Okay, I've got a question. When you look at this comic, do you skip to the punchline?
(Image is 9 Chickweed Lane, which is probably in the top five syndicated comic strips if you ignore the bizarre Sunday strips, like this one. I'm reprinting it here for educational purposes.)
You see, the way I read that image, I read the upper cells from left to right, but then - bam - I zzzzzip past the left cells on the bottom, drawn straight to the final frame's vibrant colors. This happens a lot, and I think it's largely because the perspective of these sorts of things usually urges you to shoot through them. To a lesser extent, maybe it's because there's no natural flow from one row to the next, so your eye just falls down the page, rather than skipping back to the left.
I find this is a common problem - not just in Chickweed Lane. There's something about a cell or page layout which can cause me to pause, to process it as a chronological moment. Other cells, like those above, just slip through.
So, any of you that know the magical art of cell framing can chime in on this. My feeling is as follows, as someone with marginal "armchair" knowledge of the subject:
All the images I look at which cause me to pause are "bumpy". They do one of three things, all of which are "bumpy":
1) They are shaped funny. Crooked, or single-cell-two-vertical-cells-single-cell, or shattered into pieces, or something else which makes the actual cell itself look funny. This can also be as simple as wide-cell-skinny-cell, although you obviously get lesser results with lesser attempts.
2) The content is ragged between it and the next cell. Most people tell you to guide the audience's eye through the page. This is the exact opposite. This is having the "momentum" point smack into something which gets in your way. For example, a white cell leading to a black cell. Or the line of action leading square into a dialogue box.
3) There's a large amount of white space. I used to think this was the most important, but I've seen examples with very little white space that were still clearly pauses.
All three of these are actually, I think, type 2. They are attempts to control the flow of the eye across the page. Unfortunately, Chickweed's attempts always encourage rapid flow, rather than breaking it up.
Interesting, I think.
What do you think? Do you see it the way I see it?