top of page
  • Writer's pictureRob George

Week 11 Additional Research: Comic Books

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Project Idea:

Comic book that visually shows a day in the life of a modern retro gamer. A new retro gamer going about his day and discovering the retro gaming community in 2020.

Comic Book Layouts and Story Telling

As part of my project research I looked into comic book layouts and story telling to understand how to go about creating my own unique comic book.

Create a Comic: How to Plan and Lay Out Your Comic

By Sara Berntsson


  1. Story: Start by coming up with a series of events that will take place in the story. Try to create a list of things that might go wrong for the character(s). List the events leaving room to discover how to fill in the content in between.

  2. Pace: Think about the pace of the story. Does it start slow and progress to a big finish?

  3. Draw: quickly sketch out the actions of these events and fill in the missing information in between. Sketches do not need to be pretty, they just need to show how the story will play out through images.


  1. Panel Shapes and Sizes: Shapes can vary from squares, triangles, stars, circles, etc. Size of panels create different atmospheres for the comic.

  2. Camera Operator: Think of different views of the scene to create effect. Worms eye, birds eye, talking heads, etc.

  3. Reading Order: Left - Right - Down - Repeat

How to Layout Your Comic! Panels, Gutters, and Page Flow

By Steve Ellis

  1. What are the beginning and endpoints of the page?

  2. What needs to happen between those two points to tell the progress from beginning to end?

  3. How many steps will tell that progression best and what needs to be included in each step?

  4. Translate those steps to panels/ frames.

  5. How do I expect the reader to move from one panel to the next?

  6. How does the last panel lead to the next page?

Reading of the panels must mimic western-style comic book patterns which is: Left to Right then Down and repeat.

Types of Panels:

"Zoom In": creates excitement or tension

Close in single head shot

Close up of character or object

A distant shot for establishing scenes or showing wide action

A silhouette shot gives an opportunity for drama

A single character in backgrounds

One character foreground, one character background

Action shot

Gutters: Separates different ideas and are always the same width. No gutters indicate the panels are part of the same idea/section.

Overlapping Panels: Creates a sense that two actions are happening at once. Also used to indicate an event happens immediately after another. Can be tricky to use as panels can bleed into each other making it difficult to understand.

Panel Lines: Can be straight, wavy, etc. to create different feelings for specific events. Also helps transition from one panel to the next.

How to Create a Comic Book: Neil Gaiman’s Step-by-Step Guide for Making Comics

By MasterClass

Elements of A Good Comic Book

  • Panel. A panel is one illustration on a page usually surrounded by a border. A comic book page is made up of one or more panels. Each panel moves the story along, by depicting an action with figures and speech bubbles.

  • Gutter. This is the space between the panels. These spaces can be large or small, impacting how easy it is to read the pages.

  • Tier. A single row of panels.

  • Splash. A full-page illustration which often is used at the beginning of the comic book to introduce the story and establish setting and mood.

  • Spread. An illustration that is spread out over more than one page.

  • Caption. A box that is separate from the rest of the panel usually used to provide context for what’s happening through the voice of a narrator.

  • Speech bubble/balloon. These contain the dialogue of the characters and inside the panel. Each balloon has a “tail,” which points to who is speaking the dialogue.

Great Comic Book Examples

  • Action Comics #1 by DC Comics (1938)

  • Two-Fisted Tales, No. 25 by Harvey Kurtzman (1951)

  • The Acme Novelty Library, No. 6 by Chris Ware (1965)

  • Fantastic Four, No. 51 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (1966)

  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (1986)

  • Maus by Art Spiegelman (1980)

  • The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (1989)

  • The Walking Dead, No. 1 by Robert Kirkman (2003)

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006)

  • Lumberjanes, No. 1 by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson (2014)

4 Steps For Coming Up With An Idea For A Comic Book

  1. Create a short story that will be visually pleasing. Easy to define moments, characters and dialogue.

  2. Create a rough structure of the comic book layout. Grand opening, big plot points, climax, resolution.

  3. Character development: Who are they? What do they want? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do they start out, and where do they end up at the end of your story? What central conflict do they all face, and overcome?

  4. Extraordinary settings and powerful emotions like love, death, anger, good, evil. How are these represented in your comic book?

Comic Book Structure

  • Act 1: Introduction to the central characters, as well as the comic book’s setting, mood, and dominant conflict.

  • Act 2: Character development, individual story arcs, setbacks, challenges, what is learned, and finally, the climax.

  • Act 3: The post-climax resolution in which the characters undergo a transformation following what they have learned from their ordeal.

Comic Book Lengths

Genre Basics: Comic Books and Graphic Novels

By Author Learning Center

  • Modern comic books average around thirty-two pages, containing twenty-two pages of comic and ten pages of advertising.

  • The standard size is 6.625 inches by 10.25 inches, with four to six panels on each page.

  • There are various types of comics, including mini-series, one-shot, and ongoing.

  • A mini-series is a story broken up into four to six issues.

  • A one-shot comic book is a complete story in twenty-two pages.

  • An ongoing comic is one that has no planned ending and progresses until its eventual ending when the comic is discontinued.

Who reads comics?

  • The biggest group of comic book customers are males in their 30's. However, there is a group of new comics customers that includes women and children.

< Back to Thesis Research

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page