Playing with the 9-panel grid

Published by Juglart on

In the short story “Don’t  cheat on me“, I had fun playing with the pacing of the story through a 9-panel grid (In franco-belgian bande dessinée, we speek of a “gaufrier” – waffle iron – of 9 panels). A 9-panels grid looks like this:
9-Panel Grid
The 9-panel grid represents a rigid structuring of panels in the construction of the pages. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were forerunners of the 9-panel grid in Watchmen, which has become a classic in English-language graphic novels. It would be the artist, Gibbons, who would have proposed this rigid structure to stimulate his own creativity in the composition and to give the writer, Moore, more control over the story. (See this article from Comicsbeat.) And according to Moore, this limitation makes it possible to surpass oneself in the creation of a graphic novel. Other comic book creators have adopted this rigid structure, including writer Tom King, who has become a master of 9-panel grid pacing through several DC Comics series, including the excellent Omega Men (with cartoonist Barnaby Bagenda) and Mister Miracle (with the cartoonist Mitch Gerads). Critic Hass Otsmane-Elhaou has produced superb analyzes of how King plays with the pacing of storytelling in several episodes of Strip Panel Naked on Youtube and in issue 4 of the digital review PanelxPanel (vol1, Issue 4). I encourage you to watch and read the analyses of Otsmane-Elhaou, it is what made me want to play with the pacing of the story through a 9-panel grid. In Don’t cheat on me, the 9-panel grid is rigidly applied to the first four pages, and more flexibly to the last one. The insertions of the SMS make it possible to reinforce the pacing of the story. The pacing is drastically slowed down on page 3 where the story unfolds as in “slow motion” with a fixed framing. Time seems to have stopped for Max. The pace then accelerates to the end of the short story.