Monday, January 26, 2004

American versus Manga panel per page averages? 

From the comments section of this post, John Smith writes:

Here's something to think about, manga will generally use 3-5 panels per page but american comics will use 6-9. So maybe the reason manga can be sold so cheaply is that they're selling 200 half-sized pages.

Well, it did get me thinking, but I think I'll have to dispute that assertion. I'm too tired tonight to do a full-scale analysis right now (though I think that'd be fun to do at some point), but the results of flipping through stuff was pretty interesting. At first I wasn't sure if I should doubt John, because manga does generally feel more "open", but I think it actually has to do more with sparser artwork and less text in general, not the actual number of panels. Looking at volume 1 of Rurouni Kenshin, it seemed like it was averaging around 6 panels per page. I thought maybe Mars would have less as shoujo, but it actually had more. Quite a lot of 7-page panels, and sometimes 9 or 10. While Kenshin tended to be more standard in layout (a square cut into various shapes, sometimes diagonal), Mars was much more like a layered collage, with lots of little panels overlapping other ones.

An interesting case seems to be Cyborg 009, which is way old (started the same year as the original X-Men) and was very interesting with the panel layouts. It pretty much ranges from two-page spreads to at least one 13-panel page. Ishinomori really seemed to have a good grasp of using panels for pacing and effect.

As far as the most dense, I think it has to be Nausicaa. Nearly every page was 8 or 9 panels, sometimes up to 11-13 and sometimes as low as 4-5. The only full-page panels I could see were like at the very beginning and end of the volume. But even with that density and the detail in his artwork, I still think it works fine in digest form. Sure, it'd be really cool in a big size like Akira, but it was still really engrossing even at the tiny size. I'd venture to say that Lone Wolf and Cub is a bit too small, especially for the detail, but even then, most people seem able to enjoy the story and recommend it.

I think at this point, availibility and convenience and price outweigh deluxe editions for stuff that want to reach the biggest audience and aren't mainly done as an art comix item. And while a big tome like Palomar is very nice (I finally saw the thing in person and wow!) and should sell well to a lot of fans, I still think a smaller budget release is in order for wider exposure...

But anyway, my main point was just to point out that if you really stop and look closely, most manga do seem to have decent numbers of panels. The only one I saw that seemed to fit the 4-5 panel distinction was Angel from Sakurazawa...

Maybe if I have time I'll take a random chapter from a couple of different manga and give some more concrete stats. Anyone out there have any info. on recent american titles? Most of the stuff in my collection is a bit older and/or not typical. What seems to be the averages on some of the popular superhero stuff lately or anything else?

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