Accents, patterns of speech and the like can be a useful tool in introducing characters. In a film or tv show, a character's accent can immediately reveal the character's nationality or social background. And of course, we've all been conditioned by Hollywood movies to identify the bad guy by his sinister, vaguely Eastern European accent.
I've always been annoyed by books that attempt to replicate this effect by spelling things as if a character has an accent. (Zese crêpes, zey make me ‘appy!) It can be effective as well as humourous for short bits of dialogue, but when used repeatedly often seems to interrupt the flow of the text, forcing the reader to “sound out” the words in their head to determine their meaning, rather than sight reading as they normally would. Books have an easy shortcut, however, which is simply to introduce a character with a line like “so-and-so spoke with a heavy French accent,” afterwards proceeding to write the dialogue normally.
Comics are a bit stuck in this regard - it’s awkward to add in narration explaining that a character has an accent, so it generally has to be written into their speech. Most comics simply avoid the issue altogether, instead relying mostly on appearance to reveal character's identities. The comic I'm working on right now takes place on very diverse planet where numerous species of aliens live, so accents would be useful to me. But because written accents are such a pet peeve of mine, I've decided to distinguish between species mostly by skin colour and other physical features.
On the other hand, different languages are not too difficult to convey in comics. I often see artists who place non-English speech in brackets , or add an asterisk and translate it below like in a movie when it happens only rarely. Asterix uses different fonts (see above) which I really like, but which probably wouldn't be suitable for a more serious comic.
Have you ever needed to convey a different accent in your comic? Any tricks? And am I alone in hating written-out accents?
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HippieVan at 12:00AM, Jan. 15, 2016
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