Talking Heads


Tina Weymouth is still one of my favourite bass players of all time and they did do some brilliant tracks that still sound fresh thirty years later… but it’s not those Talking Heads that we’re talking about here.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks facing writers and artists working in comics is an age old problem for writers everywhere – talking heads. This is when we have characters engaged in dialogue and very little action taking place.

Comics are very reliant on dialogue to carry the narrative forward. Pictures do (obviously) tell the story too but how does the writer create depth while avoiding getting bogged down by ‘talky’ scenes?

This is a tricky one. A balance has to be struck by making conversations and interactions between characters nuanced and believable without ending up with panel after panel of faces. If you look at just about any comic you will see that they do mainly focus on people talking to each other, however, good creators have found ways of getting round this by using techniques to keep the eye engaged.

One of the best things a writer can do is have the protagonists and antagonists engaged in actions that reveal something about the plot, character or themes, as they are speaking.

The other way dialogue can be spread across a page is to have one dynamic image broken into several panels. This utilises the gutters  (spaces in between the panels) to avoid repetition. Click on the link above to see how this works.

numerous examples of how to get round talking heads can also be found over at Colin Smith’s blog. It also contains Wally Wood’s 22 panels that always work – he was a veteran of EC Comics, Marvel and Mad Magazine, for those of you who don’t know.

Anyone who wants to create a comic that is more than two dimensional in its story and themes is going to have to write decent dialogue and have characters speak it to one another. The links in this article should help you find ways of making scenes visually interesting, we hope, while your characters talk to each other.

Pura vida! Hasta luego.