How to Make Action Comics Go "WHAM!"
In this week’s Strip Panel Naked, we learn how to control the pace of comics to entice readers.
Panel selection from Moon Knight #5" (2014). Screencap via
How do comic writers and artists create such stunning, fast-paced, visually engaging action stories in a static medium? That question, the bane of creators just getting into the comic business, can usually best be answered by looking at other comics that do action well. In the weekly web series Strip Panel Naked, a mini-masterclass in comic-making, series host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou takes an in-depth look at an issue of one of the best action comics ever created, Moon Knight #5 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. Through a few key, vitally important techniques, the team is able to convey a story as fast-paced and action-packed as any big budget Hollywood slugfest.
"Creating a good action comic is kind of intrinsically a very hard thing to do," Otsmane-Elhaou explains in the video, "as comics themselves are static by their very nature." But the video details three main ways in which this comic—which follows Moon Knight as he kicks the snot out of almost every occupant in a derelict apartment building—creates forward momentum and successfully drives action.
The first step, Otsmane-Elhaou explains, is all about framing the scene. "Like cinema, framing your panels in the comic helps present visual information." In a moment of calm before the storm of punches, the reader sees the hero standing tall in the frame. The second way the comic enhances the action is by simplifying the panel. "As soon as the action starts, the background just drops out." The third technique the team utilizes to amp up the action is dialogue-as-pacing. "By adding dialogue, Ellis is able to slow you down as a reader," and if he can slow the reader down at important parts by adding words to read, he can also speed up the pacing by keeping the panel silent.
To see each of these three techniques at work in the comic, and hear more about how to make the perfect action sequence, watch the full video below: