Karate chop action!

March 21, 2010

My “super fantastic, awesome wife” (her words) found these great articles online about how the brain interprets motion in a drawn image. It’s an issue that ALL artists, but especially those in comics, deal with. How to make Superman appear to flying quickly through the air? Or how to make Spidey’s web-slinging trip between buildings feel like that of a trapeze artist?

Here are the links to both articles…

How to move the brain with a Japanese line drawing

And

How drawings move the brain

It may seem to some that these approaches must be out of date because they’re images from the 1800s, and so often writers will ask for multiple panels to simulate the quick cut nature of modern fight scenes in movies, but in reality the print makers were getting it right. When one adds panels to a comic page, just like with the addition of word balloons, it slows the reader down. The outcome is reversed from the intention, instead of giving a feeling of fast moving action, it actually gives the audience the impression things are happening in slow motion. For every panel there is a pause to absorb information, then a move forward to the next panel, and then another pause. Just as it takes longer to read nine word balloons as compared to four, on a four panel page compared to a nine panel page, it’s obvious which has more pauses and therefore takes longer to read. Just a little something to think about, but the next time any of you are laying out a page of action, either as a writer or an artist.

Bear in mind though, we know the ideal is to condense the action into fewer panels, but keep it plausible. Writers can say “Panel One : Hero guy stops the villain with a punch to the face, striking the bad guy’s gun away from his hand, and catching the bag of cash as it falls” Yeah- you can WRITE it, but does Hero guy have three arms? He’s gonna need them to do all the action written into that single panel, not to mention doing it clearly enough for reader to understand what’s going on.

It’s a skill to write out, or draw, an action scene, but as with any illustration or script, taking the time to think it out ing the beginning will save everyone a lot of frustration in the end.

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