1990s Multi-Panel Pans
Listed in publication date order
1993 – from Tundra’s Understanding Comics written and drawn by Scott McCloud. Scott McCloud’s treatises on comics are great. They’re pretty much required reading for anyone interested in exploring what the tricks are that make comics work.
McCloud uses the word “polyptych” to describe what I’ve been calling a multi-panel pan sequence… and I am going to explore these terminologies in a blog post at some point soon.
April 1993 – From Image Comics 1963 Book One Mystery Incorporated -story by Alan Moore, art by Rick Veitch and Dave Gibbons. Alan Moore is the reigning comic book writing genius who has pushed all sorts of boundaries, and who uses frequent appropriate multi-panel pans and all kinds of other great visual tricks. This is one of the most ingenious and self-conscious uses of a multi-panel pan sequence. The comic book is a homage/parody of early 1960s Marvel Comics, this one specifically features Mystery Incorporated who are a thinly veiled version of the Fantastic Four. These panels depict a visitor who is actually a 1990s comic book character who has time-traveled back to 1963. Using a multi-panel pan sequence is Moore’s very subtle way of tipping the readers off to the fact that this is a contemporary character… because pan sequences are common in the 1990s, but didn’t occur in early 1960s Marvel Comics. (See also other articles I’ve written here about Alan Moore.)
(1994-1998 none posted yet)
1999 – from Top Shelf’s Goodbye, Chunky Rice written and drawn by Craig Thompson. Thompson is an award-winning wonderfully inventive artist. He uses lots of clever multi-panel pans in GCR. I’ve chosen just a few of the ones I live best. The above panel sequence has a great visual balance, with the lower half of Solomon’s face (left) and the upper half of Chunky’s (right.) One thing cool and playful is the way the gutter (black) line splits the word balloon between “Cute ain’t he?” and “Go ahead. He ain’t bitin'”
This a great little throwaway scene-setting sequence… that I think is just rich and lush and fun. Almost don’t know where to start. The multi-panel pans are in the top left and lower right. Each of the short sequences introduces the characters, and the whole rich mix introduces the neighborhood – so active and full of life.
This panel sequence is fun because it centers on sound; each panel with its own sound effect. The action also sweeps upward (with hopeful celebratory sentiment) then downward (with the reality of mushy food shlopped onto the plate unceremoniously.)
The upper sequence is fairly straightforward – good, but not spectacular. The lower panel sequence here is brilliant. Though the gutters throughout the book are black lines, the middle white panel acts a sort of gutter between the two panels on either side of it. The fearful anticipation of the wallop is palpable… and the motion of the throw powerful and dynamic. It’s sort of a multi-panel pan, with an intermission embedded in the sequence.
October 1999 – From America’s Best Comics’ Promethea No. 3 – art by J.H. Williams III, writing by Alan Moore. I am not going to try to an encyclopedic look at all of Alan Moore’s multi-panel pans.
Promethea No. 3 is the only comic book cover image (I am aware of) that utilizes a multi-panel pan. Most of the time covers (like splash pages) show a single full-page image, hence few feature any kind of multi-panel sequence, much less a sequence with a continuous background. Promethea is ultimately about story-telling and imagination, so it makes sense that the cover could be a multi-panel pan.
The cover image is, as pretty much every panel Williams draws, beautiful. Promethea is transitioning between the real world on the left and Mysty Magic Land (more properly “Immateria” – more-or-less the world of humanity’s collective imagination) on the right. A lesser artist might have given us a 100% real panel on the left and a 100% immateria on the right… but even panel one shows the floor giving way to burst of river waterfall… which is symbolic of the unconscious. That could be reading too much into Moore, you never know – he’s so deliberate about symbols and references…
The above sequence is a similar transition from Immateria on the left and the reality on the right. There are quite a few subtle touches that I credit to Alan Moore. The “No Parking” sign (panel 3-4) sort of shows the point of no return – there’s no stopping in the middle between these two realms. The panhandler is asking for “change” while the scenery is changing. The trees of Immateria give way to the steel columns and lampposts of urban reality.