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Ratchet Up the Pacing of Your Comics—by Breaking the Rules

In this week’s Strip Panel Naked comic-making masterclass, character movement blasts established practices with more drama, power, and tension.
Panel selection from Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean. Screencaps via

When creating comics, artists often ask themselves "What's the best way to show movement in a comic?" and "How do we communicate action within a sequential and static art form?" To answer these questions, comic creators consult their toolbox, from showing the character as a blur whirring across the page to having multiple versions of the character appearing in the same panel.

In this week's mini-masterclass in comic-making, Strip Panel Naked, video host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou focuses on an awesome contemporary Image comics. "The one book that often surprises me visually," shares Otsmane-Elhaou, "is Andrew MacLean's Head Lopper. It contains a great guideline on how to bring a level of kineticism to comics without crafting visuals that, in the wrong hands, might be distracting to the base story being told."


Head Lopper is a dynamic, fast-paced slugfest that follows the titular Head Lopper and the character's talking severed head as they fight vile monsters and strange beasts. The comic is full of heavy metal imagery, and uses its intense action to break the traditions of normal comic movement. Typically in action comics, readers see a character far off in the distance, followed by a much closer cut to the action, then to a thrown punch, then to the blowback from an attack in response.

Panel selection from Head Lopper by Andrews MacLean

In Head Lopper, middle panels usually used for the call-and-response nature of action illustration are left out. But as Otsmane-Elhaou explains, "We, in essence, build a middle panel ourselves. What MacLean does is he breaks those moments down a little bit more. He specifically wants us to see movement as a feature of the story, because in various circumstances it adds a level of comedy, drama, power, and tension."

These little steps in movement draw the reader in, and add a great plodding, treading, menacing pace to the comic action. To dig deeper into the movement of Head Lopper, watch this week's Strip Panel Naked, below:

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