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What's the minimum panel for a single scene in a comics? I guess it's one, but if a single scene consists of 1 panel it's going to be hard to understand when you have 9 scenes in a single page and each of them has a single panel. What are some rules of determining how many panel a comics scene should have and when can there be an exception to these rules? I know this might be subjective, but there has to be some kind of consensus rules on this to make a comics "flow" better.

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    What style of comics? The Bayeux tapestry could be considered a comic, and it tells the whole story of the Norman conquest of England in one "panel". You can in fact have multiple scenes play out in a single panel. Barely any of the webcomic artists I follow of followed had any knowledge of "rules" they "should" adhere to. And for a good many that was their charm.
    – towr
    Jan 30 at 15:05

3 Answers 3

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This is not how comics work

Comic panels are not storyboards. They do not need to be sequential. They do not need to depict actions. They do not need to depict time. They do not need to depict a film's concept of a 'scene' (ie: a character at a location saying dialog).

You need to look at some actual comics, rather than trying to imagine the 'rules' that comics must follow to adhere to an idea of how comics should emulate a movie.

Once again i strongly recommend Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, where the language unique to comics is explored and explained in depth.

Minimum number of required panels on a page is 0

In chapter 3 of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, McCloud discusses many different narrative properties of the space between the panels – what he calls the 'gutter' – can depict, and how readers perceive what is implied by those spaces.

McCloud says the Western mainstream idea of comics as sequential actions comes from the extremely influential artist Jack Kirby in the 1960s. But in Japanese manga – specifically Osamu Tezuka from the 1950s – the idea of sequential action is often replaced by an Eastern narrative concept of 'being there', experiencing a feeling over time, or settling into a realization or conviction.

Understanding Comics is told entirely in comic form. It is sometimes heady and philosophical since it is analyzing art and story methods that are subjective. These concepts are easier to understand when you see them in action – hence the entire essay is also a comic.

On pages 81-82 of my edition, McCloud shows an example where the panels drop out entirely, leaving empty space where a panel should exist suggested by the established regularity of panels coming before. The empty space is emphasized because it is also the end of a page, and the reader is required to turn the page to continue, only to find a similar empty space where the first panel of the new page should be. My describing this effect in words does not have the same effect as experiencing it as a combination of turning the printed page, the implied narrative tension of a gap in the storytelling, and 1st-hand meta-experiencing the idea at the same time it is being described.

By extrapolation, any number of blank pages could be between the missing panels, implying many narrative concepts: amnesia, government agency redaction, a 'glitch', a traumatic experience the character has disassociated, fading memories and identity, censorship or an in-story disagreement with the publisher, etc.

Readers subconciously know how this is suppose to work

The Rest of McCloud's book is packed with examples we recognize, but have taken for granted – far too many aspects to list, often several revelations per page. It has 215 pages. He (literally) illustrates concepts from how faces are depicted to how words are represented, and how they inform the reader and influence the story.

As an analogy to this inherent language of comics, the Disney+ comic-to-tv adaptation WandaVision deconstructs the historic language of episodic television comedies, as Wanda invents her fantasy family on a template of sitcom re-runs. The artificial (almost inane) conflicts of the world-within-world TV shows are an inherent fabric of family television. The situations don't need explanation, it's a language that already exists in which the audience is very familiar. That allows the show to tell 2 stories simultaneously, one in which the things we are shown are both familiar and obviously untrue, while a second story about psychological trauma and manipulation is being teased. There is no need to explain the concept to viewers, since deconstructing the 'expected' formulaic sitcoms immediately tells us the story is more complicated than what is on the surface.

WandaVision is arguably better in the first 3 episodes while it is subverting the well-known language of tv sitcoms, than in the later episodes where it becomes a 'normal' MCU show that un-ironically fits the format of episodic television.

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I think a comic is much like an illustrated storyboard for a movie. The moments you want to capture are the turning points and points of conflict. In character development, or changes, etc.

The moment your hero realizes they have been betrayed. Earlier, the moment their betrayer makes a decision to betray. Earlier than that, the moment that made your hero trust the betrayer.

All of these are turning points and points of conflict; something changed that bends the plot, even if the audience does not quite understand that yet.

You, as the author, have to justify these changes, so those are the panels to illustrate and tell the story, these critical lines and images.

I'm sure you have seen the "Previously On..." clips in TV series to explain the plot so far. A few minutes of clips, seconds long for each, of previous scenes with one line spoken, one punch thrown, one door closed with determination.

Those are the critical moments. Now obviously you can do more than that for humor and to not make the plot move too fast; but if you want a scene with just one panel, make sure it is a critical moment. You can use captions or subtitles to explain the time line.

  1. "Yesterday."
  2. "Across Town."
  3. "In London."
  4. "The Oval Office."
  5. "A Nuclear Facility, Hours Later."
  6. "Last Night."
  7. "This Morning."
  8. "Subsequently."
  9. "Now..."
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I distinctly remember the scene that made me realize the answer is zero. I think it was "Astérix gladiateur" and in one panel you saw Obelix walking in a group with others and turning his head looking askew at a Roman soldier, in the next panel he was rushing to catch up with the group carrying a helmet in his hand. The connecting scene was left out but clearly implied.

Unfortunately with the demise of the original writer Goscinny, narrative ideas were employed much more economically, spreading similar content over pages.

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