Going With the (Layout) Flow

When I was working on Writer’s Block, I was spending a lot of time reading manga and manga anthologies. It drove me up a wall (and still does) when a manga was printed left-to-right instead of right-to-left because I understood that meant everything had been reversed, and my mind just couldn’t wrap around the book’s layout. As a result, my notes on the layout and flow of Writer’s Block were set up right-to-left. That’s just how graphic novels were supposed to flow, right?

Except…I read comic books as a kid. I read a collection of X-Men and then Elfquest as an adult. I read Scott McCloud’s series on creating comics. All of them were written left-to-right, and I had absolutely no problem reading them correctly because that’s how graphic novels were supposed to flow…right?

Last year, I ran across a few arguments on the proper direction of flow for graphic novels, and it all really came down to one thing: where the author was writing. You see, manga flow right-to-left because in Japan books are printed right to left. In the United States, graphic novels flow left-to-right because we read left-to-right. The flow should be appropriate to the reading style of the author’s culture, and oddly enough, my brain can wrap around that.

So, when I started drawing Writer’s Block over the weekend, I knew I had to flip things around to flow left-to-right. It’s been interesting because I have to take the initial layout plan and mirror it (which isn’t terribly hard), and then I have to decide what impact reversing the images in my head to put them on the paper will have on the flow of the page. So far, it’s worked out that I’ve been able to keep everything oriented the way I saw them in my head when I was writing the script (except for showing up in different paces on the page), but I know that I have a couple of places where the flow was designed to break across facing pages. Those are going to be fun to draw, especially since I’m still very much a novice artist with respect to the ways of the pencil.

For those who read graphic novels, do you find it difficult to make yourself read in different directions? Does the author’s home country make any sort of impact on how you perceive the ease of reading?

For those who create graphic novels, have you wrestled with this issue? How did you decide which way to go?

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