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Thread: The Comics Panel Time-Master--PART 2: How We Read Comics

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    So, my basic question would be this, Lee:

    Would a 1:5 fly for you most of the time?

    I definitely understand the reason for the way you constructed the scene, and as examples go, it is extremely illuminating.

    But you know, the Hopi Indians had a creation myth, as did pagans around the globe. The Jews had their own creation myth, and then the Christians adopted it and spread it all around, with a lot of them taking it literally, even today.

    And that's what I see happening with the example. Writers taking it literally without understanding what it's trying to explain.

    Or maybe it's just me, and I need to calm down. That's definitely a possibility. I get wrapped up sometimes. Okay, a lot. I see things, and then see how it plays out in the future. Remember the old Charles Schwab commercials? When Schwab talks, people listen. It's the same thing with you, Lee. When you talk, people listen. I just hope they slow down enough to let the lessons seep down into the bones, like Tussin.

    (PLEASE let someone besides me get that joke...)

    It's like we're coming up with a new/old shorthand here. Panel to moment ratios, the Lee Nordling Paradigm... I wonder what else will come out of this before it's done. Or is it just me looking at things differently? That could be it, too.

    Asshole? Yep. I can see how those who only look on the surface can see that. I don't even mind being called an asshole. I'm a jerk and I know it.

    I just hope to never be unhelpful. To me, that's worse than being an asshole. That leads directly to arrogance, and I don't think I'm good enough to be arrogant. Even if I was, I like to think I'm self-aware enough to not go over that line.

    My style is a bit hard to swallow. I look at the comments others make about me, and generally, they say how I hope to project myself: it's going to be tough, but it's going to be helpful.

    But enough about me. Don't want to derail this thread any more than it already has been.

    I'm just happy to still be learning.

    And I'm wondering if I can make a comics page take up to a minute in comic-time using the 1:5. Or maybe a better way to say that would be a 1:x. I have to look for the breaking point of a panel in comics time.


  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Hey, Steven.

    I think the question regarding average beat/frozen-moments-of-time pacing anticipates my next column, where we explore exactly HOW the use of these moments (and the reading time on balloons) affects the pacing of the panel, page, story, and/or book.

    I hadn't quantified the ratio aspect as you have, but am happy to build on that when we get to the topic.

    But I will answer your question about averages now, just so nobody travels down that creatively ravaged road:

    There are no averages.

    My examples used five (or seven) moments, then three.

    I wrote a story for the DW anthology that, after the opening page, is told entirely in pantomime...until the last page, where it's filled with balloons, narration, and a visual approach that differs significantly from what came before, turning from children's story to crime story.

    If I had paid the slightest attention to average pacing, I never would have developed a pacing that was unique to this story, and worked best to carry out my intent.

    Alan Moore is a master at controlling how long we consider material.

    Another bump in the pacing road will include how long it takes for us to consider visual information.

    I read Shaun Tan's "The Arrival," a brilliant book without a readable word in it, and I had to consider every drawn element in relation to ones that proceeded and followed in order to get the point.

    A pal raced through it and couldn't even understand it. After I told him what the book was about, and why it was brilliant, he went back and liked it...because he absorbed it more slowly...or better.

    More next week on this topic, but thanks for helping to get the ball rolling.

    --Lee, who doesn't think Steven's an asshole

  3. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Aside from the obvious limits to time and space per panel that you've already pointed out, wouldn't the 'ratio" be a judgment/common sense call in any given panel?

    What I mean is, if you llow that a panel is a frozen "moment" in time, within that moment, several things could be going on.

    Guy one could be in mid jump (1 action) and speaking (1 action), while guy two is in mid punch (1 action) and speaking (1 action), while a third character looks alarmed (1 action) and squeels in fright (1 action).

    Giving you six individual yet simultaneous actions. Spatial allownaces aside, that should work because the actions overlap time-wise.

