Monday, 2 June 2014

Describing Daredevl #3

Or some pretty excellent onomatopoeia in Daredevil #3
by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez, and Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics

Daredevil is one of the most consistent comics in my top ten: it is always good. The stories from are fun and exciting and usually revolve around some thematic aspect of Daredevil's blindness. Couple that to some of the clearest storytelling in comics from Samnee and Rodriguez, and Daredevil just does not disappoint. One of my favourite things about Daredevil, is how the creative team works to represent Daredevil's powers in really interesting and innovative ways with topographic radar vision and some really adept use of onomatopoeia. Daredevil #3 has some really great examples of the use of sound effects I'd like to take a closer look at.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Daredevil #3. Typey typey type.

Usually I'm not a terribly big fan of onomatopoeia in comics (or typing it). When done poorly, it can look tacky and be a distraction from the dialogue and the acting in the panels... it's extra telling instead of showing. But in Daredevil it's just so thematically appropriate and handled with such skill that I kind of love it. From the blocky mechanical lettering of the gun action noises to the long, bright green arc of the whistle (itself dragging attention to Matt like a real life whistle) to the italicized, shakey sound of the phone vibrator, to the panel commanding in-your-face size of the SLAM, to the low-to-ground progression of the stomping, it's all perfect. In each instance the location, shape, size, and font of the lettering captures the emotional feeling of the sound. It really adds a lot to the comic.

While this is not onomatopoeia, per se, it's in a similar vein and I love it. The sort-of dialogue box with the deathstare symbol really captures the emotional weight of getting eye-knives thrown at you. A properly good glare is able to convey, non-verbally, a paragraph of information and the decision to give the glare here a dialogue box is very cognizant of this. A top-level deathstare also doesn't feel like just a person glaring at you, it feels like an entire universe of negative attention directed your way. So I think it's really adept that the deathstare logo means that Foggy is caught in the crossfire of two glares. The jolly-roger glare is such a small choice, but it really makes this panel and character interaction work for me. 

But this, this is my favourite bit of onomatopoeia in the entire issue of Daredevil #3. I had previously written a big long thing about why the ECG squiggle that is synonymous with heart sounds in comics bugs me because it's actually a symbol of the electrical signalling of the heart and has nothing to do with sound. It especially bothered me because hearts have a characteristic "lub dub" sound, so there really is no need to use the ECG squiggle (it's like using beep-beep-beep sounds instead of heart sounds in a film). But, since the ECG squiggle is so synonymous with heart rate in comics these days, as a symbol that conveys meaning its pretty important. What I LOVE about this onomatopoeia here is that it synthesizes the sound and the squiggle to create a new symbol that is based on sound of a heart beat but still has the ECG symbol that readers know means heart stuff. It's the perfect solution to my comics pet peeve and I fucking love it.

(Incidentally, I would love to know if Team Daredevil read my previous essay on heart sounds and if that had anything to do with the change in heart sound symbology. I'm going to have to go shopping for my next Science gig in the next year and think it would be super fun to have that on my CV...)

Describing Daredevil 34: before and after
Describing Daredevil 33: condensed motion
Describing Daredevil 30: the vectors of artwork
Describing Daredevil 29: A great page


  1. I Came here searching about revelants material about the onomatopoeias on comics, and your post is perfect! Thanks! your analisys is just great and will be usefull for research.(of course i´ll gonna credit you.)The post about Deadly Class is amazing too. Soon i will read the other posts, i´m sure will be interesting like these. Congratulation for the blog!

    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed them and that they were useful!