Volume 3 Page 54
Posted June 5, 2017 at 12:01 am

Panel 2: Really do not care for that straight, awkward-looking word-balloon tail that’s almost touching Thugboy. Nowadays, I much prefer shorter, hook-shaped tails that remain well clear of the speaking character. In fact, here’s a panel showing just such a tendency from Empowered vol. 10, which hits the shelves on June 21:

This may be a trait I picked up from manga, where the word balloons—or “speech bubbles,” if you’re some kind of godless, possibly Canadian or British heathen tragically ignorant about comics lettering—feature tails that are often tiny or almost nonexistent, but still get the job done. A misplaced obsession with exhaustively precise but unnecessary balloon-tail placement is a hallmark of modern, crappy American comics lettering, with the poor characters often threatened by long, needle-shaped “arrows” jabbing menacingly at their faces. What, if I didn’t pretty much poke Thugboy right in the cheek with that balloon tail, would you otherwise think Emp was speaking? No, a vague positional indication is all you need, folks.

Note, by the way, that some mangaka go one daring step further, and leave off balloon tails altogether! You’ve gotta have some serious confidence in your panel composition and the distinctness of your dialogue patterns to pull that trick off, though. Still, I find it worth considering to go “tailless” with word balloons on occasion, as that often looks much better than the ludicrously goofy contortions used by American letters desperate to make sure every single balloon’s tail loops over to its speaker, no matter how goofy that might look.

-Adam Warren

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