One thing I don’t undertand in comics is characters talking with their mouths closed. You see it all the time in mainstream books. I’m certain there’s a point when I was drawing comics that I flipped from not even thinking about the closed mouth talkers (my early stuff is full of them) to really hating them. It completely punctures the reality of a panel for me if someone’s talking with their mouth closed.
This drives me crazy! A speech bubble floating above a character’s head, and he or she has their mouth shut. Don’t do this! It loses the immediacy of the dialog when the mouth isn’t open.
Like lots of rules in comics, this is a good one to notice and understand why it exists, so that you know when it’s okay to break it.
Having the character’s mouth open during dialogue helps with the immediacy, as Faith says. You can even draw the mouth in such a way that you can see what word in the bubble they’re emphasizing, and is therefore the most important. See how in David Willis’s fifth panel here, you can tell Jacob’s saying “Sorry?”
But there is value in having a character’s mouth be closed at certain moments in dialogue sequences. If you see a closed mouth after a word balloon, your brain adds a “beat” for finality. It can add time and alter the rhythm of a conversation. It can also clarify the mood of a character or scene.
I reread the archives of Templar, Arizona recently, and there’s a character, Reagan, who dominates nearly every scene she’s in. She’s physically expressive and has a distinct speaking style. He mouth rarely closes. When it does, it’s during a very serious conversation. She’s dialing down her bombastic personality so other people will pay attention to her, because something is wrong.
When I designed my comic’s leads, I wanted to physically distinguish them in as many ways as I could. In Al’s default state, his mouth is usually closed. Al evolved into a character who does better with silence, because his mustache is a great tool for being expressive without any dialogue. Chuck Jones taught me that.
Brendan’s default, on the other hand, is having his mouth open most of the time. It helps show how he dominates the dialogue and the chemistry between him and Al. When his mouth is shown closed during a dialogue scene, it’s very deliberate. When you notice artists following these helpful rules, understand when it might be more effective to break them.
And O Human Star returns today with a new flashback! Al’s scraping the bare minimum of cocktail attire here.
Thank you very much for your patience as I took a week off from updates. I was able to make progress on some very big projects that I plan to talk more about soon.
And for new followers, check out my Patreon, where I post exclusive drawings and sketchbooks every month. I have decided that if I hit at least $400 in pledges this month, I will donate all of it to The Bridge for Youth, a non-profit that provides emergency services and housing to Twin Cities teens with special programs for LGBTQ kids. They’re in the neighborhood and I’ve seen the good that they do.
Following the news this week made me really, really angry and I don’t think some people realize just how many Americans are affected by aggressive and militarized law enforcement. We need to call for immediate police reform for the sake of the kids coming up right now.
On today’s page of O Human Star, Al finds the interesting part of town.
I need to take next week’s update off to finish another project. Sorry, guys! But I have updated and expanded OHS’s cast page, and I think it looks pretty neat. And there are character designs for the next section in the August Patreon sketchbook coming out later this week.