Recently, a series of Patrick's MUTTS comic strips centered playfully on the comic strip lexicon, so we thought it might be fun to round up those strips as a comic strip primer of sorts. There are probably no surprises here if you're a lifelong fan of the funny pages, but we know that the things we take for granted might not be intuitive to people reading a comic strip for the first time.

So on that note, here are some rules that comic strips live by:

Panels are read from left to right, but shometimes, rules are meant to be broken.

Published January 29, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

A dotted line word balloon indicates that the speaker is whispering.

Published January 28, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

The top left of a panel can be used to describe something that cannot be done with an image. For example, the transition from day to night can be shown easily through the artwork, but days passing cannot. So, MUCH LATER or TOMORROW in the top left corner easily provides that information.

Published January 25, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

Published January 27, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

A little half cloud with two lines just before it indicates speed.

Published January 26, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

Speech is generally put in a balloon with its "tail" pointing toward the character doing the talking.

Published January 24, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

Words outside of a word balloon can indicate a sound that is not spoken. So in this Sunday comic strip, Patrick plays on words that are used to indicate sound.

Published January 30, 2022 | Fetch This Strip

Speaking of Sunday pages, Patrick recently had a conversation with someone who wants to create comic strips, but didn’t know what a Sunday page was, so let’s finish on that note:

A Sunday page is a comic strip that is published as part of a comics section in the newspapers on Sunday. It's called a page because, in the past, a comic strip created for Sunday was sized to fit a full page of the newspaper. Here’s an example of a Krazy Kat Sunday page from 1941.

(We chose Krazy Kat because Patrick is a huge fan of that comic strip. Just after college, he wrote a book about it and its creator, Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman.)

The first panel of a Sunday strip (shown as the top panel across the entire page, above) is called the title panel — though it can also be known as the "throwaway" panel because newspapers could run the title panel with the comic strip or choose to discard it.

Were any of these facts news to you? Share with us in the comments, and let us know if you're interested in seeing more blog posts about the ins and outs of comic strips!


Comments (27)

Loved the comment about “The Magic Flute.”
“They’ll Do It Every Time” was good – don’t for get “Halto’s Inferno”, one of the 1st strips I remember.

Susan Davis

Patrick, thanks for Mutts which I have been reading since the 1990’s. My favorite strip was the one with a little birdie singing in a tree and you depicted that by drawing a few bars of music. Being a musician, I read the music and realized it was Papageno’s aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” My music teacher was impressed that I figured that out! Now you & I have 2 things in common: love of animals and love of music !

Carol Baldessari

I’ve been a fan of Mutts ever since the first one appeared in The Buffalo News in ninety-four. (I was glad to see Earl’s tongue back to normal, the next day!) also been a huge fan of Herriman’s Krazy Kat—but don’t forget Winsor McKay’s masterful Little Nemo in Slumberland (and Dream of the Rarebit FIend) . . . and Buck Rogers, and Tarzan, and Flash Gordon, and Peanuts, and so on and so on. . . .
And don’t free guard dog!!! As long as some of his three-dimensional siblings suffer in real-life situations differing from his only in that

David Park Musella

I was introduced to Mutts over 20 years ago when I was recovering from a grave illness. A friend brought me a stack of the dailies he had cut out over the years. Mooch and Earl helped me through a tough time. Now,I really enjoy seeing Mutts in my email each day. I am looking forward to an upcoming visit to Columbus, Ohio where I will visit the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library again. I am 72 and have loved cartoons since before I could read. I collected many comic books and always read the funnies in the paper (still do). One of my favorites was Jimmy Hatlo’s “The’ll Do It Every Time” in the Sunday paper, with his tip of the Hatlo hat in the corner. Thanks to you for letting us explore the world with Earl and Mooch.

Pat Shearman

As I get older my sense of time gets worse, so I have no real idea when I started reading Mutts. The boys have made me laugh, cry, and forward the strip to all my only dearest family and friends. Loved the information about cartoon pages; most I knew but there were surprises. Keep keeping us informed. And take the Christmas gift strip and turn it into Christmas cards. The boxes worked with some but as mooch said, “Well, here goes nothing.”


OMG! I have 3 KRAZY KAT books I bought while living in UK! One has Foreword by Bill Watterson! (not Patrick). Have been trying
for years!!! to get more of these – set is called “The Komplete Kat Komics” , I have Vol. 1, 2 + 6. Anyone know where/how I
can find the rest? I’ve searched online, etc no luck yet. Cool to read that Patrick has one too! Is that available from you-all? So
happy to share with other Mutts/KK fans!!! Yay! Yesh!

Nicole Morehouse

I clipped a cartoon strip of Mutts a long time ago. I’m not sure who the character was, but he is looking far off ands says “The Mountains are calling and I must go”. That was when I fell in love with Mutts.

Meda Moran

Fell in LOVE with MUTTS years ago when I would read it in the Newspapers. I would clip the comic & save it. I am a Graphic Designer and worked for a newspaper for quite a while, I would pin up on our board wall. My favorite strip (among many) was back in the early 90’s Mooch and Earl are hanging out together and Mooch gets ahold of a pair of reading glasses, catches sight of cheese…his eyes look humungous with the reading glasses and he says, “Loooooook at ALL that cheese!” (I LOVE cheese, ha,ha) :D At the time CA Lottery had a commercial that did the same except for you just hear the voice say ‘look at all that cheese,’ cause now the lottery winner can afford ALL that cheese. I just thought it was hilarious seeing Mooch’s BIG eyes say the same, lol!
I get MUTTS everyday in my email, lol! Love those two furry buddies! How you start your day makes all the difference. I got family and friends hooked on Earl and Mooch and would love to see this blog going 👍🏽 Thanks Patrick & friends for making our world a better place! 🙏🏽💜

MarthaBug Guerrero

I didn’t know about the dotted lines indicating whispering.

Lorelei Whitlock

It’s a joy to welcome the Mutts cartoon in my SF Bay Area newspaper with each breakfast. The Shelter Stories are very emotional. I volunteer with two animal welfare organizations (KARES and Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary ) on the Big Island of Hawaii and send them copies of these pieces.