Thursday, January 6, 2011


Sound in a purely visual medium is problematic.

I generally avoid it.  Type and emanata are the only tools available, and both of them tend to compete with the visual story rather than compliment it.

The roundness of a word balloon, for instance, is hard to manage inside of a square panel.  The contrast between straight and curve is fierce, and (unless artfully placed) distracts from the image and feels like clutter.  All emanata is inherently foreign to the drawing.  And the more representational the drawing, the more out of place the emanata or type.  Symbol fights representation.

This is how I deal:


I cheat.  

I treat elements within the panel in much the same way I approach the panels within a page: I subdivide.  A round balloon is a foreign object, but a squared balloon is a subdivision.  It's clean.  If I quarantine my emanata with a square balloon, I can keep it from fighting with my image.  I like a clean read, and with so much happening on any given page of comics, I have to cheat any way I can to get it.

If I were more talented, I wouldn't have to resort to this nonsense.  I'm constantly impressed with the elegant solutions I see from other artists and letterers.  

Also, not everyone wants a clean read or a harmonious page.  This is how I like to MAKE comics, but I personally enjoy reading intentionally frantic, carefully cluttered work when it's done well.  I picked up MITCHUM by Blutch last week while I was in LA, and he doesn't even bother with panel borders for most of the book.  I wouldn't even know how to approach that at this point.

Maybe one day... but not today.


Joey Majdali said...

I quite enjoy reading your comics-theory. Also, that panel looks very nice!

Scott C. Gwynn said...

That's crazy interesting.

Michael Mercer said...

Yah it's great getting inside of your head. I'm ordering your book with my next paycheck. Can't wait for it! Can I get it signed?

Sam said...

I'm loving on that phone. Sound effects are tough.. especially since if you want to spell it out, you've only got 26 extremely limited sounds to convey a billion different kinds of noises. I like it when cartoonists can take advantage of the visual medium and represent noises with symbols rather than letters. BUt that presents a whole host of new problems, I guess..
Anyway, this panel looks great. Keep up the superior blogging!

JAKE WYATT said...

Glad this isn't completely boring-- writing through my decisions helps me make better ones.

I'm with you, Sam. I prefer symbol-sound to onomatopoeia any day. For some reason, though, I can't make it work in stories that play 'straight.' Feels quirky and out of place. Probably, though, this is a consequence of me not doing it right.

Will Strong said...

Will Eisner called sound balloons a device of desperation. He made whole books without them. That's crazy difficult to do and still have it read.

Anthony Holden said...

Cheating by distraction with low cut tops?

I was once told that you can throw any rules about composition out the window if there are boobs in the image.

JAKE WYATT said...

Aaaaand I've been outed.

Did I take it too far? I tried not to take it too far.