Do I use films for reference? NEVER
Still from Drive (2011) v panel from Moon Knight #5
*COUGH* Okay, this week’s MOON KNIGHT #5 is an exception, as there’s deliberate homages to particular films.
To properly answer your question though, yes I do use films for reference, but only to inform; I don’t take stills from movies and use them in my pages. Generally, I find films great resources for immersive reference; I take advantage of the research teams and art crews for the background material they find. I used Terrence Malick's 'The New World' for some detailed Native American reference in my AMERICAN VAMPIRE story, for example. I often see some screen compositions that give me ideas. Six Feet Under had a huge impact on my sense of storytelling, especially knowing when to pull back for certain emotional beats.
Six Feet Under, S4 E01; ‘Falling Into Place’
As regards action scenes, I’ve often looked at action movies and looked at how fights are stages, how they’re paced, etc. I remember John Woo’s 'Hard Boiled' being a particular revelation to me, for example. But, it’s not like you can take a filmed sequence and just transfer it over to a comics page, or take stills and plant them into a scene. While they’re both visual mediums, they work totally differently; the storytelling of a page is dictated by the actions that happen on the page, and even the shape of the page. .
Take this DEADPOOL page, for example. The script asks for certain things and while I could try and essentially copy-and-paste shots from movies, that’s just not going to flow storytelling-wise. Collaging a fight scene just isn’t going to work. In this page I use the action to deliberately direct the reader around the page. If the page were a different format, the composition of the panels would be radically different.
That’s the type of thing you need to keep in mind when drawing comics. The storytelling. Consider the action and the space available to you, that’s what will make it a great comics page. Once you’ve figured that out, you can always find/make the reference to support your storytelling decisions. So by all means, study film, but as with any reference, the results are better when they inform the craft and not dictate it.