Several months back I wrote a blog about the “sounds of silence”, where I explored the way creators choose to portray (or not portray) sound effects in comic pages. I won’t rehash that entry here (that’s what the link is for, after all), but as today’s comic goes live with its whumpings and bumpings and ble-e-e-gh, the subject is on my mind again.

For instance, how do you spell the word ‘okay’? The way I just did? Or are you more of an ‘o.k.’ or ‘ok’ person? Or are you Raymond Chandler who always insisted on spelling it ‘okey’, and screw you if you didn’t like it? Do your characters say “damn it!”, “damnit!” or “dammit!” ? Do they just “sigh” or do they bust out with an Alan Moore-style “huaaaaauuugh!” ?

It occurred to me how much these little variations can mark stylistic differences between one creator and another, similar to the way a handwriting expert examines how someone loops their signature. For instance if you know about Chandler and a dude offered you a “lost manuscript” of his where ‘okey’ was spelled differently, you might get very suspicious. If you picked up an Alan Moore comic which was chock full of ‘ZOT!’ and ‘KA-POW!’ and people weeping with word bubbles of ‘Sob!’, it would seem like something was very off… like a Rob Liefeld drawing displaying realistic anatomy and a lack of pouches.

But so long as a creator is alive, there’s also certainly no prohibition against them trying different ways of doing things. Not every Moore comic has that same sound effects moratorium that Watchmen or V for Vendetta had. Moore even penned a “Writing for Comics” guide in 1985 that he nowadays disavows as crap that should be forgotten rather than studied… just as an example of how people can change their thinking, even on matters they seem quite adamant about for the moment. Hell there’s stuff in this very blog series I can go back and read and scratch my head wondering what “that guy” was thinking.

There’s also the possibility where comics are concerned that the writer isn’t doing their own lettering, which could mean you’re looking at the stylistic preferences of another person entirely. But if they are doing their own lettering, all the choices they make from bubble structure to font to bolding to even how they choose to convey expressions and sounds can get pretty individualistic. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, so long as the story gets told effectively. I think it’s actually part of what makes comics fun, especially in the independent scene.

Plus, you have no idea how long it took me to come up with a visual way to express the sound a goat makes, funky font and all. This is my onomatopoeia, mm hmm. There are many like it, but this one is mine.