5 Principles To Improve Fight Scenes In Comics
by Tito W. James
Good action scenes are hard to come by in comics. The limited page-count and lack of movement make communicating interesting fight scenes difficult in sequential art. That’s why I have made a list of five principles that will improve any fight scene.
Kiss Your Sister
Before you pucker up in front of your horrified sibling, actually read what I have to say. There’s nothing more degrading for an opponent than being killed by their own weapon. You see this all the time in finishing moves and it always gets a crowd reaction. A mythological example of Kiss Your Sister is when Perseus reflects Medusa’s own power back at her and she’s turned to stone.
Robin Hood Chandelier
There’s a moment in the Robin Hood movie when he cuts the rope tying the chandelier to the ceiling and drops it on top of oncoming guards. The Robin Hood Chandelier happens any time the action hero uses the environment to their advantage. This technique is underutilized by super-powered characters who too often just throw punches through empty space.
In the final battle for Camelot, King Arthur faces his bastard son Mordred. Arthur impales Mordred on a lance thinking he has won. Mordred, in a last ditch effort to slay Arthur, pulls himself along the length of the spear until he’s close enough to stab his father. The Arthurian Impalement is when the action hero allows themselves to be physically harmed in order to win.
In the clip above, a steampunk brave hurls his axe into the head of a skeleton bandit. In a matter of seconds, the brave retrieves his axe from the bandit’s skull and continues the fight. Double Dipping is when the action hero temporarily shanks their weapon in a body only to retrieve it moments later. It’s not just using a weapon that’s covered in blood. It’s about eliciting that feeling of “Yuck, this axe has already been in someone.” Double Dipping is when the weapon leaves the hands of the action hero, gets stuck in the first opponent, then is retrieved to fight a second opponent.
Now that you’ve learned the other four principles it’s time to combine them. In the clip above John Wick combines the principles of “Arthurian Impalement,” “Double Dipping” and “Kiss Your Sister,” To defeat Viggo, John allows himself to be stabbed, pulls the knife from his chest covered in his own blood, and then kills Viggo with the man’s own weapon.