Aug 29, 2012

Techniques and Tricks: What Not to Do

Welcome to another edition of Comics Techniques and Tricks, in which we showcase techniques that only comics can do! Click here for the archive!

Here's our first example of what not to do when it comes to page layout. Lately I've been reading the old JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA series, written by Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis. As it turns out, the issues I have aren't from their legendary run with Kevin Maguire, but from after that, when the art chores were mostly handled by Adam Hughes. This is from issue #42, with art from a young Mike McKone and Jose Marzan Jr.

See the problem here? J'onn's speech bubble "I won't stand in your way--" goes straight to the panel on the right, and is even connected to the speech bubble next to it, which says, "--but I want you to know that I'm always here for you. Always."

Where does that leave the panel on the bottom left? A reader will either want to turn the page because that right panel where Gypsy is walking away, or realize that the bottom panel went unread and reread the sequence.

The layout isn't the problem; the dialogue and the placement of the balloons are. If only that last balloon in panel 1 didn't overlap with the right panel, and if only "--but I want you to know" continued from "Soon" rather than "I won't stand in your way." Actually, "Soon" is probably unnecessary, isn't it? J'onn's last speech balloon in panel 1 could easily have taken its place!

That's just one example of the many things comics creators have to go through to facilitate readability. Not only does the layout of the pictures have to make sense; the lettering has to do it too. (This is also why letterers are some of the unsung heroes in comics — you rarely ever notice when they do it right, but it's so easy to realize when they're doing it wrong.)

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