I recently found my notes from when, years ago, I had then-Marvel Art Director and personal hero John Romita , Sr. critique my stuff. His comments are a valuable list of things to remember in drawing comics, and expecially relevant for those who, like me, have struggled with stiffness in the figures and achieving a Marvel-ready level of dynamism.
This stuff is golden:
- Twist hips, shoulders
- Avoid parallel lines (it hurts the design of your page)
- Figures in groups: Vary angles (of bodily attitudes and body parts)
- Vary poses, gestures within the group to avoid repetition
- Order large groups into subgroups and vary the spacing between those subgroups
- Look at how old pros handle groups
- Open mouths of speaking characters more (This one is more specific to me)
- Can't over-do the deep perspectives in BGs (so more 1-point persp?)
- Avoid the sleepwalking, antiseptic, talking-heads look--more acting!
- Push the expressions--boost emotion with dramatic lighting like split lighting
- Take poses to greater extremes! Easier for Raiders (art correction team) to tone down excesses than to add excitement where none exists (Romita stood then to show how, when one really leaned into a simple pointing pose, the arm came out of the sleeve a few inches farther!)
- Keep a little "air" around figures in action--Don't pin them near borders (esp. don't put figure outlines parallel to nearby panel borders)
- Remember to spot room for balloons
- Keep individual characters' faces more consistent as to features (e.g., nose long/short), young-looking/old-looking
- Keeping individual characters' reactions internally consistent will make the characters live in peoples' minds--making story overwhelm art in readers' mind--which you want!
In this last one, Romita was deeply influenced by Milton Caniff's classic adventure strip Terry and the Pirates, wherein the characters were superbly individuated and true to their own natures--that is, consistent, yet without being predictable. This helped Romita make the Spider-Man cast very human for his readers.
Thanks, Mr. Romita, for sharing your knowledge and undimmed enthusiasm for comics!