Tag Archives: thought bubbles

Rambling on thought bubbles and word balloons

I’m finding that, like it or not, I’m having to make some style decisions — which I hate — to me: it’s never good enough. One has only to browse through the gallery of ConceptArt.org or the CGSociety to get thoroughly intimidated. I have some lofty goals in creating this graphic novel: not only a great story, which for some reason I seem to be pretty happy with, but also in the art which, in my case, is a blend of CG models and stylistic effects, the latter of which is where I am struggling most. I don’t want this to be super-realistic or to suggest that these images are somehow real. I have no interest in going there. But I do want the images to have certain richness and a style that pulls you into linger on the image while at the same time not distracting from the story. Not that I think that either one is a deal breaker, since I have seen plenty of successful graphic novels that, I personally, find difficult to look at and others that look so good that you find yourself looking forward to the next page more for the art than the story. Both can be satisfying. Certainly, the overriding objective is to achieve that elusive chemistry between image and story. Having said that, I do think that CG begs a certain amount of detail and the design fiction influence that is so much behind this project more or less demands that you can stare at the thing if you want to know more; that you get the context and the way it (whatever it is) is made.

Which brings me to the next stylistic decision: the inimitable thought bubble or word balloon and how to handle the onomatopoeia — ratta, tatta tat and all that. Thought I haven’t read a solid rationale for the thought bubble, some historians attribute the conceptual origin of word balloon to breath on a cold day that puffs from out of our mouths. Unlike the movies, in comics you can’t hear what I’m thinking you have to see it. The question arises, stylistically, in how you render that without distracting from the art. In comics where the art is rich and textured, Watchmen comes to mind,




one could argue that the bright, white, word balloon, seems to detract (though not much). But, if find that as I race forward to find out when the bomb will explode, I am focusing on the words to propel me, then I am sacrificing (for the moment) the image, not studying it as it may merit. They are not making that seamless blend. I wonder if my word balloons and or thought bubbles can be of more equal value, more seamless as in the movies, so that one does not necessarily leap out at me like the stark white balloon in the dark alley (full of it’s own nuance). Can they be seen as more of a unit and then the reader chooses? I think so.


The beauty of this medium is that anything goes. Breaking rules and starting new ones is what comics is all about. At one level, it demands it.


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