Posts Tagged ‘thought balloons’

Word Balloons in Visual Space


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Monday, March 22, 2010


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Clowes' "Wilson", from The New Yorker

Joe’s excellent post on thought balloons got me thinking about comics balloons (or text frames) in general: not just thought balloons but also word balloons, narrative boxes, and labels (like the famous arrows in Dick Tracy which diagrammatically call attention to two-way-radio-watches and other items of interest). It would be great to have a history of text frames in comics. There have been stabs here and there by scholars. Thierry Smolderen’s “Of Labels, Loops, and Bubbles” in Comic Art #8 is a good start.

About thought balloons: When did they emerge? I know Harold Gray was very chary of using them: he only used thought balloons a handful of times in his 44 year run on Little Orphan Annie. I think this was deliberate. While his characters where gabby they were also secretive – this is true not just of Warbucks but even Annie, who never says all she knows. Gray wanted to keep his characters mysterious, hence he avoided thought balloons.

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The Problem with American Vampires Is That They Just Don’t Think


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Thursday, March 18, 2010


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A few days ago Robot 6 directed me to probably my favorite piece of comics publishing hype in a while, a short interview with Stephen King promoting the new Vertigo series American Vampire—King is scripting a back-up feature for issues #1-5, his first-ever original work for comics (as opposed to the various adaptations of his prose over at Marvel). Specifically, I was fascinated by a short bit concerning the comic’s editing process and how it bumped up against King’s take on the form:

One example:Thought bubbles—those puffy, dotted clouds that were a staple of early comics—have been phased out. “I got this kind of embarrassed call from the editors saying, ‘Ah, Steve, we don’t do that anymore.’ ‘You don’t do that anymore?’ I said. ‘No, when the characters speak, they speak. If they’re thinking, you try to put that across in the narration, in the little narration boxes.’” So King happily re-wrote to fit the new style—though he still laments the loss of the thought bubble. “I think it’s a shame to lose that arrow out of your quiver. One of the nice things about the written word as opposed to the spoken word in a movie is that you can go into a character’s thoughts. You do it in books all the time, right?”

This is great for several reasons, not the least of them being the mental image of our ky?-level candidate folding his legs and meditatively accepting instruction; I mean, forgive the presumptuousness, but I think that Stephen King maybe, probably, almost certainly could just petition his editor for a special thought ballooning exception, but he won’t, because he wants to understand how comics are done. Indeed, King was brought on to the project after its initialization, and is duly credited below primary writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque on the cover, in keeping with a supplementary scribe’s status—by all visible indication, he’s going native.

But that got me thinking—which tribe? And what’s their damn problem with thought balloons (as I call ‘em)? It’s helpful to take closer look at what’s being said, and—since the comic in question was released just today—what’s being done.
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