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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

If you have three pieces of paper, you can make a twelve-page comic:

If that schematic is confusing, start with this one:

These are slides I made for the most recent iteration of my and Leigh Ann Beavers’ ENGL-ARTS 215: Making Comics class. I never lecture in any of my other classes (they’re all discussion-based seminars), but our comics course is closer to a lab: we explain a bunch of stuff, and then our students apply the concepts hands-on.

This presentation was titled “Multiple Pages” and followed homework reading “Chapter 4: Pages” in our textbook Creating Comics. It also followed the previous day’s presentation “Layout & Paths” (which I recently updated here). I’m also comics editor at Shenandoah, which we’ve been using as our online anthology.

The first question to ask when planning your own comic: will your pages follow the same layout?

Check out Rainie Oet and Alice Blank’s Wanting to Erase Her Share of the Darkness for an example of a five-page comic that never varies from a regular 3×3 grid:

Coyote Shook’s seven-page The Gospel According to Opal Foxx follows a regular 2-panel column — until the final page switches to three panels. I call that a “page accent” — a way of giving certain story content greater emphasis by breaking from an established layout pattern:

Grey Wolfe LaJoie’s eight-page Unfished Unfinished does something similar. The irregular 2×3 begins to breakdown on the sixth page:

Taku Ward’s six-page A Cheeseburger Sushi’s Experience instead varies every layout — though with a full-width panel starting each page, including the final full-page:

Fabio Lastrucci’s five-page From the Garden varies every layout with no repeated similarities:

Marguerite Dabaie’s twelve-page excerpt from her work-in-progress The Silk Road reveals all kinds of connections: pages 3 and 5 both use regular two-panel columns; pages 2, 6, and 7 are variations on a 2×2 grid; pages 3, 8, and 12 feature full-page images with ending (and usually opening) insets. I term those kinds of layout repetitions “page rhymes”:

Miriam Libicki’s 14-page excerpt from her work-in-progress Glasnost Kids instead reveals “page phrases”: consecutive pages grouped as a unit. The first five are connected by her green penciling; the next five emphasize red; the penultimate pair create a dark woodblock effect; and the final pair break the z-path rows with n-path columns.

We include a couple of examples in Creating Comics too, including a former student’s:

I term that a “page scheme” because it looks like a poem’s rhyme scheme: AB CD CD CD BA. The example also emphasizes the importance of paired paged. Unlike all of the above online comics, the physical twelve-page comics our students make are defined by two-page spreads:

That means that instead of thinking in terms of single pages, you need to have pairs in mind. I used my own own work-in-progress for an example. The layouts are the same for each pair, but vary between pairs:

Some use the gutter to create a mirror effect:

When planning, note that one 2-page spread stands apart. The middle is also the centerfold:

Middle positions are an important concept generally, but here the key difference is physical. Pages 5 and 6 are the only paired pages that share a side of a piece of paper. That means the two pages can be drawn as a single image. You can create a similar effect with other spreads, but the middle gutter will be a challenge when you combine pages in the physical comic book:

The next part of the class presentation focused on combining narrative sequences with page breaks, which I hope to return to later here too.

Meanwhile, we enter Week 4 of our four-week spring term today, and our students are done listening to me lecture and are focused on finalizing their pages by Thursday.

Wednesday Addendum (because we forgot until we printed the first test comic):

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for further instructions, there’s plenty more in the textbook:

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