Why You Don’t Always Need This Long-Held Comic Book Technique

Think your comics need a frictionless page turn? Think again.

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Jul 24 2017, 3:43pm

One of the hardest tricks to accomplish in comic storytelling is the seamless page turn. How does a creative team make the reader feel as though they're flowing through a story, and forget that they have to flip a page? Some use fast-paced action to keep the story moving, others use cliffhangers or the dread leading up to a scare or surprise. But some comic creators, like the team behind Marvel's Mockingbird comic, thinks there's another way. In this week's episode of Strip Panel Naked, the weekly mini-comics masterclass devoted to the inner workings of comics, host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou dives into a comic that subverts the notion that page turns have to be seamless.

"This week I want to take a look at a fairly mainstream title from Marvel comics," explains Otsmane-Elhaou, "that says a big, loud no to that idea, and wants to take you on a different journey as a reader." The comic in question is Mockingbird #8, by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk, which uses hard cuts, out-of-story imagery, and clever storytelling to flip the proverbial script.

Panel selection fromMockingbird #8

Otsmane-Elhaou says the writer and illustrator "aren't bothered about making you suspend disbelief and sit back and read, and have that frictionless experience, they're actually asking you, a little bit, to become more of an active participant in their story." Would this technique work for every comic? Maybe not, but if there's room for inventiveness and a bit of experimentation in a comic, there's certainly room for a clever and non-traditional page turn.

To see how it's done, and see the effect it has on the reader, watch the full video essay below:

To see more, visit the Strip Panel Naked YouTube page, check out its Patreon page to support the series, and pre-order Hass Otsmane-Elhaou's first volume of PanelxPanel, an in-depth online magazine of comic theory, criticism, and celebration.

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