    In fact, it's like the old DC role-playing game rules, In one round, your character's could each attack, but that limited their movement and the amount they could speak (I think 3 words was the limit). If you wanted to shout out a more detailed warning (in a combat round) you had to forfeit your attack. If you wanted a seventies Marvel word balloon worth of warning, you couldn't move either.

    Same principal?

    Seb - Who also doesn't think Forby is an asshole, but gets a real kick out of the idea anyway!
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  4. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Would a 1:5 fly for you most of the time?
    I don't presume to speak for Lee, but from my own perspective I'll say that I definitely don't think it's typical. At least not with mainstream Marvel/DC style comics. Or, more to the point, not these days.

    Stretching a panel out over a longer period of time, like that, feels very old school to me. It reminds me of the comics I read when I was a kid (we probably don't need to get into how long ago that was), that were a very leisurely read compared to a lot of modern comics. There might be a single panel with a half-dozen people or more, each performing their own actions, and a whole conversation taking place.

    But these days comics have a much more... I'm going to go with fast paced (though I'm not sure that's quite the term I'm looking for)... approach. Everything in the panel is happening quick, each panel it's own sudden impact. bam Bam BAM The same thing that might be accomplished with a 1:5 panel, will more likely take up a whole five-panel page instead.

    So, possibly, the feeling you're getting, that Lee pushed the panel-to-moment ratio too far, is simply the result of his pushing farther than you're used to?

    Calvin - who's been called an asshole, himself, a time or two.

  5. LeeNordling Guest

    Actually, I haven't pushed any panel-to-moment ratio anywhere; that was Steve working out the math.

    Yes, in answer to the question about there being a judgment call/personal perception related to how people will respond to beats that affect the reading, and we'll take that into account...when I actually write about it.

    I really don't want to get ahead of next week's column, though.

    I'd like to keep the discussion to this week's many topics.

    Re. the suggestion that Bully #2 has two actions doesn't fly. For the sake of this example, he's speaking as he prepares to punch, in the same way that I can walk and chew gum.

    What I can't do is spit then effectively hit a baseball in one image.

    It's important not to think of single characters/images-frozen-in-a-moment-of-time as more than that one moment.

    Example: When I wrote a Mickey Mouse story, I had Mickey musing over a problem. In one panel, he made a concerned comment, then chucked nervously.

    The first balloon worked with the art...but the art didn't work with the nervous chuckle. It was bad/crammed-in writing...all because I wasn't working to the ONE frozen moment of time.

    So, let's keep our eyes on the ball here.

    The point is that frozen moments move from left to right in a panel.

    Knowing this, we can apply this to making sure we write clearly.

    And next week we can control time to suit our goals.


  6. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Actually, I haven't pushed any panel-to-moment ratio anywhere; that was Steve working out the math.
    I didn't mean to put words in your mouth, Lee. I was just adopting Steven's terminology to address what you did do... which is stretch out the moment to take up more time.

    Yes, the moment is frozen, but you made that moment last longer for the reader. You used the number of actions that were depicted and the dialogue to set the rate at which the reader will absorb the information in that panel (which isn't a bad thing, just a thing - and a useful pacing tool) to something slower than Steven was apparently comfortable with. I was simply speculating as to why it might feel that way to him.

    My apologies if it just confused things further.

  7. drgerb Guest

    I personally like 1:1 and 1:2 for most of my stories. Like Calvin said, adding in a lot more seems to make it seem old fashioned. I also think, at least for my stories, that keeping it simple and keeping the count lower seems more intimate for the reader. It feels more like he's there with my characters, going through the same stuff they're going through.

    Put in too many and it bridges on seeming way old fashioned, almost cheesy in a way, and almost alienated. Take The Family Circus (I think that's the name of that Sunday strip in the papers) for an example. On Sundays when the strips are colored, they'd often have a strip in of a wide open scene of the house, a bold black sectioned line walking all around, jumping over things, moving in circles, then at the end of the line is the little boy. So you basically watch everywhere he went previously to this moment in time of the strip. Which is done well, for the sake of the comic strip, but when you zoom out and look at it, I, as a reader, feel so isolated because I'm watching the aftermath (a boy standing at point b.) of what was said in the strip (going from point a to b, c, d, or whatever)... Like I feel somehow cut off from the action.

