesting choices.
@TheDemonEtrigan Truth to that. Shard paneling on display and it’s the early forties. Kinda vanguard.
One of the “gee I haven’t thought of that in forever” moments I’m looking forward to revisiting as it becomes available is Todd Macfarlanes work on Infinity Inc. Some really dynamic experimentation with page layout- characters physically covering the background between panels, big dramatic symbols forming a backdrop, counterintuitive story flow. Looking back it was probably too busy to catch on as a general style, but with that kind of urge to experiment you can see why he became a thing, whatever your take on his work as a whole.
Yeah the Image guys get a lot of flack for their inability to write coherent stories or to draw certain parts of the human body correctly but there’s no doubt that they brought a lot of visual excitement to a form that was becoming very staid by the mid-eighties.
@Digit8 A fine example of the power of the layout. Alan Moore and Steven Bissette also played around often with the panel arrangements for their SWAMP THING run, which brought a menacing mosaic quality to the wild happenings. Shards and insets galore dappled with those colors.
I think it makes sense that they were pretty basic at first because they were kind of making a new form of storytelling and they were aware of it. That’s why they would often number each panel on the page or put little arrows in the gutters to direct the eye of where it’s supposed to go.
That said, they got fairly experimental pretty quickly. I’m a regular listener to the Raging Bullets podcast, and to celebrate their 13th anniversary they decided to look at the 13th issue of all the original big DC books, and I noticed that Batman #13 had a good variance of big and small panel. One particularly memorable bit being a big panel of Batman chasing the Joker on a sort of wind-boat across a beach.
It should be noted that regular panels don’t have to be boring. Steve Ditko, Alan Moore and Tom King have all made great use of the nine panel grid format.
Excellent points from a historical perspective. And we can also consider Alan Moore’s later embrace of the nine panel page or similar simple layouts, like in PROVIDENCE. He tends to fill the standard panels with rich detail.
Without disrespecting anyone mentioned here, go WAY back in time and look at the original Little Nemo in Slumberland newspaper strip. That strip was surreal on a level to match Doom Patrol.
And now here we are in the digital age and those old books are WAY easier to read in landscape mode or in guided view mode because of their simplicity. Its funny.
@markhb Little Nemo was in a class by itself. Slumberland was beautifully represented in those layouts. They brought you IN. @boodikhan I’m all for the digital experience of taking in panels. I start with an overall glance of the full page, then start with swipe navigation, then zoom back out to take in the page once more. It’s a different bracket of Immersiveness. Just another way of hightening the appreciation.