Or so the old adage goes. Since I have gotten back into writing comics I’ve fallen into the trap of writing too many panels in my comics. This has resulted in feedback from other writers stating that artists will see the job as tedious or worse yet, me being naive about not giving enough breathing room for the art to take centre stage.
I went back to my recent draft of Resurrection Men #1 and looked at my pages with my analytical hat. Was I showing my inexperience or could a writer really be successful with more than a certain number of panels per page?
So I picked up my most recent read, Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and I noticed that he often writes for nine or ten panels per page. This is one of the most successful writers currently at Marvel so by this logic surely there doesn’t need to be a hard limit on how many panels you need for a page. The page to the left really was a great example of how a large number of panels can quickly tell a story without the need of excess dialogue.
This page from the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline was in fact very powerful because it showcased the emotional wellbeing of all the characters whilst simultaneously giving each character a line of dialogue that expressed their feelings towards the end of an era. However, I’m not trying to dismiss the logic between limited panels. In fact it really helps as a writer to look at a page with many different panels and see what really is important and condense the essence of the story into as few as panels as possible.
The example below comes from between two drafts of Resurrection Men #1.
In the first example you can see there was a lot of dialogue and going back and forth between Camael and James. When I added it up it came up to 10 panels in total! So I thought to myself, how can I keep the jist of this story and scene but cut the panels. This was my solution below.
Suddenly a lot smoother and heck of lot more interesting visually. I managed to keep the feel of story but also gave room for the art to be the certain of attention.
So I guess this one golden rule can be broken, if it is broken for the right reason. I’ll leave you with a poor example of panels from Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”, a great read you should pick up.
All the best,
N. S. Paul