31 Days of Kindred: Day 23 Lettering New Year’s Day

By Damian Duffy on

The graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred that I wrote/lettered and John Jennings drew will be released by Abrams ComicArts on January 10, 2017 (available for pre-order now). In recognition of that momentous occasion, I’m writing 31 blog posts about the path from novel to graphic novel. This is 31 Days Of Kindred. 

* * *

Day  23

Lettering New Year’s Day

* * *

I used thought balloons in Kindred: A graphic novel adaptation

Which, depending on how little you know or care about these things, is either a controversial statement, or the equivalent of saying they used paper for the pages of the book.

Thought balloons are basically synonymous with comics. Very rarely (outside of cartoons) do you see them used in movies or television. But, in at least some contexts, that’s been a reason not to use them. From a Lettering Roundtable on thought balloons: 

John Ostrander: I once had an editor who told me i couldn’t use thought balloons because they didn’t have them in movies. I tried pointing out that the images in movies, well, moved. Were not static. Different medium.


Richard Starkings: So, do Marvel, DC and Dark Horse editors issue edicts regarding thought balloons and sfx?

Kurt Busiek: At times, they have. I’ve been lucky enough to work with editors who’ll support thought balloons if I want to do it — and I did, occasionally, in AVENGERS — but I was also told that the EIC and publisher hated them, and looked aversely on creators that used them. […] the objections to any of this stuff boil down, in most cases, to, “It’s comic-booky!”

Of course, the “comic-booky” nature of thought balloons is part of what drew me to using them in Kindred. In the early stages, John and I talked about wanting to make sure the adaptation did things unique to the comics medium. Also, I like that the technique essentially gives Dana two ways of narrating the story. The narrative captions are in past tense; Dana reflecting on the events of the story after they’ve already occurred. The thought balloons are present tense; immediate concerns to the Dana-in-the-moment.

In this example (over John’s pencils) the thought balloons are used to list Dana’s fears after her first trip through time.

In the novel, Dana’s time travel is unspectacular. She’s in one time, gets nauseous, her vision blurs, and then she’s in the other time. We tried to mimic that in the graphic novel. Generally, Dana’s time travel happens in the gutter–in the white space between two panels–with the actual temporal teleportation left up to the reader’s imagination. 

The one small visual effect I added to the time travel scenes happens with the panel borders. Each time Dana begins to feel sick–begins to feel like she’s travelling through time–the normally straight lines of the panel border become irregular. Begin to break down. And, when the actual time travel happens (as in the above close up on the books Dana was holding falling to the floor) the panel border disappears entirely. 

Also, I got to keep that THUMP. Which is nice. I like that THUMP. Sigh. 


Leave a Reply