01 advert for OVALTINE , Collier's Magazine November 11th 1933

02. R.H., Proteus Redividus, The Art of Wheedling or Insinuation in General and Particular Conversations and Trades , London 1684. A two faced divine talks with split tongue, and one speech bubble is inverted.

03. illustration from a Dutch block-book of the fifteenth century, Canticum Canticorum . The letters in these earliest of speech bubbles are engraved straight on to the surface of the wood block.

04. advert for Du Pont Cellophane , November 1948. Du Pont's adverts specialised in such deathless and meaningless prose.

05. Arthur Godfrey, Broadcaster and first communications "personality" , endorses Pepto-Bismol anti-indigestion fluid. The advert (March 1957) also allows a demonstration of the speech bubble and the colour versus black/white graphic technique. The problem with this image is that the speech bubble is a monument of its kind. Yet it contains vapid drivel. Was it worth all the effort ? Certainly not. It does also throw up the problem of Arthur actually pronouncing the words "says Arthur Godfrey" actually within the Bubble. Now would he do that?

06 from a cheap published illustrated book for children, The History of Sir Richard Whittingdon , c1770.Dick Whittington comes up to London wih his faithful cat. "MEW" says the cat, and how!. Whittington's story is that of the selfmade man who becomes Lord Mayor of London.07. Head and Kirkman, The English Rogue , London 1680 a busy crosscutting of everybody speaking at once.

08. Karl Arnold, "American Humour", from Simplicissimus , Sept 20th 1922, with comic characters from the American Funnies, Mutt 'n Jeff, Jiggs, Captain and the Kids etc etc. Curiously topical, German public response to the claims that America is the freest country in the wolrd.

09. Probably the most basic coinage of the comic artist's repertoire- the speech bubble and assoociated devices (expletives, thoughts, sleeping "zzzzzzs" in convoy). Here is a small selection from E.G.Lutz, Practical Graphic Figures, Batsford London 1925 13 x 19 cms.
"Ways of Indicating Exclamatory Expressions in Comic Pictures"

10. two rows in the strip Harris Tweed Extra Special Agent , from EAGLE ANNUAL No. 3 undated (c1952)Hulton London
11. cartoon by Virgil Parch c1961

12. two rows in the strip repotting the aspidistra , from GROW FLOWERS THE DAILY MIRROR'S FAMOUS STRIP GUIDE, London undated c1958

The design of the Speech Bubble is a considerable art, and one which the range of the images above will prove has a long history. The Bubble has to be a permanent repository of necessary textual information, contained within a specified field. It cannot, on the page, dissolve after it has been read. Yet unless there are unusual circumstances, it must serve a clear function and not obtrude in doing so. In the shape and the placement it has nevertheless much power of nuance - verbal inflection, speech rhythms and even vocal force. The balance of Bubbles on the page can sustain a clear sense of dialogue (01 above). Editorial and typographic decisions as to line-break, bold and italic text, together with variants of spelling are vital. Some time I will add more examples but I recommend the Lutz (09) as worthy of particular study. The greatest contemporary master of the speech bubble, usually in a confined space is clearly Steve Bell.

Alternatives to the Speech Bubble are also worth exploring, the captions underneath the panel, a facing page of text etc. Some strip cartoons such as Rupert Bear could use captions and speech bubbles.




PLYMOUTH 1941, everybody gets a bubble.