Both films and comics can tell stories, so what are the key differences between them? In 1915, American filmmaker D. W. Griffith developed and worked out some rules of continuity editing with Hollywood directors, such as matching eye lines and the 180-degree rule.

180 degree rule
Figure 1: 180-degree rule. (Barrance, 2013)

But there were filmmakers looked for more way of telling stories. German directors like F. W. Murnau and Robert Wiene experimented with cinematic depictions of the subconscious.

The Kuleshov Effect is a typical subsequence of using montage, it is proved that audiences tend to connect scenes together and complete the story in their head.

5 Methods of Montage
[Figure 2: 5 Methods of Montage. (Blackmagicdesign, 2014)]

Sergei Eisenstein divided montage methods into 5 types, which are Metric, Rhythmic, Tonal, Over-tonal, and Intellectual. He believed the intellectual montage is the most important method. (Crow, 2014)

Figure 3: Understanding Comics. (McCloud, 2015)

I believe there are two key differences between film and comics. Firstly, unlike film, comics can layout multiple scenes on the same page. Also, there is no restriction on the speed of reading. Readers can always pause or jump to other scenes. While watching a film, the picture on the screen vanishes at the moment of its perception. (Fell, 1986) Comic panels can be unconnected to each other, but the reader will still be able to work out what the story is, quite similar to watching a montage film. As written by Scott McCloud, Comics is all about closure. Secondly, sound can be used in films to create different atmospheres within seconds, but in comics, the authors can only use visual techniques to represent sounds or to indicate the change of atmospheres.

Comparison of the same scene in comics and film of Death Note

Death Note is one of my favourite comics. The story is based in Japan, a character named Light Yagami, an extremely intelligent high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook from a Shinigami (which means god of death) named Ryuk. One can write a person’s name on this notebook, the person whose name is written will die (terms and conditions applied, as always). Light attempts to use the power to make the world ‘cleansed of evil’. However, there is a mystery detective known as L believes this behaviour is nothing but simply murder.

He, therefore, tries to trace and stop Light.

Figure 4: Rules of the Death Note. (Wikia, no date)

The same story has been made into comic books, animation, and films featuring real persons. I include the scene when Light first met Ryuk (god of death) from the film and from the comic book.

Death Note Scene: Light Meets Ryuk

Film version


Comic Book version




Light tells Ryuk what he went through (missing in film version)




In the comic book, Light meets Ryuk and shows the notebook and then tells what he thinks about the notebook and what his plan is. In the film version, the scenes were re-arranged. Light does not meet Ryuk at home but on the street. Although all Light’s thoughts in the comic book are not in the film, some shots of Light’s face are given to show his feeling instead.

There are significant differences between cinematic and comics story-telling. In comics, characters can show their thoughts or ‘playback’ their memory with text to show what happened. But in a film, doing the same thing may cause confusion, and it is unnecessary as there are all sorts of elements can be used such as sound, light, shot angle, and so on. Overall, a film is a time-based form of presenting, and comics are more spatial and multi-directional. Therefore the same story may look very different when made into films and comics.


Crow, J. (2014) A Visual Introduction to Soviet Montage Theory: A Revolution in Filmmaking. Open Culture. Available at: (Accessed: 11/04/2016)

Fell, J. (1986) Film and the Narrative Tradition: Excerpt from ‘Mr. Griffith, meet Winsor Mc Cay. London: University of California Press.


Figure 1: 180 degree rule. Barrance, T. (2013) The 180 degree rule, looking space and eyeline match. [image] Available at: (Accessed: 11/04/2016).

Figure 2: 5 Methods of Montage. Blackmagicdesign. (2014) The History of Cutting – The Soviet Theory of Montage. Available at: (Accessed: 11/04/2016)

Figure 3: Understanding Comics. McCloud, S. (1994) Understanding Comics. William Morrow Paperbacks [image] Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2016)

Figure 4: Rules of the Death Note. Wikia. (no date) Rules of the Death Note. [image] Availabe at: (Accessed: 13/04/2016)

Pages of Death Notes Chapter 1. (no date) Manga Death Note Information. Kissmanga. [image] Available at: (Accessed: 13/04/2016)