What’s the matter with the four panels below?
To most people, these four panels from the Peanuts comic strip printed December 1, 2013 may seem fine, but to those of us who look at and work with Peanuts art every day, it is painful to see.
Looking at the entire original strip here from 1966, you can see which panels the newspaper has distorted above. They tried to fit the strip into a vertical format space.
It is interesting to see how the layout of the panels affects the art. Sparky carefully divided the page into boxes that allowed the art to express itself. By squishing these four panels it not only changes the expressions of the characters but it also changes the rhythm of the reader’s eye across the page and lessens the impact of their experience.
You probably noticed that that first third of the original strip is missing in the top picture. Many, in fact most newspapers discard the top third of the strip. This top third is called “the throw away panel.” It must work with the entirety of the strip, but not be “necessary” to the story.
There is a lot more to say about the sizes of the blank layout pages that Sparky used over his 50 years of Peanuts, as well as the shrinking newspaper pages. I plan to return to these topics in 2014.