Here’s a preview of something from our textbook. it’s an explanation of a common reading order mistake in comics (I drew this one in a quasi-Tezuka style, just for fun):
Why did these guys get blown up? Didn’t the other guy get the code? Well, did you? Let’s see. Maybe you thought it was:
But wait, how do you know it wasn’t:
Without arrows, there’s no way to know for sure. This situation is rarely this fatal, but you want to avoid pointlessly presenting your reader with such an ambiguous situation.
I was just reading a comic that did this a few times… though I don’t now recall what comic.
Matt Madden says
You do see it with some regularity, and often the context or the design is clear enough for you to figure it out. Bob Sikoryak saw a lot of it when he was researching his Batman version of Crime and Punishment and I think he even put an instance of it in his comic as a sort of skewed homage.
I just double-checked and Tezuka does it a lot in Ode to Kirihito. You can usually figure it out but it’s a bit confusing at times. Other times it seems like he’s using it for a non-linear, atmospheric effect, where the sequence is unimportant, and in that case I think it’s fine.
i hate when this happens. it really takes me out of the comfortable flow of the story.
James Moar says
(Just saw this because of Journalista, sorry for being so late)
The second approach actually seems to be the standard Japanese way to read panels, whereas the first is the standard American way.
The Japanese approach could be described as ‘if panels form a vertical strip (ie they have matching vertical borders), read that before going horizontally’. I’d say it’s clear and self-consistent, if it’s what you’re expecting — I learnt it by reading Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, where it appears a fair bit.
I’ve always just assumed that in Western comics you NEVER move from right to left, just as you never move up on a page. So the reading order on this sort of page would always be down, right (the fact that part of the panel is “up” is okay, because the “baseline” is even with the previous panel), down.
The flow is clearer, though, if the gutter between the first two panels on the left is angled so that it “points” up from left to right toward the top of the panel on the right.
Or you can just number every single panel LOL.
Eli B says
There are some examples of what I’m talking about on this page from one of my comics. Admittedly I got carried away (and even used some of those dumb arrows too) but it seems like a useful tool in moderation.
Eli B says
Arrows always look intrusive to me, but they’re not the only way to disambiguate panel sequence. Just about any visual element crossing over the panel border can do it – e.g., one of those “pipes” (or whatever you call them) that tie together two word balloons from the same character, or an ongoing sound effect like “TICK TICK TICK” that flows from the upper panel into the lower.
BTW, hi Matt!
Matt Madden says
Eli (hi back), I would argue that you are using the connecting tails a bit more than you need to here: the layout is unusual but it does basically follow a left-right, top-down flow, if in a kind of zig-zag. That said, I prefer the way you use the tail of the thought balloon to connect the last two panels, it’s more integrated with comics language than the more intrusive arrows. Did you try showing it to anyone without the arrows?
To Jim: I don’t think the average reader is that rigid in avoiding moving from left to right. Your comment about angling the “dividing” gutter is one of those ways that you can try to guide the reader’s eye. It can help, but I still think this particular situation is often problematic.
James: I’ll take a look at Nausicaa and also double-check Tezuka to see if there’s more consistency than I first saw there.