    And I think that's what you run into when you try cramming too many different snapshots of time into the same panel. With my stories I want, every possible second, for the reader to feel like he or she is sitting RIGHT there with this other human being (not character, 'human beeeeing' if I can do my job as the writer) at that exact moment, the end of the world. When you can bring your reader / viewer INTO the moment, that's when you can say or do anything and they'll still follow. Not necessarily that, I guess, but more so that's when you can make a point or make them cry or smile or laugh or angry. And upping that panel : moments of time ratio to 1:4, 1:5 seems to really, at least for ME and my stories, cut off the reader from what they're SUPPOSED to be experiencing / immercing themselves with. 1:3 I might do sometimes, but even that, for me, is stretching it a bit. Anyway...

    Sorry if I've gotten ahead of this week's column. Just felt like throwing my thoghts out there.. Looking forward to next week though. Hopefully we can keep this going for some time.

  8. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by drgerb View Post
    And I think that's what you run into when you try cramming too many different snapshots of time into the same panel.
    Yeaaahh.... I can see why Lee didn't much like the direction this was going.

    He's really not cramming different snapshots of time into the panel. There's only one snapshot of time. What he's done, I believe, (and I suspect it's a completely outside-the-point side-effect of his actual point about direction of time flow) is slow down the perceived time that moment seems to take. The panel takes longer to absorb, but the visible action you're seeing, that frozen moment in time, is still only a single moment in time.

    It's kind of a weird idea to wrap your head around, because time is visually frozen in the image, but it feels like time is moving as the reader's eye moves through the image - looking at the actions taking place & reading the dialogue. It's like an optical illusion, it tricks your brain.

  9. danialworks Guest

    I'm a little lost as to the need for ARGUMENT this time at all.

    A lesson has been presented. Read left to write. Write the same way.

    Then, a teaching example is offered. Presumably a somewhat large, and one would think, comedic panel with as much business in it as possible.

    Read right to left. Write the the same way.

    There's really nothing to deconstruct, so wouldn't a different prespective on the lesson be preferabale and more instructive than argument... another teacher's view on the topic of the day? Just saying.

  10. LeeNordling Guest

    Ever been to a comic convention panel where the panelists can't seem to stay on topic, and really cool stuff never gets discussed as much as it could be?


    Let's simplify and refocus this discussion.

    Each frozen moment in time in the panel, identified in my examples, have balloons corresponding to the illustrations...and those frozen moments move from left to right.

    Anybody not get that?

    A panel could have twenty versions of Flash, fainter toward the left, becoming increasingly more solid-looking as he runs towards the right, and the last one on the right would be fully solid, the effect of this showing us that he's moving fast.

    If each one of those versions of Flash has a balloon with a word in it, each one of those would signify a separate frozen moment of time.

    Anybody not see that?

    Let's work to figure out from which end of the gun the bullet emerges before pulling the trigger (which is more fun to write than suggesting that we, AS A GROUP, learn to walk before we try to run).

    Folks are making something more complicated than it needs to be. Worse, I suspect they're making this hard for others who might actually have thought they understood it, when they finished the column.

    By trying to anticipate where this is going, by trying to formulate how much whatever slows down the way people read panels, we are, I write again, getting ahead of ourselves.

    It's causing half of the people to try to stay on topic while applying what others are jumping ahead to.

    And guess what the predictable result is: no definable process to discuss; mostly it's unwieldy chaos.

    So let's bring this back home.

    We have ONE job this week: discussing and understanding how one or more frozen moments of time occur in a panel, how they're differentiated, and how they move from left to right.

    If I haven't been clear about this, please ask questions; let's clear it up.

    If you have different philosophies, that's fine, but let's work on trying to grasp what I'm suggesting first.

    Please consider this particular post a reboot.



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