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In comic books, splash panels (also known as splash pages) are massive panels (the bits that contain pictures) that take up most or all of a page, or possibly even two pages. They are an important part of maintaining a comic's rhythm, and will most commonly be seen in the first pages of a comic (usuallly coinciding with the title page) and the last pages of the comic, usually coinciding with the cliffhanger. The specific purpose of a splash panel is to add dramatic weight to a scene, be it a shocking reveal, a character's entrance, an establishing shot of scenery or a building, a dramatic fight scene or something else entirely. When used excessively, they can be a contributing factor in Decompressed Comics.
They are also useful when a dramatic scene requires a far more impressive sense of scale than an ordinary panel could manage. For example: A character steps into a totally unexpected underground kingdom - an open area far larger than it should be. In a normal panel, this would all just look like a bunch of shrubs with a tiny speck that may or not be the character. In a splash panel, the character can be shown in enough detail for the scale to get into the reader's brain.
If the artist needs to focus on something specific in a splash panel, he may overlay smaller panels on top of or around it that enlarge and highlight specfiic sections, or that provide a commentary on the larger picture.
Splash panels are extremely popular in Japanese comic books (or Manga) and entire issues can consist of characters doing not very much at all on a very large canvas. Although examples of splash panels can be found in Western comics going all the way back to the 1960s, the technique did not become popular until the late 1990s, when Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created The Authority, which drew on the Manga mindset to create a "widescreen" comic in which splash panels were used liberally to emphasise the wide-scale action. This ushered in an era of Decompressed Comics with very little plot but great big pictures that ran to the mid-2000s before dying out. Splash panels, especially two-page spreads, do not work very well when collected into trade paperbacks due to the crease that is now in the middle of the page. This can be especially disastrous if there are significant speech balloons or captions in the vivcinity of the crease.
Anime and Manga
- CLAMP absolutely lives for Splash Pages. Check the beginning of any of their manga chapters - pick a series, any series - and you'll be met with a gorgeous, totally unnecessary spread of art, usually unrelated to the comic's actual content.
- Tite Kubo is awfully fond of splash pages as well.
- One Piece deserves a mention too, particularly when Oda feels the need for some Scenery Porn.
- Fairy Tail. See for yourself.
- Mikanagi Touya's Karneval has these, too.
- The Legend of Koizumi takes this to the extreme. Then goes beyond that with it's penultimate chapter witch consist entirely of one of these... spread over 26 pages.
- Anything by Ken Akamatsu. Anything.
- Death Note tends to break them out when it's time for the serious guns. And apparently, the beginning of Volume 12 doesn't qualify.
- A Steranko Nick Fury comic featured a 4-page splash, meaning people would have to buy two to get the full effect. It gets heavy Lampshade Hanging in the narration. The collected version makes it a foldout.
- The second-last issue of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. lampooned Steranko's effort and featured six consecutive splash pages that could be arranged to make one big one in a very open attempt on the authors' part to get people to buy six copies.
- The final issue of Promethea can be arranged in two sixteen-page splash panels.
- One famous and much-homaged example is a Steve Ditko-drawn issue of Spider-Man - issue 33 - in which Spider-Man is trapped underneath some wreckage, waiting to drown. As he builds up the strength to lift it, the panels grow bigger and bigger, until the final full-page splash panel, in which he hoists it above his head.
- During Walt Simonson's run on The Mighty Thor, an Affectionate Parody of the above sequence in #365 involved Thor, transformed into a small frog, desperately trying to lift his hammer.
- Simonson's Thor also included issue #380, which was told exclusively in splash panels to emphasize the epic scale of the battle with the Midgard Serpent. It worked.
- In a Joss Whedon-written issue of Astonishing X-Men, after meeting up with Colossus while attempting to catch a plane, Wolverine said "I have two words for you," followed a Splash Panel that provides the page image for Fastball Special.
- 300 in its original Comic Book form was nothing but two-page spreads. This created some difficulty when it was collected into a trade paperback, as there would have been a massive crease in the middle of every page, thus why the 300 trade is twice as wide as other graphic novels.
- The Ultimates is rather fond of splash pages, which were taken to their logical extreme at the climax of the Grand Theft America story, where there was a fold-out splash page that was seven or eight pages wide.
