You could get the impression Scott likes making lists? Thanks to that we have a handy and fairly comprehensive model for the different kinds of panel to panel transitions, in terms of their content and subject matter!
These are descriptions of the narrative nature of the Juxtaposition we create, panel to panel to panel, which is called a moment of Closure. This list is based as mentioned, on the list found in Understanding Comics, in which Scott proposed a set of six transitions. In Drawing Words & Writing Pictures in chapter 4, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden add Symbolic as a seventh which I fully agree with and have used myself. And recently I’ve added an eighth to the page here, ‘Rolling Transitions’, describing a method I use that I think is unique enough to bare its own category. Below is a set of examples demonstrated using my own work in most cases and a few others where needed.
One of the most common forms, metaphorically think of it as a blink or two between seconds of a film, it can be used to slow down and draw out action, but be aware, if over utilized it can make your comics dull and laborious to draw and read. These are both from Dream Life. Note as well, Moment-to-Moment transition is the constraint along with page and panel form, that most defines storyboarding from comics or sequential art. Within the course of the media they are used to map there can be cuts that embody any one of the other six transition classes listed here. But the storyboard itself, is a strictly Moment-to-Moment depiction of another form of media.
Next most common i’d guess, and a workhorse of superhero comics, is Action to Action. Really it’s more or less a less finely sliced version of Moment to Moment, and typically focuses on significant events. or movement from panel to panel, and over larger intervals of time between moments. These examples come from Sea of Red. In the sinking shot the similarity to Moment to Moment is overt, it’s both I think. The next, a more classic example, camera angles change to best suit the action depicted. This makes it more purly Action to Action to my mind. The two B&W pages are from a 10 page Morbius The Living Vampire story titled ‘Drainage System’ Scripted by Karl Bollers. I think they both overall utilize mostly Action to Action transitions. But the first, and third transitions on Page 9 are our next, Subject to Subject.
A cut between to related moments, but focusing on a different subject in the same scene. Think conversation in a restaurant, or a shift of focus onto another actor in the scene. Here are two examples from Dream Life again.
A Scene is a series of events that happen in one location, and continuous period of time. A change of location or significant jump in time between panels is considered the end of a scene and the start of a new one. Often my Scenes are built to end on a page turn, but here’s a few that didn’t from Wonder Woman Vs The Red Menace. In each after the 3rd panel, there are a few Scene to Scene transitions. From the shot of Stefan sweating it out at a interview about his politics, to the Hollywood sign, to the exterior of the house. And after he gets drunk and makes a scene there’s the cut to outside the bar, the stair case to his apt. And poor Stefan tucked in by his friends.
I think I use Aspect to Aspect a lot myself, it’s a favorite. It can be an interesting way to jump around a scene, taking in key details or letting the characters focus wonder. It’s also a good way to introduce their environment to a reader, though the players eyes perhaps or inviting them to wonder away from the players a bit.
The first page here is the same the detail for Subject to Subject came from, leading up to that last pair, and in the second example, these are all aspect to aspect transitions in Dream Life.
This of course had to be added to the original list of Six, being a cartoon mainstay. You see it a lot in various forms, partial montages depicting the contents of a flashback or inner dialog. For Dream Life again, there were a few of these, but even more are to be found in the Rise and fall of it all. Symbolic transitions deal with the unreal, the felt, and the imagined. Moving the readers from an imagined or recalled space to either another, or a real one.
And becuase these are a bit clearer maybe, here’s some samples given of this kind of transition in DW-WP.
And just because I love this book, but also there’s some great examples of both Symbolic, and other transitions we’ve looked at, here are a few pages from City Of Glass. A comics adaptation of Paul Auster’s novella, by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik!
This form of transition from one ‘panel’ or idea to the next, is something i didn’t innovate but have become particularly interested in after seeing correlations between my early attempts to use it and the work of Diego Rivera.
I had already started using montague page layouts at the start of my comics making career. Around 2000 after seeing Rivera’s DIA murals, I began formally experimenting with using them more aggressively to try to capture a sense of movement through space. Breaking down the “blink” model of panel to panel comics storytelling in favour of something more fluid.
I think it merits being identified as a distinct kind of transition so I’m adding it to the list of 7 formally recognized by most. I talk a bit about it more here, but in short, the idea is that instead of having panel gutters or boarders as separate graphical elements at all, the images are melded and mixed together. Overlapping and interlacing. Folding is how I find i think of it often. Breaking down many of the traditional functions of comics panels, and working instead to fold space on the page.
As the reader’s eye travels over the contour of one figure, it finds itself on the other side in a separate ‘moment’ or ‘aspect’ or ‘space’ of the scene, giving a ‘Rolling’ sense of movement through space and time in the story, rather than the traditional isolation of one moment and aspect, to another in paneled comics design.
I like to use it myself to shift the way the reader experiences a moment, relying on grid layouts for more metronomic storytelling with clear beats, then shifting to Rolling Transitions to give a more fluid, and dynamic reading experience, suggesting an altered state of mind or perception. It also changes the impression of time taken I think. And it’s just a lot of fun that when you get it right, makes for incredibly striking pages I think. Here are examples of my own applications of the idea.
I’m always looking for good strong alternate examples of this kind of page design now, eager to learn what others might have invented in this specialized little corner of sequential art for my own selfish needs, but it’s also nice to be able to give examples other than of my own work.
I recently was admiring the work of Patrice Killoffer, and he has really nailed some amazing pages applying something that looks a LOT like what I’d call Rolling Transitions.
These are not common at all, outside of surreal abstract or gag comics. In part because we’re likely to infer some kind of meaning even when none was planned, and that leads them to be perceived by readers more like Aspect to Aspect transitions. The most enlightening thing to learn about them, is how resilient the desire in readers is to perceive a narrative between juxtaposed moments or things. I’m going to just slap a few sets of panels together with no overt intent, and you can read them how you like here….notice that you can? After the set, you’ll find two interpretations from other cartoonists of the second set, with the jets flying at the end.
Roll over the blurry text to read it!
Mars Eve: The shit is hitting the fan.
No matter your schedule, your inner conflict, or your outer struggle,
The shit is going to hit the fan.
Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz: The last living descendant of Hieronymus Bosch was having an existential crisis. His job as a mechanic seemed so meaningless, but he hadn’t inherited his great-great-great-great-etc. Grandfather’s talent for painting. And then…the War began,
These are not Rules!
This is by no means, a list of the ONLY ways we can describe transitions or the only one’s possible. You can mix and match traits of many of them as well, for nuanced and complex storytelling.
Not rules, Just a aid in clarifying and decoding the kinds of panel to panel, or image to image transitions and qualities of closure you can design your work around or read into the comics you consume!