Panels from “Scott Pilgrim” (Colour Edition & Original Black/White Print)
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” is one of the finest comic book series I have ever read, not just for its originality, relatable characters, references and humour, but also for it’s layout and composition that communicate its narrative.
Scott Pilgrim has it’s fair share of “Oh Sh*t!” Moments and lively fight sequences that work perfectly with large scale panels (including several double page spreads - such as the one you see at the top), but what I think is most brilliant about the way Scott Pilgrim is planned and designed, is the way that each page turn and panel size demonstrate the emotions of the characters as well as the mood of a sequence.
Notice how the bottom pages use very wide panels with large open spaces, small speech bubbles and fantastic use of solid black & white to help us empathise with the despondent solemnity and internal sadness of the break up sequence, particularly from knives’s perspective.
In contrast, notice how the straight verticals of the pages second from the bottom illustrate a sequence of high intensity. The tall panels help accentuate the height and scale of the library the two characters are fighting, and make the scene more exciting than if it were square or rectangular panels.
Using these wide and/or tall panels can amp up the emotion of a sequence as they ‘lock in’ the subjects and draw attention to them in a way that can change it’s meaning entirely.
We see this in comic books and graphic novels all the time, as it is a fundamental aspect of framing as a method of film language - It is only more noticeable in comic books as the still images are crafted with a heavier focus on each individual panel and what it communicates
^ Take a look at these different comic book template pages, which feature multiple variations of panel layouts and compositions. Which of these layouts would best communicate a certain type of sequence, it could be dialogue, a fight, a car chase or a dream for instance.
^ Avatar: The Last Airbender – The PromiseNovel by Gene Luen Yang - amazing use of perspective and clever framing to show action and reaction during intense sequences
Deadpool - the panels here draw us in as we are ‘locked’ into the scene with the seemingly intimate relationship - which in turn makes the last panel’s effect stronger