Tension and Horror in Comic Strips

Film and comic strips are the two most commonly cited examples of sequential art, and it isn’t hard to find similarities between these visual art forms. (Some art historians underscore this shared DNA by tracing the origins of both comic strips and cinema to the sequential storytelling of Egyptian hieroglyphs). Which by itself is enough reason to include a video essay on comic strip storytelling in this Best Practices section. The other reason is that this Strip Panel Naked video quite simply offers a very astute analysis.


Hassan Otsmane Elhaou tackles Aliens: Dead Orbit, a Dark Horse comic from the pen of James Stokoe. That artist is particularly good at inducing fear and creating tension in very cinematic ways, this video asserts. Take the technique of page turns: this comic strip uses that to create jump scares in a way similar to what horror movies do (even recreating the dropping sound levels just before the scare). Smart use of color palettes and playing with the balance between details and abstraction are other ways in which Stokoe plays with the reader’s expectations – again not unlike what thrillers and horror movies aim for. The result is a fascinating video that illustrates how comic strips and cinema are not only narrative cousins, but also use similar strategies (tuned to the specific possibilities of each art form).