Learn how the placement of speech balloons can make a comic scene feel like people are talking over one another. Overcrowding can sometimes be a good thing in the case of an argument or a wordy speech.
- It's always a good idea not to overcrowd your panels, or pages with words, and balloons, and caption boxes, well almost always anyway. I'm gonna show you how intentionally overcrowding some panels can really add to the scene. Sometimes your word balloons and text can be used to help make a scene more frantic or unruly. Think about the last time you were in a crowded restaurant, or out on a city street, you're surrounded by voices, bits and pieces of other people's conversations. Usually, what's being spoken isn't important to your life.
It might not be important to your story either, but it could be, and balloons can also be used to help populate the panel, and visually let us know we're in a loud place with lots of different voices. Let me show you what I mean here on this Aggregate panel. You can see, just without even having real words in those balloons, we already feel the noise of this scene, all the people looking on, you know, oh my God, did she really do that? Who is she? Ya ya.. They could be saying a multitude of things, but the point is, she doesn't care, she's headed forward, and these voices are kinda just surrounding her, and some of them, you see, are even overlapped, because it's not really important what exactly they're saying, you just want the reader to know that there is a lot being said, and she's in a loud place.
Without those balloons, it doesn't have that same effect at all, it's like everyone's kind of in shock, or just silently standing by. So, you can see how just, even again, without any real text in there, we're getting that feeling of a loud place, and that murmuring of gossip. Maybe the page you're working on isn't so much of a crowd, or a street scene with lots and lots of voices, but lots and lots of dialogue being spoken by very few people. Many times, when you have a couple of characters in a heated debate or an argument, the balloon placement can add to the intensity of that scene.
You can even go so far as to overlap speech balloons to show once person getting cut off by the other. Check this out. So here, we again have a page from The Aggregate, these are final lines, but it's just a work in progress as far as the color goes, so I just dropped a flat blue in there. Here in panel one, again, we don't have any real words, but you can see the balloons are connected by these in between tails. What that means is, it's one continuous thought, or one piece of information that they're saying, and they're kind of broken up by pauses, or dramatic exclamation points, or whatever it might be, as opposed to here in panel two, where you have three different speech bubbles that are very obviously, and intentionally not connected, because what you're getting is, you're getting that beat, or that rhythm that we talked about in the action scene where it's like, get away from me, I hate you, I hate you.
All three different points, but definitely like, you can picture her hitting him every time she's saying one of those, and then we have this nice softer moment where it's, can we just go, moment of silence, his apology, and then as she walks away, she says, "it doesn't matter", so you can see how a lot of balloons at the top of this page can really show you the argument, and then as it gets thinner, and thinner, and thinner, this last line, "it doesn't matter", is all the more meaningful, so it's all about that context. So, think about what you're trying to say, and the speed at which you wanna reveal those lines, and how you want to reveal those lines, and the rhythm of what's actually being said.
So, here's another page, which you've seen before, and interestingly enough, we used this page earlier when we were talking about how less is more, and sometimes not using any balloons whatsoever, any text whatsoever, and now we're gonna do the opposite, so we're gonna use this page as an example of, when you would, and how you would throw in text for a speech, or maybe, maybe your villain is monologuing his evil plans, and there's just a whole lot to be said on one page, so when I was starting out drawing comics, and a lot of people that I know did this as well, if you have a lot of text, and one person has to say a whole bunch of stuff, your first inclination is to do something like this, which is terrible.
It looks awful, it's boring, and they might as well be reading a paperback novel, or something So, here's a better way to do it, a more obviously visually appealing way to do it, again, these balloons are connected, because it's all one piece of information, or one thought, and then there's that nice pause as she moves down to this one, and you're gonna wanna break up your text that's in your script as best you can between, like the beats of what she actually has to say, you know, make sure that these are intentional breaks between this one, and this one, and that one, and then a whole 'nother break between the ending of whatever it is that she has to say.
And once again, it's just really, really important to always keep in mind that top-left to bottom-right flow of the page, following those balloons very intentionally through the artwork that you, or the artist, worked so hard on. So, just to show you that concept again of the speech, or the monologue, or a whole lot of text in a little amount of space, here's another page from The Woods, Michael Dialynas' artwork, and you can see here from panel two, leading into panel three, we have this nice speech, which is broken up in, you know, very matter of fact sections intentionally, and then that kind of reveals you into who's saying what, like we talked about in the big reveal in some of our other pages earlier, and Michael did such a great job leaving space in the artwork for all that text that he knew he had to plan for.
So, you can see how, even though at first, it may look like you're overcrowding your panels, or adding too much text, sometimes a lot of text can really enhance the story, and help move things along.
- Writing left to right, top to bottom
- Adding script placeholders and rough balloon placements
- Pausing and pacing
- Showing inner dialog
- Adding sound effects
- Putting it all together in InDesign