Friday Fixup: Paul McCall

Here’s a page, with my very quick notes, by Paul McCall. Rather than go in with all guns blazing and add black to everything, I’ll hit the key thing and talk rather a lot about it…

Paul’s page first…


Let’s talk basics.

We read left to right, so comics are read – obviously left to right. Now this has all sorts of weird ramifications that you don’t realise until you’re sitting looking and thinking about this.

Let’s talk panel 1:

Left-to-Right basics: The top left of any panel should be considered dead space for dialogue. On the original it’s taken up with the guys arm, and you find your eyes slipping through the panel and stopping at the dead space behind the guy in the background. Flipping the horizontal on this panel does a lot of useful things, now we can make use of that deadspace for dialogue. Plus we get to see the action happening and end up on that cool standalone figure with a bag – what’s he about to do? TENSION!

Panel 2

There’s a thing I’ve been thinking about in the left-to-right reading order that happens INSIDE the panel, which I’m calling Action/Reaction (believe me, I’m not smart enough to have come up with anything clever or unique – if this is clever someone has beaten me to it, if it’s not… well, that’s more than possible).

The idea is this, when an action happens inside a single panel there are actually TWO things happening – an ACTION and a REACTION. Now, because of the left-to-right reading order, we know REACTION has to follow an ACTION (your cup breaks AFTER you drop it, not before), and because of the left to right reading order we encounter events in panel in left to right order, so our brain is instantly assuming ACTION-REACTION with everything we see in a panel where something is happening. In the redraw in Panel 1, people tied up on the wall ACTION, person walks in to frame REACTION.

In panel this breaks down a bit, but we’re still reading left to right, and I suggest to you there’s something similar going on – dictated ENTIRELY by the reading order:

ACTION – man off panel is handing bag over
REACTION -man in panel takes bag.

So, if we flip the panel then what happens is it feels like

ACTION – man in panel is handing bag over.
REACTION – man off panel is taking bag.

The drawing hasn’t changed, we’re not informed by the body language (if this were film you’d see the physical movement of the body and you’d know instantly what’s going on) this is all coming from OUR IMPOSED ACTION-REACTION reading via left-to-right reading.

Man, this shit is fascinating.

Anyway, this is why I didn’t flip this panel – I’d still prefer to have more space on the left for dialogue, but sometimes that can’t happen.

Now, Panel 3 – the big splash.

ACTION->REACTION. The original splash felt, as a reader, like I ended up staring at a big empty hole in the wall and my first thought was “why is that wall blank” then I flipped the panel – the hole isn’t important. Monster leaping through is ACTION – the cops getting ready to fire is REACTION. Drawn as a single moment this is all happening simultaneously but it’s pretty clear that you’d draw your gun out AFTER the threat is revealed, so it makes sense here to flip the panel.

Panel 4 unchanged (though I’d question why the sudden spot colour of the logo on the sleeve, seems important but also unnecessary) I’ve left it here unchanged.

I LIKE spot colour (I grew up on British comics during the 70s/80s, spot colour was pretty much the standard) but it needs to be used in a way to draw attention to things (because it draws attention to itself in spectacular fashion!)

Panel 5


Monster slashes a guy – ACTION
Guy’s arm bleeds out, gun goes flying, Guy reacts – REACTION!

Seemed clear it needed a flip.

Anyway, I’m no Scott McCloud so this may either be bollocks OR so self obvious that everyone knows about it and I’ve never even thought about it until now. Either way.. in all these things, YMMV, every artist will do something different, and this has been useful to me and I hope it was useful to you.

Author: PJ

Belfast based Comic Artist who won’t shut up on twitter.

2 thoughts on “Friday Fixup: Paul McCall”

  1. Thanks P.J. Your thoughts are excellent and I plan on instituting the panel flipping changes. The color on the shoulder patch is just a convenience allowed by Clip Studio, this is a color comic and I have that patch and other things like badges in the image file I can plop them in rather than redraw every time. I apply them in the ink stage lest I forget when coloring, which is the next step for this issue. If repeats are allowed I may send you another page sometime. Thanks again.


  2. I find the action/reaction analysis fascinating too, and it makes sense to me now when I look at panels in published comics where I used to think it “felt” wrong . Now I know why.

    I’m enjoying this wee series



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