So... This might be a bit into the tall weeds here, but today in prep for teaching Fun Home, I did a panel transition analysis modeled after Scott McCloud.
In McCloud's Understanding Comics, he delineates the six different kinds of panel transitions. They are:
(1) Moment to Moment: almost no time passes, very little changes from image to the next, and your brain engages in almost zero closure, it has to do no work to make sense of the image.
(2) Action To Action: A little bit of time passes. McCloud illustrates this with a shot of someone about to swing a bat, and a shot of someone hitting the ball. Again, little closure is needed.
(3) Subject to Subject: Here, a little more time is passing and the "camera" moves. So in a dialogue two-shot for example, if in the first panel it's a picture of me saying "how are you" and in the next it's your reply, that's a subject to subject transition (because the panels tackle different subjects).
(4) Scene To Scene: This is when you jump enough in either time or space (or both) that we're in a new scene.
(5) Aspect to Aspect: In this case, time stops and look in on different aspects of a scene. One way to think about this is like how Joss Whedon shoots the Buffy episode "The Body." He slows down time routinely by cycling through different aspects of a room (Buffy lying in bed, the fan cycling etc.)
(6) Non-Sequitur: Is what it sounds like and is very rarely used.
As you might be able to tell, as we go up in number, we go up in the amount of imaginative work your brain has to do. After McCloud establishes this, he proceeds to do breakdown charts of various artist's work and the way they use panel transitions.
It turns out that most Western Comics use (with slight variations) the panel transition strategies pioneered by Jack Kirby. They almost never use Aspect, Non-sequiter or Moment transitions, and their other panels are largely Action to Action, with some Subject To Subject and Scene To Scene thrown in. Kirby's work, for example, is 65% Action, 20% Subject and 15% Scene.
These ratios change a bit with other artists, but not that much (Maus, for example, has more scene than subject). But still, Action Transitions Are King.
Not so with Fun Home. Here's how Alison Bechdel's panel transitions break out. The red columns are Action to Action, the Green are Subject to Subject, the Purple are Scene To Scene. Dark Blue is Moment to Moment and Light Blue is Aspect to Aspect. Obviously, there are some panel transitions that you have to just make an executive decision on, so some of this is rough, but anyway... Check it out:
This is a dramatically different breakdown than a normal comic book. Also, the number and percentage of action transitions shoots waaaaay up in the end. Hopefully I'll have more to say about why this is and what the panel transition strategy has to do with both the form and content of the piece. But for now, I just thought I'd share it with you folks and see what you all think.