Earlier this summer, I started playing around with the idea of ‘responsive comics.’ My output was going to be a homepage redesign on here, but my goal was to experiment with how comics can adapt to the medium of the web in the context of responsive design. How can comic panels rearrange themselves depending on screen size?

Early example

Here’s an old sketch I sliced up to test. One of my goals is to play around with how to rearrange compositions based on screen size.

2 comic panels, of the same content but composed differently. The contents are a hand holding a long needle, pointing at the side of a man's neck, and accompanied by text. The first panel is landscape, and the text reads 'this is a horizontal view (3 columns wide'). The needle points from left to right towards the man. The second panel is portrait, and the needle is points downward towards the man. The text reads 'this is a vertical scrolly view.'
This is a sketch based on a frame from the movie Dune.

The horizontal panel is the original composition. To convert this to a vertical layout for phones, I want to maintain:

  • The needle pointing towards the person
  • The distance between the needle and the person
  • The text separating these two elements

So to rotate this vertically, the hand, the text, and the person all need to be separate elements. Like a typical responsive design, they stack on a narrow screen. The one change is that the hand holding the needle rotates so that it points downward towards the person.

This is a crude example that doesn’t really make sense in terms of artwork composition (why would a hand be floating above a head) but introduces the new question of: what is the vertical equivalent of pointing a needle at someone’s neck?

I don’t know, which is probably why I would not draw a comic panel to look like this, because I wouldn’t be able to rearrange it. I would compose it differently keeping this in mind.

Which is the thing I want to explore here: how to compose panels that work both horizontally and vertically.


I did a cursory search for stuff about responsive comics. Pablo Defendini wrote in detail about this exact topic in Standards, Semantics, & Sequential Art: Toward a Digital Comics Praxis.

Full list of readings: