Action! Let me Lay-it-Out for you!

After discussing the layout of a page and the emphasis that is placed on layout. I noticed that when we were looking at the division of space and how the images were presented in comics many of the comics that were focused on had very little physical action scenes. The division of the page changes when representing physical action. In some super hero comics the action is shown in basic square block forms. Action is shown between the frames as cause and effect. When a punch is being thrown the reader sees the inception, the moment of impact and perhaps the after effect of the blow, this dilation of time across several panels relates the action to the audience in a forward and succinct manner.

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The layout of the sequence is concise and orderly. The two images above are taken from an The Avengers.

The layout of action is manga in noticeably different in manga. Although this course touches very little on manga, the images found are filled with different constructions and layouts of space. Here an example from Fairy Tail:


This page is actually a two page spread that knit together for online viewing and is wider then a standard page. The largest segment is on the right as this manga is read right to left. But the subsequent images are divided on an angle. In addition the remaining frames are shots of more then the two characters that are battling but also contain spectator reactions and after effect. This allows for the progression of time to be slowed and more can be viewed by the reader. The diagonal cutting of action could be seen as a convention of action and fight scenes in manga as it happens through many different series. Examples:

(Warning some images contain gore. From left to right: Shingeki no Kyojin and Vinland Saga)


The scenes of action are cut on a diagonal. This can be seen as way of showing how fast the action between frames is moving or to differentiate fight scenes from regular plot driven scenes. Manga makes use of insets as well to take the reader closer to the details of the battle or may show the result of action or shows intense close-ups of physical movement in a separate frame. Physical action and battle in particular dictate a change in time which influences how the page can be structured. What creates the most gripping aesthetic to draw in a reader? What sort of set up creates tension and danger? The layout of the page changes how compelling the scene is, and thus the readers emotional investment.

Links of interest:


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4 Responses to Action! Let me Lay-it-Out for you!

  1. sobchuk says:

    I think you gave an apt analysis and I enjoyed the pages you referenced, however I felt you missed one of the major contributors to the action in manga- the visualization of sound. I haven’t checked it out yet but there is a chapter in our Comic Studies Reader book which explores the element of sound in manga (Acoustics of Manga, p163). From my personal experience I would say that everything from the size to texture of the sound effects aids in setting intensity or feeling of a particular scene and nowhere is this more pronounced than in manga.

  2. sheldonle says:

    That was a really good analysis on action scenes. I was wondering what your take on action scenes where each page only consists of one panel. I personally have only seen this done in Superman #75 – The Death of Superman. If you can already guess from the title from the issue, this is the issue where Superman dies. During Superman’s final fight, every page of the fight scene only consisted of one panel. My take on this is that they wanted to show how dramatic this fight was. Slowing down the fight where each page would simply show one punch, as the next page would show the following punch. So do you think doing action scenes this way would be less effective? I apologize for the spoilers.

    Here is a link for some scans from Superman #75 showing the fight scene. (

    -Sheldon Le

    • jneary says:

      I admire the amount of detail and planning that went into the pages of Superman#75, because much like manga, the page is set up to lead your eye around with the action.

      For example, the page where Doomsday bashes Superman with a sharp blow. On the upper corner bright flashy orange catches the eye of the reader and pulls them down to the maniacal grin of Doomsday. In fact, the whole left side of the page where he dominates, is quite dark. The light and focus of the impact on Superman, who’s face (obviously) follows the direction of the fist downwards, aided by the momentum of Doomsday’s fist as well as the sprawling blood, leading finally down to the skeletal claw protruding from knuckles laced with blood and the determined: “…Now!”

      With this sequential layout, each page has to be planned, to make readers want to turn the page. A full page of complex details to take in can be a bit overburdening, and readers can get bogged down in the details or deterred by the layout ( I was by the following page, because I felt the flow of action was diminished by keeping it all at the bottom). Another strong example for me would be the Clarks holding each other in front of the television. Despite there being details like a leafy plant, a photo, the detailed image on the screen, the focus and action is with them.
      – J.Neary

  3. joshmclac says:

    Would you say that Manga and Western comics have differences in how they approach depicting action beyond the panel shape and layout? In the case of the Captain America pages that you provide, the first page appears to be the conclusion to an action scene so the large central image and the wide rectangular panel at the bottom appear to be sized to draw out the readers attention. The second page has a focus on the moment by moment action of the shield, which ends with a shot of the shield in an immobile state, presenting a halt to the action. The viewer’s distance in ending panel with Captain America running to pick up his shield adds a sense of distance that still needs to be traveled, which gives the reader a means of judging the time passing based on their own experience of their own travels across such a distance.

    Your point of how the panels in the Fairy Tail manga divides the attention between the characters fighting and the spectators provids a prominent point of comparison. While the Captain America comic provides a rough timeline for the action by using moment by moment transitions, the Fairy Tail panels skip subject by subject and thus eliminates the readers means of judging just how fast the action took place.

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