One of the really cool things about comic making is that we have so many tools at our disposal that people who tells stories in other mediums don’t necessarily have. One of those is the ability to show a character’s inner monologue without interrupting the external narrative or an actual conversation. Movies and tv shows will do inner monologue voiceovers occasionally (Peep Show is the most obvious example), but it’s definitely trickier to pull off. Thought bubbles allow comics to be more introspective in that way than film.
Given how useful thought bubbles are, it seems odd that – at least in my observation – they’re being used less and less frequently in modern comics. Since I noted this trend I’ve been thinking a lot about whether, and how, I would use speech bubbles in my own comic. Even when my character is on her own, I find myself preferring to simply have my character talk aloud to herself than use a thought bubble, despite it being less realistic. The only scenario I could think of in which I’d use a speech bubble would be to make it obvious that a character was thinking something they didn’t want the character they were in conversation with to know.
Old superhero comics, like the snippet from Spiderman above, are chock-full of thought bubbles. To some extent, these old thought bubbles can seem a bit ham-fisted. In the example above, just about everything Spidey is thinking could probably be conveyed without text: in the first panel, he could be obviously holding his arm in pain. In the third, a simple look of shock would do; the reader can fill in the cause. So could the demise of thought bubbles actually be part of a trend towards more subtle comics, rather than a trend away from introspection? I think that’s possible, but it doesn't quite explain why I would avoid thought bubbles even for things that are pretty clearly part of an internal monologue.
Do you use thought bubbles in your comic? Do you think they’re outdated?
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HippieVan at 12:00AM, Sept. 16, 2016
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