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Caleb Orecchio here with a “process” post on my use of modularity in comics


Chris Ware made a comic called Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The story was first serialized in various formats and dimensions (comic books and newspapers) before all the strips were compiled into the graphic novel published by Pantheon. Ware used the modularity of the grid to make decisions about panel placement, panels per page, etc. When every panel is the same dimension you can make choices about how two pages of a mini-comic can combine together to make one page of a graphic novel or how one newspaper page can make two comic book pages.

The main idea here is modularity.

I make a comic strip called Cement Mixer these days. I am currently serializing a story about the Arcadian huntress/hero, Atalanta. This strip appears both on this site and on my instagram page semi-daily. Eventually I want to self-publish this story as a standard-sized comic book. Here is how I make this comic a ‘strip’ and how I will eventually make this comic a ‘book.’

Below are the first three strips of the story published on this site and on instagram:


This is how these three strips will look as a comic book spread (or at least this is what it looks like in InDesign right now):



The spread comes first in the drawing process. Print is still king. But I am thinking about the web when making the spread so I started considering the first two tiers of each page as a section; a 1234 rhythm – one strip.

This approach can be difficult. The challenge and goal is that the traditional zigzag flow of a comic book becomes optional when reading the work. My aim is that the use of diagonal/mirroring images and repetition creates an independent rhythm outside of the expected 6-panel page rhythm.

I can code the sequences with color and use that as a guide for the reader.

Sometimes I make the sequencing of the spread more fluid and amorphous to allow for more variation with the daily strip.

To further the idea of free flowing/amorphous sequencing, I wanted the above spread to read across the page “out of order” if one’s eye so chose. So each tier could work as a unit. Therefore, in theory, I could have made strips by stacking respective tiers together. The challenge then is to depict actions in sequences throughout the spread in a way that does not disrupt the story itself. Do you follow? Below roughly illustrates the sequence variations I had in mind with this spread apart from the traditional way to read comic books.

However, when dialogue or narration is introduced, this technique gets tricky. In these cases, to avoid confusing the reader with my gimmicks, I rely on the tried and true way of reading comics to determine how my strips will flow. Keep it simple sailor.

*before you snicker and comment below, I have already made a note to fix baby Atalanta’s face for the print edition among other things



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