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Meaning of Speech Bubbles in Comics

The visual tool used to represent the speech, dialogue, or conversation of the characters in the comics is called “bubble”. The meaning of speech bubbles in comics will be addressed, with emphasis on their proper use and comics grammar.

the meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Batman por Yale Stewart.
Batman by Yale Stewart. Source: superdstuff.blogspot.co.uk

One of the most important parts of comics is character dialogue. It is one of the features of comics and it is as valuable as the images themselves. They are a great support in the narrative within the comics.

As part of the visual language of comics, bubbles are small expressions in themselves, with their own meaning. They can communicate a situation or context. Therefore, it is important the meaning of speech bubbles in comics to know how to express emotions on a dialogue, nature, the source of the speech, and sounds, for instance.

the meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Batman by Yale Stewart.
Source: Little League #9 by Yale Stewart.
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Normal Bubble
Source: genial.guru

Certainly, the speech bubbles are usually added after the editing and photography of the images. However, at this point in the process for making a comic, you must have the text to be included inside the bubbles. The extension of the text has to be set during the scriptwriting, as well as, the type of bubble to be used; therefore, knowing the meaning of speech bubbles in comics ensures a better choice of each one to correctly communicate the message you want to convey.

Speech bubbles in comics
Source: pensaresdificil.blogspot.com

Normal Speech

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Normal Speech

The “basic” bubble, which often has an oval shape, is used for normal character speech. The “tail” of the bubble should generally point towards the speaker, particularly towards his mouth or the area that produces the sound.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Normal Speech
Source: “All Aboard The Tchoo-Tchoo Train” by Yale Stewart at jl8comic.tumblr.com
Speech bubbles in comics: Normal Speech
Source: mashable.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Vertical Bubble
Source: MsMarshmallow Madness:) — lucidorange: ROTBTFD: Superheroes Comic
The Freelancer's Life - Comic  •  spreefirit xD
Source: The Freelancer’s Life – Comic • spreefirit xD
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics:  Ira, Jinete de dragones  •  Xulia Vicente
Source: Ira, Jinete de dragones • Xulia Vicente
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: variations
Source: gocomics.com

Thoughts

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Thoughts

To express a thought, an idea or that one is daydreaming, the bubble with cloud shape is the right one; though, the shape can also be oval like the basic one. But its tail is formed by a group of circles or ellipses; for example, there are 2 or 3 circles.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Thoughts
Souce: enfemenino.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Thoughts
Source: terapiaintegral.com

Besides, this bubble serves to communicate what animals, plants or things cannot say, as they “do not talk”. A cat’s meow or a dog’s bark, for example, can be represented by onomatopoeias. However, to express their internal dialogue, you can use the cloud bubble.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Thoughts

Captions

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Captions

Rectangular bubbles without a tail are known as captions. They express what the narrator says, in such a way, they support the course of the story. In other words, this space describes in words a given situation, but which would not be attributed to a character. Sometimes they are appreciated as voice-overs. Likewise, they are used for subtitles.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Captions
Source: CBR.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Captions
Source: Harley Quinn/Gallery

Scream

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream

Multi-edged bubbles usually represent screaming or a message out loud but the screams may have a positive or negative connotation. For example, the character is urging his team to try harder. However, the same bubble can be used to insult or express abuse.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream
Source: bleedingcool.com

Depending on the connotation of the message, either negative or positive, the text in its content may have variations in style: bold, larger, or different color, for instance.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream
Source: harleyquinn.org
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream
Source: avatarthelastairbendermemes

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream
Source: Wattpad.com

On the other hand, this bubble can also vary the shape, depending on the intensity of the emotion to be expressed and the style of the comics.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Scream
Source: etsy.com

Electronic Devices

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Electronic Devices

This is used to represent words or sounds coming from an electronic device such as television, telephone, radio, or microphone. The tail of the bubble points towards the device and it looks like lightning. In addition, it can be used for robot and hologram dialogs.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Electronic Devices
Source: Douglas Ernst Blog
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Electronic Devices
Source: Hell Yeah Teen Superheroes
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Electronic Devices
Source: Hell Yeah Teen Superheroes
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Electronic Devices
Source: Douglas Ernst Blog

Whispers

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Whispers

Whispers are presented with a dashed-lined bubble. However, it also represents when saying a secret or speaking in a very low voice. Certainly, the shapes can also vary for greater flexibility.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Whispers
Source: Susurros, por Ogden Whitney en leyendotebeos.blogspot.com

Weakness

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Weakness

The wavy bubble indicates that the speaker is suffering from physical weakness. Likewise, it indicates that a character is exhausted, semi-unconscious, or about to faint. So, its wavy shape reflects the weakness of the character’s voice.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Weakness
Source: thereasonsimbroke.tumblr.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Weakness
Source: elektrarand.tumblr.com

Extended Speech

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech

If the speech or dialogue is too long or a pause is required, the text is distributed into extended speech bubbles.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech
Source: wattpad.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech
Source: lauranoesta.com

Moreover, the extended speech bubble has variations. Dialogues can be interleaving but using a bridge that links the speech bubbles of the same character.

The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech with links
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech with links
Source: ranker.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech with links
Source: historietasdeliniers.blogspot.com
The meaning of speech bubbles in comics: Extended Speech with links
JL8 by Yale Stewart. Source: JL8 Comic

Bibliography

Libros de diseño: Fundamentos del Diseño Gráfico • Ilka Perea Studio
Books for Graphic Designers
  • Acevedo Fernández, Juan.  Para hacer historietas.  Instituto de Estudios Peruanos.  2019.
  • Gómez-Palacio, Bryony; Vit, Armin. Graphic Design Referenced: A Visual Guide to the Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design. Rockport Publishers. 2011.  ISBN-10: 1592537421.
  • Labarre, Nicolas.  Understanding Genres in Comics (Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels). Editorial Palgrave Pivot. 2020. ISBN-10: 3030435539.
  • Leborg, Christian. Gramática Visual. Editorial Gustavo Gili. 2013.
  • Malamed, Connie. Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics That People Understand. Rockport Publishers. 2009.
  • McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels. Editorial William Morrow Paperbacks. 2006. ISBN-10: 0060780940.
  • Poulin, Richard. Fundamentos del Diseño Gráfico. Promopress. 2016.  ISBN-10: 8415967896.
  • Stevenson, Joseph.  How to Draw Manga (Includes Anime, Manga and Chibi) Part 2 Drawing Manga Figures. Editorial Golden Valley Press.  2020. ISBN-10: 1947215272.