Top 5 Essential Comics Elements

Alex Jeff and Johnny

l-to-r: Alex Nall, Jeff Zwirek and John Wawrzaszek studying Jeff’s new comic, Blackstar 6

Jeff Zwirek

Jeff Zwirek

Last night’s My Favorite Comics session was one of our most fascinating so far, due in no small part to the intellect and articulacy of our special guest, Jeff Zwirek.  He brought to the table a sophisticated analysis of comic book formalism and storytelling.

One of our traditions at My Favorite Comics is producing a Top 5 list related to the main topic of the evening.  Last night‘s topic was Form and Dimension, so I gave our participants the task of coming up with their Top 5 essential (or favorite) comic book elements.

Normally, there’s enough cross-over on these lists that we can combine them all to come up with a master Top 5 list.  This time, there was almost no repetition in our lists.  But even though we couldn’t collate them into a master list, I took the diversity to be a positive sign.  It speaks to the wide intellectual and creative range that exists in the comics community.

John and Alex

John and Alex

In lieu of posting a master list, I will include all four lists, along with the websites of the participants.  First up is my list, in which I tried to boil down comics forms to the very basics:

  1. the human form
  2. the panel
  3. speech/thought balloons
  4. motion lines
  5. dream sequences

Yeah, you knew I’d have to include dream sequences!  90% of my art is a dream sequence….  Next up is author John Wawrzaszek, whose website is here.

  1. story arc
  2. birds’ eye view
  3. characters with realistic features
  4. gatefold images
  5. use of negative space

Next is our special guest for the evening, comics creator Jeff Zwirek, whose website is here.

  1. turning a two-part action into a single image
  2. changing something in a panel to imply an emotion
  3. using color to indicate a change in the story
  4. emanata
  5. splash page

I was impressed by the term, emanata, which apparently refers to the visual language of short-hand symbols used in comics.  This word was also named as a favorite element by comics creator Alex Nall, whose website is here.

  1. silence
  2. dust jacket comics
  3. simple grid
  4. emanata
  5. two/three colors
list and sketch by Alex Nall

list and sketch by Alex Nall

I would be remiss if I did not include Alex’s original Top 5 page, which includes a sketch of all four participants!  From left to right, Jeff Zwirek, Dean Johnson, Alex Nall and John Wawrzaszek.

Dean with Blackstar 6