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)

Love all the characters, each one for its own merit. I read, I laugh, I share them. Your article today is to be saved. Thanks!

Dr. Fiorenza Albert-Howard

I am a devoted fan of comic strips, especially the classics. "Krazy Kat’ is an all-time favorite comic strip of mine. Coincidently, I have and am currently reading Patrick’s book on George Herriman. I am enjoying it very much. Although I am familiar with the comic strip information provided in this article I just can’t seem to get enough information about cartoonists and their comic strips so I eagerly encourage the sharing of more information regarding comic strips. The ‘Mutts’ comic strip is a treasure of simplicity, thoughtfulness, and fun. I thank Patrick for sharing his talent for all these years. :)

Cynthia Lebie

Like most people I get real joy from mutts. I wakeup and it is a great way to start my day.
All the best

Roy Jerry Davis

Thank you for this article. Very interesting. I have enjoyed Mutts for many years. Even in difficult times it brings some joy to our faces!

Tam Thompson