30 January 2014

Balloonacy at the B.C.R.

This evening the Boston Comics Roundtable did an activity I invented called Balloonacy. It didn’t pan out exactly as I’d imagined since we’d talked so long about how to make the group more active that there wasn’t as much time left for an actual activity. But I think it was fun and productive for those involved.

I started by drawing the classic ellipsoid balloon with a short pointy tail and the letters “B.C.R.” inside. I posited that that’s the comics equivalent of a sentence with a period at the end. It’s a straightforward statement.

Then I challenged folks to draw balloons in which the lettering, punctuation or other marks inside the balloon, balloon shape, tail shape, or some other visual detail would give the letters “B.C.R.” a different meaning and perhaps sound.

The group then drew (in no particular order):
  • classic thought balloon.
  • dotted whisper balloon.
  • balloon with four tails, for four (or more) people speaking simultaneously.
  • balloon with nine tails over a cityscape to signal a chorus of millions.
  • collage of balloons all saying the same thing.
  • fancy letters for ornate speech.
  • The Yellow Kid with a message on his nightshirt.
  • balloon shaped like a luscious pair of lips.
  • burst balloon for shouting.
  • scroll-shaped balloon with blackletter/Gothic letters for a town crier.
  • three connected balloons each containing one letter for a single, slow, deliberate speaker.
  • three separate balloons each containing one letter pointing to a single depressed figure.
  • three separated balloons each containing one letter with tails pointing different places to denote three speakers.
  • balloon with tail going off the page to an off-panel speaker.
  • block letters and block balloon for a carnival barker.
  • two forms of white letters dropped out of a black balloon, one with the wavery white border that Todd Klein gave to Dream in Sandman. (We also looked at his Delirium balloons.)
  • wavery letters for a spooky voice.
  • icicle-dripping balloon for disdain.
  • two variations of rebuses spelling out “B.C.R.,” one assigned to a mime.
  • balloon with a long, meandering tail suitable for a character who talks and talks without getting to the point.
  • balloon containing musical notes as well as letters for singing.
  • letters strung out on an undulating musical staff for more singing.
  • wavery-bordered balloon with its tail dropping off the bottom of the page where the speaker is collapsing in a faint.
  • two balloons, one overlapping the other to show an interruption.
  • balloon blocked by the side of a panel as something interrupts.
  • vertical balloon containing Japanese kanji sounding approximately like “B.C.R.” 
  • huge letters from a loud character flattening other characters.
  • tiny, lowercase letters within a big balloon for quiet speech.
  • two examples of giant block letters crowding the edges of their balloon.
  • square block letters in a squarish balloon for a real square.
  • letters drawn within concentric radio waves spreading from an antenna.
  • jagged-edged balloon and with a lightning-bolt tail to denote electronic communication.
  • big block letters with small exclamation points instead of periods—verging on a sound effect!
  • round balloon with no tail for a disembodied or off-panel speaker.
  • squarish balloon and lettering for a robot.
  • balloon with its tail ending in a starburst against a window—a recent way of showing that someone is speaking inside that building.
  • various typographical symbols before the letters to indicate profanity.
  • chevrons on either side of the letters and an asterisked footnote to indicate speech in a foreign language (or, some people thought, HTML).
  • tailless thought balloon broken up with breath marks to denote psychic communication.
  • a long, boring speech wallpapered on the back of a panel.
We also came up with three balloons that not everyone agreed on how to interpret.
  • thought balloon with a pointed tail instead of the trail of puffs that thought balloons usually have. Could this indicate thinking aloud?
  • three numbered boxes each containing one letter. I didn’t catch the discussion on that one.
  • balloon butted up against the edge of a panel. That usually means the same thing as a balloon fully inside a panel—it doesn’t seem to reflect anything more than the available space and the preference of the editor and letterer who place that balloon. But perhaps it could have storytelling significance. Say, one dominant character’s speech balloons are always in the center of a panel and another’s are always crowded to one side.
  • word balloon in the shape of a real helium balloon with a knot at the bottom. What might this symbolize?
And that was just balloons. We haven’t yet talked about other ways comics show the invisible.

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