1930s Multi-Panel Pans

Listed in publication date order.


Twelve-panel pan sequence from Gasoline Alley, August 24 1930, by Frank King

August 24 1930 – from Gasoline Alley Sunday newspaper comic, by Frank King (scan from book book Masters of American Comics, 2005, Yale University Press.)

Frank King (1883-1969) is one of the few artists I know of to do full-page mutli-panel pans. He’s arguably the early master of the multi-panel pan sequence, taking it from earlier incidental uses to building visual narrative that celebrate it – bringing it front and center. So far, he’s the only artist I’ve found to do full-page multi-panel pans with multiple rows (in the 70s-80s artists do full-page pans, but more multi-tall-panel splashes.) This beach sequence works so well as an overall page with setting, motion, narrative.

I am going to critique it… which feels presumptuous… because it’s such a phenomenal complete whole. King does “cheat” in a few ways, beautifully – he so pulls these off!

Gasoline Alley detail - panels 5 and 6

For example, see panels 5 and 6. In panel 5, the protagonist, Walt, is looking away from the woman he’ll collide with in panel 6. She’s running toward him; she’s split across the gutter between panels 5 and 6. Then in panel 6, she’s there twice – on the left gutter and in mid-panel. Following all strict rules of time and space, she’s moved backwards or the frame has shifted left… but it doesn’t matter, because it reads clearly and beautifully.

Similar “cheats” get Walt and Skeezix from the right hand column to the left. A full page multi-panel pan with multiple rows and absolutely no “cheats” would probably need to tell a story of something moving in a Z-shaped multi-zig-zag trajectory – the path that the eye follows across a page – which would probably be much more artificial than these “cheats.”


Twelve-panel pan sequence from Gasoline Alley, May 24, 1931, by Frank King

May 24 1931 – from Gasoline Alley Sunday newspaper comic, by Frank King (scan from book book Masters of American Comics, 2005, Yale University Press.)

Despite some poor racial stereotypes, Frank King pulls off a full-page multiple-row multi-panel pan sequence with no cheats . I think that the earlier beach scene (above) works much more as a sequential narrative. This is more of a snapshot of a place – as opposed to a story that moves through time.

King masterfully uses scenery to pull the eye through the page, with the Z-shaped path that left-to-right, top-to-bottom reading entails. Initially (panels 1-3) the path from the porch leads readers’ eyes to the roof. The boys gaze (panel 3) and the dogs running (panels 3, 4) lead the reader to make a sort of carraige return from the end of the first row to the beginning of the second. The diagonal white fence does this visual transition from panel 6 to panel 7. The opposing rust color fence completes the transition from panel 9 to panel 10. All of it is visually very effective for guiding the reader across the page.

(1932-1939 None posted yet.)

>Older 1920s  >Return to Index  >Newer 1940s

4 Responses to “1930s Multi-Panel Pans”

  1. Ampersand Says:

    King also did an interesting series of full-page polyptych’s of a house under construction, while kids played around it. What made it interesting is that he did the same full-page shot three times – first showing the house when it was just a skeleton of a house, next showing it partly constructed, and finally showing it fully constructed. So in a way, not only was each strip a polyptych, but if you put the three strips together side-by-side they form a comic strip of the stages of constructing a house.

  2. Ampersand Says:

    I agree with you that “cheats” can be a good thing. But I do think there’s an example of a full-page multi-row polyptych that doesn’t cheat or (in my view, at least) become awkward, and unsurprisingly, it’s Alan Moore: “Big Numbers” issue 2 page 7.

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