Read Between the Lines

On Thursday we discussed Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, in particular the role lettering plays in comics. As a form of literature comics project meaning very differently than a novel or an essay. The most glaring difference is the visual reference that makes up a substantial part of the actual storytelling. While the words are important, there are far fewer words in comics than in a regular book. This is mostly because the actions are described through the drawings rather than the actual text. That being said the words still provide a deeper meaning, comics simply do this differently. In comics there is an artistic component to the words that contributes to the story in the same way use of language or word choice does to a regular book. The style of lettering can play as much of a role in setting the overall tone or mood of the comic as the style of drawing or use of color. Choosing the right font is a vital part of the comic making process. The wrong font can destroy the integrity of a piece. A crazy, happier looking font accompanied with bright pink onomatopoeias would not fit in a Frank Millar comic, or a serious batman story. Changing the lettering alters the comic in the same way our disassembly assignment showed how changing simple elements of the panel art can change the story. Replacing the font of a dark storyline with heavy, bold visuals has the potential to make the story comical, maybe even giving it a sense of satire. Most people have limited experience with reading comics, that when they do they race through the words as they normally would. We would normally pay no mind to the lettering, or appearance of the text. Understanding comics calls one to analyze elements of the literary work they normally would not give much thought to. Comic lettering is not simply thrown together. Lots of thought is put into the lettering, its presentation is not accidental. When you take the time to analyze the lettering of a comic you realize just how much it adds to the narrative, as well as its role in establishing the overall atmosphere of the world that is being presented.

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