Speaking of Carson van Osten, we really just mentioned him so we could reprint, again, his guide to comics storytelling which is as simple and direct yet essential, in its own way, as Alex Toth’s Wally Wood’s 22 Panels that Always Work. Although it is specific to Disney characters in some ways, the universal truths it captures will stand many a young cartoonist in good stead.

See the whole thing here.
In the link, van Osten explains the history of the guide, which has been used by cartoonists and teachers for over 30 years to demonstrate the rudiments of comics storytelling:

I wrote and drew those sketches around 1975 and I’m so tickled to know that people still find them helpful today. It started as a slide presentation for my boss to show at the Disney meeting in Frankfurt. It went over so well that he asked me to expand on it when he returned. They printed 2000 copies and mailed it to all the Disney offices. My friend John Pomeroy asked for some to give to the animators at the studio. that was the time when the animation training program was going on. Frank Thomas saw it and used it for an animation class he was teaching at the Screen Cartoonists Guild. That’s how some sketches wound up in the book that he and Ollie wrote, “the Illusion of Life”.


  1. It’s Wally Wood.

    I would object to flagging the panel called “wide open spaces” and calling it a problematic layout.

    Disney Studio book The Illusion Of Life (Johnston and Thomas) is required reading for everyone who seriously wants to make comics, regardless of talent or experience level– some of the best artists working in the 20th century went through Disney, much to learn from them:

  2. God Bless old Wally Wood … but I really hope he’s joking about the “dumb writer” and pages of people talking.

    Yes, comics are a visual medium, and it’s always fun to look at weird planets and explosions, etc … but with no story, plot, or characters worth caring about, comics with great art eventually go away.

    I’d hate to think that some aspiring artist will take those words to heart, and begin the old writer vs illustrator cycle anew.

  3. Yes, some stupid artist might misinterpret the 22 Panels.

    Reading five pages of two people talking can get boring, just as a television show or movie of two people doing nothing but talking can get boring, no matter how scintillating the conversation. Wood’s 22 panels show techniques to keep the visual aspect interesting. (A twenty-third: One page, two heads or figures facing each other, with an interlocking chain of word balloons to be read straight down the middle. A twenty-fourth: One page, a big scene, with lots of word balloons around the characters.)

    Consider “Judgement Day” by Feldstein and Orlando
    Lots of text in that story, and Orlando uses many of the 22 to make the visuals interesting.

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