panel analysis

In a minimum of 350 words, I want you to do a close reading of a single panel from one of the primary texts (i.e. anything but the McCloud or Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art) we’ve read so far.  You should choose a panel that stands out to you for some reason, one that seems particularly relevant, interesting, enigmatic, or important—a panel you think will yield some interesting analysis.  Briefly place the panel in a context—what’s going on in the surrounding pages/panels, either narratively or formally?—and explain how and why this particular panel stands out, what strikes you as interesting or worth saying about it.

Some things worth honing in on:

  • text/image relationship (McCloud ch. 6, especially p. 153-155):  given that the text is also image, is there anything interesting about the aesthetics of the text?  is the text uniform within the panel, or is it set off somehow, by aesthetics, font, direction, layout, etc.?  how is the text inserted into the image?  are there speech/thought bubbles, or is it overlaid more seamlessly?  what is the text describing/narrating, relative to the image?
  • visual style (McCloud ch. 2):  where does the look of the panel reside on the iconic-realistic spectrum?  what effect does this have?  is the visual style of the characters/foreground objects different from that of the background?  how would you characterize the overall aesthetic?  dark or light, spare or busy, high or low contrast?
  • time (McCloud ch. 4, especially p. 96):  how does time work in the panel?  what amount of time seems to be captured in the panel?  is it a long moment or a short one?  does a reader perceive the panel’s entire contents immediately?  if not, in what order is the reader’s eye led through the panel, and what effect does this have?
  • senses:  are there other senses (sound, smell, touch, taste) engaged within the panel?  how?  to what effect?
  • framing (McCloud ch. 4; Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art p. 44-45, 59-61):  how does the panel framing itself work?  is its linework crisp?  hand-drawn?  adorned?  how is the panel shaped?  how would you characterize the gutter surrounding it?
  • movement:  is there motion within the panel?  how is it depicted or implied?
  • orientation:  is the panel oriented toward action?  character?  setting?  tone?  how does this compare to what surrounds it on the page or elsewhere in the text?
  • line (McCloud ch. 5, especially p. 124-126):  how would you characterize the line work within the panel?  of what is it expressive?  what does it evoke?  how does it relate to the tone of what’s going on in the narrative itself?  is it different for the characters/foreground objects compared to the background?
  • color (McCloud ch. 8):  does the panel use black and white, color, grayscale, half-tones?  what is the expressive force of that choice?  if it uses color, how does the particular use of color affect the overall visual style?  does it contrast (e.g. realistic linework with bold, pulpy color) or reinforce the line work/the rest of the aesthetic?  to what ends?
  • composition (Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art p. 88-90 and elsewhere in ch. 4):  how is the panel composed?  from what perspective is its content depicted?  how does this compare to the rest of the text, and to the panels/pages immediately surrounding it?  what expressive force do these compositional choices have?


This list of questions is intended to be generative, not exhaustive; it should get you started thinking about how to talk about the panel you’ve chosen in a rigorous, attentive way.  Some of these questions will be less relevant to some panels than others; some panels will elicit questions I haven’t listed.  The main task, again, is to give the panel close scrutiny, to place it in the context (narrative, formal, aesthetic) of what surrounds it, and most of all, to articulate what is interesting or striking about it.


Please include a scan/export of the page your panel is from, and indicate somehow which panel you’re writing about.  (If you don’t have access to a scanner and can’t find one in a computer lab, you can turn in a photocopy of the page on Tuesday.)


Due in my inbox on Sunday night (2.10.13) by midnight.  PDF format is highly preferable.  (Recent versions of Word should be able to save/export to PDF, and Macs allow you to print any document to PDF.)



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