Comic Study - Batman: The Court of Owls
something for your long weekend
I’ll be honest, I’ve been nervous about this, folks. Possibly because this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Not breaking down this particular comic, but breaking down narratives as a whole to study. As this is the first of these, I request your grace as I grow and learn how best to encapsulate my thoughts on structure and character.
Some business out of the way— I will always approach every piece of media I study with respect, joy, and enthusiasm. I believe that everyone trying to write a story is doing their best, trying to make the best art they can, trying to tell the best story they can. We will all succeed in some ways, and fail in others. I’m interested in noting what works, specifically what works for me and for those of you reading this. Not everything will be your favourite, and not everything will be my favourite. But I am not interested in tearing anyone or anything down.
And with that, let’s get started.
Batman Vol 1: The Court of Owls
When I first started learning how to write TV, every single book and class drilled into my head one lesson: pay attention to structure. How is someone telling the story? How are they breaking it down? What are they practical endpoints, and how are they building tension?
For this graphic novel/first arc, we will first be looking at the statistics - how many issues, how many pages are in each issue, how many panels in each issue, and how many panels are on each page.
This graphic novel contains seven issues, implying there are seven issues within the arc. An argument could be made for five issues with a two issue bridge, but either way, we’re looking at a 5-7 issue arc.
In TV, the practical endpoints aren’t just the end of the 20-30 minutes of a comedy, or 45-60 minutes of a drama. The practical points you’re writing towards are also called ACT BREAKS, which is where commercials go. Even in streaming, many seasoned TV writers still write towards Act Breaks, because that’s how they were trained.
So, what are the practical endpoints of comics? Much like a tv episode, you’re writing towards the end of an arc, the end of an issue, and what’s called a PAGE TURN (you’ll recognise that from the free newsletter entitled Comics 101). Page Turns are every even numbered page (page 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22). Often the major art will be on the first page of the issue or on the page turn. Therefore, the last panel a reader sees on an odd numbered page should be a cliffhanger.
NOW, with all that out of the way, let’s look at the specifics of BATMAN VOL 1: Court of Owls.