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 (34)

I enjoy when Mutts breaks/explains the stereotypical “rules” of comic strips. It’s also a good reminder for life, in general – go with the flow but sometimes you gotta do something different to make an impact. Many thanks to Patrick and the whole Mutts Crew! Keep ’em coming, please!

Kathy Prickett

Mutts Makes My Day!

Jose Segovia

Would like to add my thanks to you for ‘Mutts". Pure joy. Guess I never thought about the structure of a comic strip. Definitely didn’t think about the broken line in the word bubble. Thank You.

Theresa Brazda

I didn’t know that a broken line balloon meant someone was whispering.

Really enjoyed this article.

Boo Martin

We (currently) have only ONE cartoon in our online daily newspaper WeirdNews.Info … Guess which one it is…!

Skip Whitson

My daughter and I would read “the funnies” every night as part of her bedtime routine. Our favorite was MUTTS. She grown, but I still read MUTTS every morning, going on 25 years now. Love it’s positive message, humor and Patrick’s compassion toward the animal kingdom!

Billy Ray

Billy Ray Blanchard

Ohhhhh how I love to read my MUTT’S to begin a day❣️🐾🐾🐾I love the playfulness, the word, the vibe created, whether it be for fun, for learning, or to accentuate a cause, etc…& I love Herrimen’s Krazy Kat as well❣️🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾❤️🙏🏻☮️🌱thank you Patrick and all at Team Mutts for always making my day start out on the right paw❣️❣️❣️🥰

Valerie Jenkins

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