Text is an important component is the visual storytelling of a comic book or graphic novel. It can appear in a Speech Bubble, Caption, or as a Sound Effect. The style these appear in can give visual cues to the tone, volume, and emotion of the speaker or sound. In other cases it could also be an extension of the character themselves. An example of this would be the Sandman graphic novels where each main character has their own text designed as an extension of themselves. This following section breaks down how we have chosen to describe text as it appears in comics based on our work with The Walking Dead.
A Speech Bubble is a balloon that comes from mouth of character. What is written inside is what the character is saying.
Common Speech Bubbles are as follows:
“I ain’t going back! I’ll die first!”, he screams.
“No.” She says sharply.Or
“Rick!” She yells.
"Oh my god…" she whispered.
"Where am I?" he thinks.
As mentioned, speech bubbles are rarely described, but there are occasions when the appearance of the bubble is important to the story, or to the visuals of the comic. Here are a few examples; please note that this list is definitely non-exhaustive.
Describe the bubble if it is different than a standard bubble or in one of the following instances.
His answer appears in four speech bubbles which form a chain and cross over the gutter into the next panel.
The tail of a speech bubble leads up and out of frame as the man holding his shoulder says, “Jim…Stop…It’s over.”
For example, if two people are talking, and one speaker’s bubble covers the other person up in some way, this may be a strong visual representation of “talking over someone”
These do not emanate from any character. The text often appears in a rectangular or square box, or the comic may use its own style, like a banner. Sometimes a caption may appear as floating text. Please see floating caption for more information. They can signify that a narrator is speaking, or the thoughts of a character. Make sure to clarify this in your description, if it is necessary to the narration.
Floating caption: This is when a caption is not in any sort of box and appears as floating text over the panel image. This can be described in a similar fashion as mentioned above.
Floating caption says…
These are words that appear outside of speech bubbles and captions and are used to represent a sound. Common examples are the sound of someone falling, or being hit. These words are often in a different and larger font than other text.
If the sound effect is a full word or phrase, you can insert the sound effect into your description with
strong style. Just remember the sound comes after the action.
If the sound effect is not a full word or phrase, replace the sound effect word with a phrase that explains what the sound is like. For example:
Sssssss can be replaced with
A Hissing Sound.
Only describe details of the word if it is part of the visual narration. For example, when the word for the sound overlaps the top of the frame and over the gutter above.
The background is grey with rain pouring down.
The sound thunders over them in large lined all capital letters that expand the length of the panel.
Sometimes a sound will appear within a speech bubble. In this case describe it as you would dialogue.
“Oof!” Rick grunts sharply.
“Sniff, sniff” He smells something in the air.
Breath Marks: Breath marks are little lines that emanate from text within a speech bubble. This will almost always be a “Gasp” or a “Sigh” or a “Huff” - something breathy. They do not need to be described as their use is outlined in the Producer’s Notes. Simply describe it as you would dialogue, like in the
“Sniff, sniff” example given below.
“Sniff, sniff.” He smells something in the air.