Ready for another deep secret of creating comics?
You’re the master of Time.
By that, I mean you control the pace not just of the reader, but by how much Time is contained in each panel.
First, I’m going to talk about Time as it relates to the page, without talking about dialogue.
This is really very simple: the more panels you add to a page, the more Time you add to the page, and thus, the more you slow down the reading pace. The converse is also true: the fewer panels on the page, the less Time the page has, and the faster the reading experience.
Now, I’ve heard arguments against my analysis of this. Some have said that when they have fewer panels on the page, then it takes longer to read, because they’re looking at the art more. I deny this, contending that they’re just not reading the page correctly. If it takes someone a longer time to read a splash page than a 12 panel page, or that they have a sense of more time being on a splash page than a 12 panel one, then they need to have themselves checked out.
Do this experiment: go look at your comics. Hopefully, you should have From Hell or Watchmen somewhere in your collection. Go get any regular single issue, and compare it to either one of those dense masterpieces. Don’t look at the words, look at the pictures. Now, tell me, which one did you spend more time on: the one with fewer panels, or the one with more?
And you can have that kind of control, too. Just understand that every panel you add to a page adds Time to that page.
Now, to stuff the page to the gills with Time, you add dialogue.
The more dialogue you add to a panel, the more Time you add to that panel. And by “dialogue”, I mean anything that makes a “sound,” so I’m including sound effects in there as well.
The more words you add, the more you slow down the reading experience. You can slow it down even more or make sure that things go the way you want them to by making sure you place your characters in speaking order whenever you can (which should be 99% of the time), and by putting sound effects in their proper place.
For example, let’s say you have two people fighting. Well, one getting the tar beat out of them, and the other just wailing away, and you wanted to add sound effects. It might look something like this:
Panel 3: Ron is punching Harry in the face, Harry’s head turned to the side from the force of the blow, blood flying from Harry’s broken nose.
Ron: Think you can step in whenever you want?
Ron: Take this!
Here, the sound effect went at the end, but there are definitely situations where it could conceivably go in the middle. Definitely not out of the question.
Just remember that adding panels and dialogue adds Time to the page. Use it wisely.