Comics are my own animated movies. They don’t physically move, yet they express motion. Action scenes are easy. Basically, I just want to make sure my composition is clear and to hopefully make the art as dramatic as possible.
Exposition is the trickiest thing to do in a comic format. You risk having your action come to a halt with a succession of panels of the characters speaking and reacting. But exposition is important to a longish, multi-layered story. The puzzle is to come up with ways to give the illusion of motion in order to engage the reader while you get your point across. Here are two examples from recent pages I ended up doing back-to-back.
In the first, Mitzi Blitzi the town grump, is inside the cottage talking to Lovo. A number of things make this scene significant. It’s just not particularly exciting. So I have Mitzi wandering about the cottage as she and Lovo talk, sticking her nose into things. Busy panel layouts are eye-catching, but can work against the story if they don’t match the content. In this case, I knew an irregular panel sequence would create some interest, but it was also justified by how disruptive things feel to Lovo having Mitzi in the house.
The other page is more subtle. After an intense dramatic episode, I have Papa and Lovo heading home while talking. This isn’t exposition because they are discussing things we already know, but their interaction here allows their personalities to become a bit more solidified. Still, they are just walking and talking. Instead of five or six smaller panels, I went with three horizontal panels. A wide rectangle has more implied motion simply due to its aspect ratio. I’ve used this three-tiered panel layout before. It can be effective in a number of different ways. Here, I placed my characters diagonally from left to right within each panel; thus, they appear to be walking across the page. I decided to keep the background detail to a minimum, only those props necessary to create the illusion of motion.