Friday, June 11, 2010

Putting the Words in the Bubbles

The response I hear the most when people find out that I write comic books for a living is "Oh, you put the words in the bubbles."

The person who actually, physically writes all of the words into the bubbles (actually called word balloons) is the letterer. This job used to be done completely by hand, but is now more often done using a computer. I don't do this job, and I don't think this is what people mean when they respond about me putting the words in the bubbles.

Instead I think their assumption is that I just write the dialogue which appears in the balloons, and that the artist comes up with all of the visuals all on their own and somehow the two elements come together to form a complete story.

The truth of the matter (and this in no way is meant to suggest that the artists don't make valuable contributions of their own) is that I also have to describe everything that goes on in each panel on ever page of a comic book story, usually including how many panels are on each page, so that the artist knows what to draw. That means I have to describe the locations where the story takes place, whether it is night or day, raining, snowing, or hot and sunny, what the characters look like, what they are doing, what their expressions are like, if they are holding anything I need to describe what those things are and how important they'll be for the rest of the story and so on.

Since this is the part of creating comics that I know the most about, most of my posts here will concern different aspects of writing comic book stories. For right now, compare the panel above, (which was taken from "Man of a Thousand Monsters" written by me pencilled by Robert Pope, inked by Scott McRae, lettered by Swands, colored by Heroic Age, and edited by Harvey Richards) with the except from the script for the very same panel shown below. You can make the images larger by clicking on them.

Next week I will walk you through the entire process of how a comic book story is created from beginning to end.

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