Saturday, November 15, 2003

As a public service to cartoonists

The artist behind Bob the Angry Flower, Stephen Notley, is undergoing a lot of (shall we say) scrutiny for his decision to go to a vertical orientation for his strips. His reasoning is partly that bookstores are friendlier to normal-sized books than wide ones, which will allow him to get his comic compilations into more stores and thus sell more copies. Yet, a horizontal orientation, like the one he had, is perfect for viewing on the web as it doesn't require any scrolling.

I have a solution to his problem that will allow him to continue to draw his strips and publish them on the web in a horizontal format, but publish them in book form in a vertical format. It's something I figured out through careful examination of Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" Sunday strips.

It has to do with the way you divide the panels. Let's say we're talking about a horizontally oriented strip, drawn 10 inches wide. The height doesn't really matter, but you have to have three rows of panels with equal height. Let's say they're 2.5" high.

The top row must consist of two panels (though these can be subdivided any way you want), the first one taking up 3/4 of the width, or 7.5", and the second taking up 1/4 of the width, or 2.5". The middle row must also consist of two panels, each taking up half the width, or 5".The bottom row must look like the opposite of the top one: two panels, the first taking up 1/4 of the width, or 2.5", and the second taking up 3/4 of the width, or 7.5". What you should now have is a horizontally oriented comic that's 10" wide and 7.5", with three rows.

When it comes time to collect your strips in a book, rearrange the panels (I suggest working on a copy with an X-acto knife or doing it digitally), following this process: Leave panel #1 (the 7.5" one) on the first row. Move panel #2 (the 2.5" one) to be on the second row with panel #3 (the first 5" one). The third row will consist of panel #4 (the second 5" one) followed by panel #5 (the other 2.5" one). The fourth row consists of panel #6 (the other 7.5" one) on its own. What you now have is a vertically oriented comic that's 7.5" wide and 10" high, with four rows.

Again, these six basic panels can be subdivided any number of ways you want, so this format can give you a lot of flexibility. I notice that Watterson tended to use the top row of his three-row Sunday strips for a throwaway gag and a fancy display of the title, thus allowing himself to get his comic into more newspapers by allowing editors to discard this row and publish only the two essential rows of the comic.

Here's a link to one of my old comics for my university paper where I've applied this format.

Hope this comes in handy.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares