Comic book creators have a huge advantage over novelists, movie makers and other storytellers.
Our possibilities are limitless. We don’t have to be concerned that our prose isn’t descriptive enough, or worry about actors and stunt performers, or CGI and other special effects programming.
Novels have to depend completely on the words on the page to paint the picture. Movies have to seem realistic, even when the situation is clearly complete fantasy. Where once the stop motion animation of King Kong fascinated viewers, and a man in a rubber suit convinced audiences he was Godzilla, today’s movies are panned if there’s even a hint that what we’re seeing is unreal looking… no matter how unreal the situation may be.
For the audience to suspend disbelief and buy into what’s happening on the screen, the story’s reality has to be perfect. Mediocre special effects can tank a movie.
In other words, it’s harder to transfer what’s inside the writer’s imagination into an experience an audience will appreciate. The story can only be as big as the special effects allow.
Comic book action stories can be as big as your imagination allows
A comic book is different. Readers are willing to completely suspend disbelief no matter how outrageous the premise. Whatever shows up in our imaginations can be put onto a page.
So when you’re writing or drawing up your next comic book adventure keep this in mind: There’s real life action, and then there’s comic book action!
Action vs ACTION
If I have one piece of advice for aspiring comic book makers, it’s this. Amplify it. Expand it. Push it to the limits. Whatever you’re thinking it should be, make it bigger.
There are certainly going to be comic books and graphic novels that require a lighter touch, but in most cases you should set up the action scenes in your story and then multiply them by ten. Don’t just think big. Think HUGE!
When Jack Kirby’s Thor swung his hammer he could wipe out a full tribe of snow giants with a single swipe, some explosive action lines, Kirby crackle and a giant sound effect – and we all believed it.
Comic book techniques that amplify the action
- Thought balloons give us a seamless understanding of what a character is thinking.
- Panels split down the middle with a jagged line bridge the gap between people speaking to each other on the phone.
- Time gapped as, for example, a heroine flies from earth to Saturn in the space of a single panel.
Go through your own action panels. What can you do to make them look and feel more intense?