Having recently come across comics using ‘sound effects’ in an interesting manner I had thought to write something informative about them. Checking the internet to find out when background sound was first represented in comics I found it hardly necessary as there already exist many informative, learned even, and often long, articles on the subject. I shall be brief.

Comics is a silent medium that has made much of representing sound. Sound Is represented in speech balloons and through text and images using onomatopoeia,

Onomatopoeia is when a spoken word mimics the noise of the object or action it refers to. Reading such a word requires mentally ‘hearing’ it. In a comic the relative size of the image indicating how loud it is to be understood as being.

Artist and writer Roy Crane is credited with pioneering its use in the 1920’s with his newspaper  strip ‘Wash Tubbs. Artists have continued  to innovate, devise and design methods to depict sound and its variations in order to heighten the narrative.

Balloons and their contents can vary in form, presentation and colour to represent shouting, whispering, unspoken thought, tone of voice, an individual, mechanised or electronic speech, symbols indication emotion or swearing.

Disembodied sound effects are limited only the artist’s imagination and intention.

All this requires from the reader an understanding of the form and a sophisticated mental translation that would seem to confirm my contention that comics require the use of more cognitive processes, more parts of the brain, than any other narrative form.,


1. CC Beck - Captain Marvel

2  Roy Crane - Wash Tubbs

3 Erica Eng - Fried  Rice

4  Katushiro Otomo - Akira

5  Mark Harrison -The Out

6  Unidentified

7. George Herriman - Krazy Kat

8 Unidentified

9 Wally Woods - Mad Magazine

10  Arthur Ranson - Button Man  ( and why not?)

All copyrights acknowledged

Submitted by Andy Walker on Sat, 2020-12-12 14:05


Great little article Arthur,

Yes, it really is a brilliant medium, yet to be bettered I think; it's sometimes easy to overlook how well sound can be conveyed in comics.

Wishing you a cool Yule!


Submitted by Arthur on Sun, 2020-12-13 12:22


Hullo Andy,

thank you.

Comics are a funny old medium - still pretty much down market but capable of so much.

Merry Christmas to you too.



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