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A Common Error: As committed by Penny Arcade

This Penny Arcade strip has a much repeated stylistic error in comics layout. Notice the two panels at the left of the bottom row. They actually comprise a single picture of one point in time, without motion or change of perspective between panels. These should be a single panel. There is little reason for the split. The artist may realize this, but wish to keep the integrity of his unimaginative 2x3 panel layout--and that is the mistake. Bad artist. Bad.

If it was just this once that they made this amateurish layout mistake, or if it weren't a widespread problem, I wouldn't make an issue out of it. But the ideas that panels must be consistent and must be so in this very patterned manner is something I see far too often. Sequential art is a visual medium, and an important part of that is composition of art and words within panels, of panels as they relate to one another, and of each page (be it on the web or in print) as a whole. These factors are what make comics unique, and they should be treated attentively by anybody who wishes to produce quality material.

Artists should be aware of panels as timing mechanisms as well as purely aesthetic components. In the strip I linked to, the reveal is pushed across two panels, and the eye is drawn quickly from the newly emerged monster, instead of lingering on the full picture. A good beat is lost for the sake of regularity. This sort of loss of potential is yet another reason to generally avoid cutting a single picture into two panels.

Doubtless, if they cared to respond, the guys at Penny Arcade would tell me to keep my pie hole shut until such time as I run a successful comic with as many fans as they have. Anybody with a passing interest in reason will immediately recognize this for the stupid, stupid rhetorical fallacy it is, but they have a reputation of assholery* to uphold, and they're not going to let worries about something petty like rational discourse hold them back.

*their important charitable work notwithstanding


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