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The Visual Language of Comics
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2013/05/16
5:00pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Been a comic book fan all my life, though most of the content I get these days is online. Still vividly recall my first encounter with “inflation,” when the clerk at my local drug store told me “Sorry, that comic’s not 10 cents anymore. It now costs 12 cents.” At age 7 I wasn’t about to argue with the guy, but I was puzzled enough to ask my parents what that was all about. They tried to explain about how the cost of paper and ink determines the cost of a comic. Not sure I really understood, but I wasn’t happy about those extra 2 cents. But I digress …

The reason for my post: Check out this interesting essay about how words and panels get arranged in comics. I had not heard of the “Z-path” concept, and found that fascinating. Likewise the reversal of order in some eastern languages (which I can’t read).

The use of (any) language in a comic strip seems to have a totally different set of rules compared to normal written language. Seems like more artistic license is permitted, and creative use of symbols along with words is encouraged. This was an interesting thread on “grawlix” I encountered while researching more online.

No real question being asked here, but I thought other forum members might find those concepts interesting, so I wanted to share those links. My take is that authoring a comic strip is more about art and less about language. Even the shape of a “word balloon” conveys meaning. And grammar goes out the window.

2013/05/16
11:02pm
Ron Draney
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You and I must be just about the same age. It was shortly after I started buying comics that the price went from ten to twelve cents too.

I can’t pin it down even to within a few years, but in my lifetime they finally gave up on ending every sentence with an exclamation point (all dialogue was in caps back in those days, before someone decided that that meant yelling). I overlooked it most of the time, but every so often it would hit me that Clark Kent and friends were ridiculously excitable: I JUST HAD A HAM SANDWICH! TOO BAD THE GUY AT THE DELI WAS OUT OF MUSTARD! BUT HE GAVE ME AN EXTRA PICKLE TO MAKE UP FOR IT! NICE FELLOW!

2013/05/17
2:41am
RobertB
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Is there a word for how drawn characters can become like real people over time?  – albeit some seeming quite sad and mysterious: is Beetle Bailey so cool or sad that he never looks up from under his cap? Why is Nancy’s aunt Fritzi always dressed up immaculately only to zip in and out making comments so flat she’s either scarily profound or just plain scary ?

2013/05/17
5:23am
Glenn
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I enjoyed the question on the number of grawlix characters and their relationship to the number of letters in the word being bleeped. While I recognize there are few rules, I would certainly consider it sloppy not to have the character count match. This suggests to me a one-to-one relationship. Which brings me to the new phrase I learned in the discussion link: leet speak. While I recognize that grawlix is typically a random string of characters, I personally like take it one step further to make them appear like the words they substitute for, and these makes it a form of leet speak (I’m not sure if all of these symbols will display correctly):
@$$
$#!+
6!+©#
≠∩¢≤
‽Я!¢≤
¢☺©≤

You get the point. I have an entire alphabet with several choices for some of the letters: ¢©. Surprisingly, some look better in some contexts than in others. For example, the same letter does not have to be the same symbol when it is not consecutive, but double letters just don’t look right to me unless I use the same character for both.

Is that wrong? Do you think less of me that I actually have such an alphabet and have put this much thought into it?

9£€ππ

2013/05/17
7:04am
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Glenn said

I enjoyed the question on the number of grawlix characters and their relationship to the number of letters in the word being bleeped. While I recognize there are few rules, I would certainly consider it sloppy not to have the character count match. This suggests to me a one-to-one relationship. Which brings me to the new phrase I learned in the discussion link: leet speak. While I recognize that grawlix is typically a random string of characters, I personally like take it one step further to make them appear like the words they substitute for, and these makes it a form of leet speak (I’m not sure if all of these symbols will display correctly):
@$$
$#!+
6!+©#
≠∩¢≤
‽Я!¢≤
¢☺©≤

You get the point. I have an entire alphabet with several choices for some of the letters: ¢©. Surprisingly, some look better in some contexts than in others. For example, the same letter does not have to be the same symbol when it is not consecutive, but double letters just don’t look right to me unless I use the same character for both.

Is that wrong? Do you think less of me that I actually have such an alphabet and have put this much thought into it?

9£€ππ

6£€ππ,

As someone who tried to fill up the alphabet with roll playing games, why would I think less of you?

BTW, I had a little trouble with your third entry. Would 8!+©# be a little clearer? (After all, you can see that I re-spelled your name because I think that looks better to me (the 9 looks to me like a non-descending, lower case g, while the 6 looks upper case)).

Emmett(I don’t have 6£€ππ’$ alphabet)Redd

2013/05/18
11:56am
New River, AZ, USA
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Ron Draney said: You and I must be just about the same age. It was shortly after I started buying comics that the price went from ten to twelve cents too.

The year was probably 1958 ± 1. I was born in 1951. Fair disclosure: The photo for my avatar is about 10 years old. These days there’s a bit more gray in my hair, and my forehead is slightly larger.  :)

I’d forgotten about how comics used to use all caps with an exclamation point after every sentence. Curious about just when mainstream cartoonists broke that pattern, but could find no info online about that. I say “mainstream” since there were always the outliers (like Zap comics) who pretty much did whatever they wanted to do. Didn’t read many comics after I got outa high school, so I have no personal experience of the transition you noted.

2013/05/19
12:46pm
Glenn
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EmmettRedd said

BTW, I had a little trouble with your third entry. Would 8!+©# be a little clearer? (After all, you can see that I re-spelled your name because I think that looks better to me (the 9 looks to me like a non-descending, lower case g, while the 6 looks upper case)).

Emmett(I don’t have 6£€ππ’$ alphabet)Redd

I think you are right about the G=6, g=9. Now you have be returning to my alphabet to make a distinction between upper- and lower-case letters!

2013/05/20
3:03pm
Dick
Fort Worth, TX
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Ron Draney said:

I can’t pin it down even to within a few years, but in my lifetime they finally gave up on ending every sentence with an exclamation point (all dialogue was in caps back in those days, before someone decided that that meant yelling). I overlooked it most of the time, but every so often it would hit me that Clark Kent and friends were ridiculously excitable: I JUST HAD A HAM SANDWICH! TOO BAD THE GUY AT THE DELI WAS OUT OF MUSTARD! BUT HE GAVE ME AN EXTRA PICKLE TO MAKE UP FOR IT! NICE FELLOW!

Nearly all comics still use all caps.  Maybe not so many exclamation points but I really don’t remember seeing an excess of those.

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