I think since the mid-70s, every kid that showed any interest in drawing super heroes, ended up with a copy of “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way“; I sure did. Hell, I still have my copy, and it was a first edition. If I had any brains, it would be in mint condition, instead, it’s beaten up, drawn in, colored on, but is still one the most valuable tomes I have about drawing.

One of the most important, and challenging, sections in the book deals with making panels dramatic. One example given is of a monster busting through a wall, and grabbing a hero. It’s a brilliant sequence, which clearly shows off what they intended about their theory. Over the years, I’ve tried to keep that lesson in mind, but usually I feel like I’ve failed.

Part of the reason is that my experience in comics has been less capes, and more cops. When drawing “normal” people, I’ve tried to make what/how characters do things, believable. The problem is, that usually isn’t exciting to begin with. Unless you’re bulletproof, when you’re being shot at, you generally don’t want to expose yourself, because like Bruce said “Boards don’t hit back”, unfortunately bad guys with guns do shoot back.

A lot of the solutions come down to angle, and what details you omit. Here’s a little bit about what I mean.

You have a guard, soldier, whatever, shooting a rifle. Don’t know who, or what, but he’s shooting at them. This first one, (admittedly) the gun is aimed a little low, so that doesn’t help… unless he hates rats. He might, rabbit. He might. 

One solution is to have a weapon pointed at the camera. Here’s the problem, that requires doing one of a few things, none of which are exciting. A) You wind up looking straight down the barrel, which sounds great, but visually it becomes nothing more than a circle within a circle, and a thin box around it. Dull. B) A muzzle blast, which is also boring, because it’s just a circle with pointy bits on the end obscuring your hero’s face. Or C) You can try having bullets from the weapon whizzing by, but to show a barrage, you end up with them on different trajectories (which looks like your hero can’t aim), and you can’t have them overlapping much, because it looks silly.

That leaves you with changing the level, and opening up the figure in a dramatic pose. Sadly, this only does so much, because to properly hold a rifle, requires arms to be in a limited range of positions; most of which are close to the body, or to the weapon; hence collapsing the form.

Of course a bunch of guys will immediately claim they would have come up with the perfect image; because I suck, and they’re undiscovered geniuses of comic art. OK, let’s say you do have the one shot that works perfectly, but know what? Over a decade of drawing hundreds of gun fights in G.I.Joe, I probably drew your prized answer, and guess what the problem is now? There’s another gun fight on the next page, ten more in the next issue, and you can’t repeat yourself; because people will point out your monotonous solution.

As the wife likes to say, “Art-ing is hard“.