On this page, the two characters are stowaways in the baggage car of a train. The guy in the green cape is hungry. The train has just barely started to move and is going extremely slow, so he thinks maybe he'll just hop off and run for the dining car. However, on the the next page we see there are some guards in the way. Here we're setting up the guards panel and...I dunno, maybe getting some humor out of how slow trains are.
Here's the exercise:
It's amazing how much the human mind will assume, if you just let it.
Here's another example on row three:
There's even one more panel that's a good candidate for simple deletion, and with that change made, we get this page:
See how much more importance each panel has? Can you feel the difference?
The original page was like a storyboard. Each action was painstakingly illustrated. A lot of hard work...but it didn't function that well as a comic. Now, each panel has life and vigor. Not only that, but the information is conveyed with fewer drawings, which means less work, and you get a whole extra row of space to use!
Here's what I figured out from doing this: when unnecessary panels are axed, not only will more information fit on the page, but the reading experience is stronger.
Do this exercise with some of your favorite (or your own!) comics: cover up one panel and see if the previous and the next panel still make sense without it. Whenever I do this with a great comic artist's work (Osamu Tezuka, Carl Barks, Jeff Smith, Bill Watterson, E. C. Segar), I always find that each panel adds something to the story. Taking one out changes the information and the feeling significantly.
I'm not saying eliminate all panels that don't progress the plot directly. There's much to be said for mood and atmosphere (Tezuka especially does it all the time). But there's not anything to be said for wasting your own valuable time and effort. If it doesn't add something, get rid of it.
(There's also combining panels to get more information out of them, but that's another post.)
Until then, good luck with comics!