Some Super Super Panels


Six panel polyptych from Giant Size Defenders No. 3, January 1975, art by Jim Starlin, see description below

A few weeks ago, I was critiquing some super panels (aka polyptyches aka multi-pans or multi-panel pan sequences) for being unnecessary or inconsistent. Today I’m going to share two that I think work well. I added these to my burgeoning, but still very incomplete, collection of multi-pans… but almost nobody reads those pages, so I figured I’d share them here, too.

None of these are high art; they’re 1970s superhero comic examples that I think work well – visually appealing, and in service of the narrative. All this stuff is in the eye of the beholder… what do you think? What are some of your favorite multi-pans?

At the top of the post is a super panel that I remember being excited about, when I first saw/read it, as an 11-year-old kid. It’s the crucial plot-hinging moment from Giant Size Defenders No. 3, which conveniently guest stars Daredevil just so he, the blind but uber-tactile super-sensed hero that he is, can pull of a rigged coin toss. He’s just bet the fate of the earth on a simple coin toss…

And the panel does one thing that multi-pans do well.

Which is: to stretch time out, and sustain tension…

“…for what seems to him an eternity…”

The coin arcs visually legibly across the six panels. The wording, panel size, and panel contents are more-or-less uniform, so it ends up ticking time like a clock or a heartbeat. Then the final panel nicely abruptly punctuates the arc.

and here’s a less cerebral but no less successful multi-pan:

Four panel multi-pan from DC Comics Presents, No. 8, April 1979, art by Curt Anderson

I tend to associate DC’s Superman artists with pretty staid frumpy styles. Someday I plan to write about how DC mutilated Jack Kirby‘s Superman drawings (covered by others already – maybe see here and here) but suffice it to say that in the 70s and 80s DC was doing their best to make sure that Superman looked pretty much the same as he had since the 40s and 50s, for example, see the Curt Swan sequences here and here and here. In my opinion, it’s dull competent stuff.

That’s why the above sequence by Curt Anderson jumped out at me. It’s not so much about change in location or time… but about the power in a continuous arc, designed and laid out really well. It’s still that kinda staid Superman art, but the arc and the diagonals make it nearly cinematic. I like the perfect framing of the final horizontal panel, too. Superman’s body, Solomon Grundy’s body and even the sound effect are wholly horizontal. Grundy is being whacked out of the bottom left of the panel… leading perfectly into the panels below.

There’s also a bit of nicely done sublety in the way the man of steel rotates. He’s flying in an arc, while rotating, so we see his back… which makes a a bit more variety for a bit more visually interest… within an over-arching continuity.

K-WHOMM indeed!

Lots more multi-pans here.

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