What Is a Comic Book Panel?

Boy Reading Comics in Bed
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A comic book panel isn't just the kind of panel you find at Comic-Con, originally it referred to the individual pieces of artwork that make up a single page in a comic book. 

A "panel" in a comic book in one part of a comic book page. Typically a comic book page is made up of individual panels that, when put together, tell a story in sequential order.

One way to look at a panel is that it is like a scene in a movie or television show. The comic panel would be the most important part of the scene to convey the most information visually. Text in the form of word balloons and narration are used to complete the tale.

How Many Panels Are on a Page?

Generally, a common number of panels for a comic book page is five to six. However, comic book artists can play with page format to evoke different emotions. For example, a single page could contain only one distinctive, dramatic panel or it could be made of lots of small panels to help indicate the passage of time or to display multiple reactions to an event. For example, in Master Race, Bernie Krigstein uses multiple, smaller panels to slow down time for a dramatic effect. Playing with the size and placement of panels can create suspense and drama—drawing out what could have been a simple scene to play with the reader's emotions. 

In American comics, pages are read from left to right, whereas the opposite is true for manga. Generally, it's clear that one would read the text and look at the image, going row by row, just as you would go line by line in a book. However, some comic book artists play with the format of the page and placement of word bubbles and text boxes. In ​Alan Moore's Promethea, for example, artist J.H. Williams III avoids the typical six-panel comic page structure in favor of double-page spreads to create a more immersive, fantastic world. ​

Playing with the layout of a comic page, the size and placement of panels, the size, and style of text, are just a few of the ways comic book artists can elevate the work and develop a signature style.