- The entirety of the last issue of the Death of Superman storyline was nothing but splash pages.
- The last issue of Watchmen featured several particularly dark and gory splash pages. Said pages are beautiful.
- Earlier in the book there is a two-page splash panel when Adrian Veidt defends himself from an assasin. It doesn't take up the whole of both pages though, its the size of a single page and placed right on the center seam, the only panel in the book span two pages. The reason? The entire chapter's panel layouts are a palindrome and the splashpage is right in the middle, emphasizing the mirrored layouts.
- On most Asterix books, rather than devote several pages to the climactic battle, there is instead a full-page bird's-eye view of the whole thing, often with handy charts and footnotes showing who's doing what to whom.
- Four full-page panels were added to The Crab with the Golden Claws to help pad the adventure out to 62 pages.
- Will Eisner is probably one of the first people to use splash panels in Western comics (or at least is the Trope Codifier). Eisner used splash panels in The Spirit to great success.
- Every issue of Cable & Deadpool opens with a splash page, usually of Deadpool fighting something. In one case, an army of evil clowns.
- The Dark Tower comic uses a whole lot of these, because the art style makes it incredibly difficult to make out anything in a normal-sized panel.
- In Uncanny X-Men #275, Jim Lee drew a two page splash of the X-Men and Starjammers battling the Imperial Guard of the Shiar with no dialogue and just captions with each character's name.
- In Nikolai Dante's "Hero of the Revolution" arc, the readers' first good look at the Battle of St. Petersburg is a massive two-page spread of Jena and Lulu wreaking carnage. The same image was redrawn for the cover, but didn't look as good.
- Philippe Druillet's comics consist almost entirely of splash pages.
- Geof Darrow uses splash pages often, one of his most outstanding instances using this trope was in Shaolin Cowboy where he uses multiple splash pages to depict a gigantic horde of bizarre Mooks.
- In the 70s and early 80s, after it got the colour pages, Judge Dredd would always open with a two-page full-colour spread that gave a preview of the main story, which was told in the next four, black and white pages. This practise faded when colour became more common.
- When writing Sonic the Hedgehog, Karl Bollers seemed to use two-pages splashes far too often. He put FIVE PAGES of splash panels in the first part of Home-- that's nearly a quarter of the twenty-two page issue!
- The team behind the current Green Lantern series, as well as Blackest Night, really really really likes big, incredibly detailed splash pages. They also put a four page one into the end of Blackest Night, showing off the heroes that were brought back by White Power Rings.
- In The Warlord Mike Grell would usually have a two-page splash panel an issue.
- Used in The Beano especially in older Bash Street Kids strips especially when it used to be called When The Bell Rings.
- Bookhunter has a two-page splash to establish the impressive size of the Oakland Public Library.
- Empire State has a two-page splash of a southwestern American desert, and a few more of New York City upon Jimmy's arrival there.
- Some later Cerebus the Aardvark comics played with the idea of 2-page splash panels by putting the left half on the final page of an issue and the right half on the first page of the next.
- Astonishing Spider-man and Wolverine has a two page splash of Wolverine remembering his history and htinking about what else he would have wanted to do followed three page splash of Wolverine standing with the phoenix gun in his hand about to shot doom the living planet.
- Irregular Webcomic occasionally uses giant splash panels for dramatic scenery reveals: here and here.
- Order of the Stick also makes regular use of these, often while referencing the fact naturally, as seen here.
- Girl Genius does occasional two-page splash panel twice the width of a regular page. While the two single pages are displayed full size (so the dialogue can be read) Phil and Kaja Foglio always offer an "elegant and finely-crafted link" to a smaller version of the full panel.
- As Sluggy Freelance has gone on, Pete Abrams has used splash panels more and more frequently, such as the ending to "Oceans Unmoving", or the "chicken" panel that fans insisted be made into a t-shirt.
- Blip: The fight between Liz and the Vampire Hunter was rendered almost entirely in splash panels.
- Wapsi Square makes use of these from time to time, such as Tina unwinding at the end of the day here. However, considering the large size of normal panels, they are seldom needed.
- Blade of Toshubi has a two-page splash panel here.