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With Subtle Background Design, This Comic Grounds Itself

An in-depth look at a few pages of the comic ‘Deadly Class’ shows how to frame locations.
Panel selection from Deadly Class #12. Screencap via

This week's episode of Strip Panel Naked, the mini-comic masterclass hosted by Hass Otsmane-Elhaou, is all about "Setting Up Locations in Deadly Class." In particular, this YouTube video essay focuses on three pages from "Deadly Class #12" by Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Lee Loughridge, and Clayton Cowles, and shows how they carefully drop subtle clues to help give the reader a grounded sense of place. "Wes Craig and Rick Remender do some great work on this book," explains Otsmane-Elhaou, "and it all kind of gets hinged together by the color work of Lee Loughridge. In this book, he seems to bring a lot clever inventiveness to coloring the pages, and a lot of it is also design shorthand too."


The pages of the segment's focus follow two different storylines happening in nearby areas, and the video shows all the ways the writer, artist, and color artist both connect those places and keep them separate for the reader. "So much of comics is reductionism," Otsmane-Elhaou explains, and the reader can see that reductionism at work. Once a background and characters has been established, the artwork can switch to a more expressive, and less representative, art style. The video goes on to establish how color can connect panels that seem disconnected, and even be used to mimic movement without the use of "speed lines," that classic comic staple. The result is a series of pages that read cleanly and, through their simplicity, don't ask too much of the reader.

"If you need some inspiration on how to both tell a long story, but to tell it efficiently, cleverly, effectively,"  recommends Otsmane-Elhaou, "look no further than Remender, Craig, Loughridge, and Clayton's Deadly Class."

Watch the full video below to see how the pros frame their locations in Deadly Class.

To see more, visit the Strip Panel Naked YouTube page, and check out its Patreon page to support the series.


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