Structure 101


Thursday, August 27, 2009

I spoke yesterday with my friend and mentor Mark Newgarden. We talked about structure in comics. It was a very enlightening conversation. Basically, Mr. Newgarden reminded me that reduction is the key to making sequencing and transitions work.

So, as I polish up my next rant about what structure actually is and how most comics today lack any real understanding of structure, I thought I’d direct our readers over to Mr. Newgarden’s website. There you will find not only an assortment of laughs and novelties, but also a remarkable essay entitled “How to Read Nancy”. This 1988 essay written by Mr. Newgarden and Mr. Paul Karasik is a priceless jewel of information. I’d venture to say that it is a self contained comics graduate class. Comics Comics readers are encouraged to start here before any further discussion of structure can take place on this blog.

Please download the “How to Read Nancy” pdf here.

Thank you.

Oh, and don’t forget that “How to Read Nancy” is being expanded into a book that will be published by Fantagraphics in the spring of next year. Details here.

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8 Responses to “Structure 101”
  1. Alan David Doane says:

    I'll read this today, Frank, thanks!

  2. Ryan Cecil says:

    The last 3 pages of that PDF really beautifully make the point.

  3. JT says:

    amazing, I remember seeing this a while ago. There's still a certain amount of mystery, like the cognition as your brain realizes the strip as a whole, its like the visual information hits you a few times after you've already gotten the gag. Something about his lettering always stood out to me too.

  4. Mark P Hensel says:

    That PDF is brilliant! I'd never seen before. I wonder how much Bushmiller thought about these things before/during drawing and how much of it was off-the-cuff cartooning instinct.

  5. Jacob Covey says:

    "How to Read Nancy" is critical reading for anyone interested in comics or anything to do with visual language– or really anyone interested in having their mind blown by the complicated unconscious processes that our mind's are capable of. The whole idea of putting that much energy into breaking down one short strip seems inherently funny, making it all the more powerful that there's so much to revisit in Karasik and Newgarden's observations. I'm in awe of that essay.

  6. Mark Newgarden says:

    Frank -Thanks for linking to this!

    I've had this PDF on my site for a couple of years now and only discovered today that what I posted was somebody's ersatz re-formatting of our original essay: complete with a fair amount of typos..

    I've replaced lot with a new PDF which is direct from the printed source. It's a bigger download but its the real deal.

    Jacob- if you think that its funny how much focus we put into the essay wait until you see the expanded version- you'll laff your pants off!

  7. Frank Santoro says:

    Looks way better Mark, thanks!

  8. Benjamin Marra says:

    A fantastic essay on not just reading Nancy, but reading comics. It's clear that Nancy epitomizes and holds the secrets of the craft of comics. I'm excited to read the expanded version of the essay. I'm not sure who it was, possibly Wally Wood, who said, "It's harder not to read Nancy, than it is to read Nancy," but it's a true testament to the efficiency of that deceptively simple strip.

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