Skip to content
Advertisements

What’s The Right Way To Read A Comic Book?

How do you read a comic book?

As I wrap up Watchmen (review on Monday), that’s a question I’ve been asking myself. Do I read the dialogue first, then look at the pictures? Do I look at the pictures first, then read the dialogue?

Do I read an entire page’s dialogue and then go back and look at all the pictures for that page? Do I look at all the pictures on that page and go back through the dialogue? You get the point.

The story art says so much, sometimes even more than the copy. But it’s something I’ve had to get used to, as it’s been decades since I’ve read a book with pictures, other than the Elmo and barnyard picture books I read to my son. So my temptation is to just read all the copy and skip right over  the pictures.

But you have to look at both, and I just have no idea of what’s the best way to approach this. It makes reading a comic book take more time than you would think because you have to digest everything on the page before you move on.

That’s one thing I’ve discovered while reading Watchmen. I thought I would breeze right through this book, but it’s taken a longer than I expected, all because I’ve got to look at all these fancy colors and drawings and whatnot. It’s so much to take in for an inexperienced dude like myself.

Anyway, dear comic book experts, what’s the best way to read a comic book?

Please enlighten me.

Advertisements
20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dominick Sabalos #

    I’m no expert, but my usual way of reading them is to read the words in a panel first, then look at the picture. That’s mostly just because I find I’m less likely to be confused by the words without the picture than by the picture without the words, which helps the flow of the story.

    There are exceptions of course, for example when there’s a particularly striking picture that I don’t manage to put off looking at. And sometimes whole books become exceptions when their page structure is completely different to ‘normal’ comic books – (Alan Moore’s) Promethea comes to mind here.

    Whenever I go back to reading a comic book after having read regular books, there’s always a period of adjustment where I have to force myself to slow down and not just blitz through the text/ignore the pictures. So it’s practice, I guess.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
    • Yep…I was blitzing right through everything at first before I realized, “Oh, pictures!”

      Liked by 1 person

      December 8, 2011
  2. Though I am by no means a fanboy or comic book aficianado, I found myself reading the words first and then looking at the pictures (when I was reading “Watchmen,” that is). It helped me understand what I was looking at. Some may say they like to look at the pictures first so they can form their own ideas about what’s going on (or some such), but I personally don’t subscribe to that. I wasn’t trying to form my own ideas, I was trying to follow the ideas in the book. So, for me: (1) words, (2) pictures, and (3) processing/formation of opinion. My $.02.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
  3. For me, it’s the picture first and then the words. It’s similar to watching a movie or a play. People walk out onto the stage, or the camera focuses on two people in a restaurant, I take in the scene for a moment, and the people start speaking.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
    • Good thoughts. I hadn’t really thought about the whole movie comparison and taking in the scene before reading.

      Like

      December 8, 2011
  4. I usually orient myself first – figure out which box is first…then starting with the first box, look at the drawing and read the dialogue before moving on to the next box…drawing and dialogue, and so on and so forth. Then maybe, to sum up the page, I look at it in its entirety. After a while, it just comes naturally and you won’t even have to think about it.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
    • That’s also difficult for a newbie–figuring out which box to read first and which dialogue within the box. Can get a little confusing.

      Like

      December 8, 2011
    • This BUT some times you come across a full page that DEMANDS you take it all in before anything else. Just go with the flow! If I gave you David Mack’s “Kabuki” you’d probably really understand what I mean.

      Like

      December 9, 2011
  5. Siuon #

    Picture first, words next. I usually read Japanese comics, which contain less dialogue and much less word descriptions than American comics in general. My first American comic book was V for Vendetta, another Alan Moore’s work.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
  6. Sometimes I skim the pictures on the whole page, but usually try not to do that because it’s sort of like reading the end of the chapter first. I would say I read the text in the box then look at the picture. I frequently go back and look at the pictures again if they are very detailed so I don’t miss a key story element.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
  7. I’m off topic here … I saw your twitter remark about the possibility that Lolita could single-handedly undo the list. I finally got around to reading the middle of the book. I truly believe that it should be taken off of best-books lists; we should not recommend it to others. Those that say there is nothing in it may be jaded by what they see and read. It is prurient material about a child. Simple as that.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
    • You’re not making me want to continue reading it, Teresa! Oh boy. I keep waiting for something redeeming about it, but that hasn’t come yet.

      Like

      December 8, 2011
  8. I read the words in frames around the edge of the panel first (like “Suddenly”, or “Later, at City Hall”, that sort of thing), then look at the picture briefly, then read dialogue. Eventually the dialogue kind of moves you through the picture if done right. It’s sort of like watching a movie with subtitles when you get the hang of it, you learn to kind of look at the whole thing at once. And that’s my professional comic store worker opinion 😉

    Like

    December 8, 2011
    • One of the best things about comics though is that it’s entirely up to you how to read them. It’s not like a book where you just read one line then the other. If you like the art, gaze at it as long as you like. If the dialogue is gripping you, it can propel you quickly through the pages. A great current comics writer named Grant Morrison says that comics are like being a being from a higher plane. You can move through the narrative any way you like, seeing into the world of the characters at your leisure. It’s like being a Trafalmadorian, if you will.

      Like

      December 8, 2011
    • I’ve been waiting for your expert opinion! Sounds like it just takes getting used to. I got into the flow of reading much more toward the end of the book.

      Like

      December 9, 2011
      • Oh, yeah, it’s just like riding a bike, you’ll always remember now. I was going to suggest you try a few other graphic novels off the 10 best list as palate cleansers between heavy novels, but it looks like they took them off the website sadly. Gilbert Hernandez’ “Palomar” stuff is like the lovechild of David Lynch and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I think you’d enjoy it.

        Like

        December 9, 2011
  9. When i read comic i go from left to right when it comes to the boxs,when it comes to the pictures and word bubbles i read the highest buble fisrt and work my way left to right.

    Like

    October 16, 2013
  10. If You Plan To Read it fast Like me when I was reading The Amazing Spider-man vol 1 I’m currently trying to read all 700 issues but here’s what I recommend.. You Should Quickly Look at One dialogue like for 2 seconds each THEN you look at the pictures I guarantee it will make you read fast Without missing out and seeing what they are actually saying or why. Well It’s my choice my opinion. but if you’re trying to read carefully try Looking at the pictures THEN the dialogue I hope you understand . courtesy you friendly neighberhood Spider-man LOL

    Like

    January 2, 2016
    • And Also If You Are Trying To Read It Fast But Read it Carefully too. Look at the pic THEN look at the Dialogue But Fast. Try To read at least One Under 3 Seconds ( or less) and you will be done with a page in over 40+ Seconds or less Pretty Good!! btw here’s an example of why you should look at the dialogue first. Spider-man Got Punched By a Guy and said UGH! as in that really hurt. but when you read the dialogue first it will be like UGH and THEN he gets punched. So Look at the Pictures First. And Also Rely on This one. It’s Not that Bad!

      Like

      January 2, 2016
  11. Peter Ratto #

    I used to read words first because it seemed obvious, but now I feel like I get the context by looking at the picture really quickly, then look at the words, then go back to the picture for a last look to link into the next slide.

    Like

    June 20, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: