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Dissecting the Classic 9-Panel Grid in Comics

The newest ‘Strip Panel Naked’ video talks about the importance of pacing in comics.
Panel from The Omega Men #9. Created by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda. Screencap via

This week’s comic class is all about controlling the pace of a comic by carefully considering the panel layout. Hass Otsmane-Elhaou’s weekly comic dissection series Strip Panel Naked focuses this week on the classic “9-Panel Grid” found in most comics. As Otsmane-Elhaou explains that, generally speaking, “more panels mean more reading time required. Though it's not actually the case, as in The Omega Men you can have a 9-panel page that takes as long to read as a page with only one panel. There's a fine art to it, but you can completely control how quickly someone goes through your pages with some clever work.”


To illustrate the power of pacing, Otsmane-Elhaou focuses on The Omega Men #9, by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda. “The main thing I noticed when researching this video was how cleverly King and Bagenda pace their pages. Each page drops a panel at a time, from 9 down to 1, and then builds them back up again. What they do alongside that though is actually design the pages and panels so the reading speed is about the same page after page (except for one double-splash). It's a conscious decision to do that, and really shows how intricate the work was that went into this issue and most of their run.”

Panel from The Omega Men #9. Created by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda. Screencap via

So what’s the most-effective way to use the panelling in a comic to guide an audience? Otsmane-Elhaou says that first one should, “establish the rules of your story, and then change them up after a few pages for effect. So if you let your audience know we're exclusively working in a 9-panel grid format, and then they turn a page and all of a sudden they've got a double splash, that can really add a lot of impact to your story for particularly moments.”

Check out panel control in action in this week’s Strip Panel Naked, below:

Check out what you missed with earlier episodes on the Strip Panel Naked YouTube page, and if you’re digging the work consider supporting Otsmane-Elhaou's efforts on the website, Patreon.


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