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Comics Terminology

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Many terms in the comic industry are used to refer to elements of web comics, as most web comics are formatted like comic books. However, there are many elements of web comic culture that differ from comic book culture, such as the hiatus.

Panel

A panel, frame or box is one drawing on a page, and contains a segment of action. A page may have one or many panels, and panels are frequently, but not always, surrounded by a border or outline, whose shape can be altered to indicate emotion, tension or flashback sequences. The size, shape and style of a panel, as well as the placement of figures and speech balloons inside it, affect the timing or pacing of a story. Panels are used to break up and encapsulate sequences of events in a narrative. What occurs in a panel may be asynchronous, meaning that not everything that occurs in a single panel necessarily occurs at one time.

Gutter

The gutter is the space between panels.

Splash

A splash or splash page is a large, often full-page illustration which opens and introduces a story. It is rarely less than half a page, and occasionally covers two pages. Often designed as a decorative unit, its purpose is to capture the reader's attention, and can be used to establish time, place and mood.

Spread

A spread is an image that spans more than one page. The two-page spread is the most common, but there are spreads that span more pages, often by making use of a foldout.

Speech balloon

A speech/word/dialogue balloon or speech/word/dialogue bubble is a speech indicator, containing the characters' dialogue. The indicator from the balloon that points at the speaker is called a pointer or tail.

The speech balloon bridges the gap between word and image—"the word made image", as expressed by Pierre Fresnault-Druelle. In early renderings, speech balloons were no more than ribbons emanating from their speakers' mouths, but as it evolved and became more sophisticated, it became a more expressive device. Its shape came to convey meaning as well. A thought balloon contains copy expressing a character's unvoiced thoughts, usually shaped like a cloud, with bubbles as a pointer. Emotions can be expressed by the shape of the balloon—spiked balloons can indicate shouting, and balloons "dripping" balloons can indicate sarcasm.

Caption

In a caption, words appear in a box separated from the rest of the panel or page, usually to give voice to a narrator, but sometimes used for the characters' thoughts or dialogue.

Sound effects

Sound effects or onomatopoeia are words that mimic sounds.They are non-vocal sound images, from the subtle to the forceful.

Division of labour

Sometimes all aspects of a comics production down to the editing, publishing and distribution are done by a single person. At the other extreme, the labour behind the comics creation is sometimes divided up into different specialties.

Artist

The artist is the person who handles the visuals. This job may be broken down further into:

Penciller

The penciller or penciler lays down the basic artwork for a page, deciding on panel placement and the placement of figures and settings in the panels, the backgrounds, and the characters' facial expressions and poses.

Inker

An inker or finisher "finishes", and sometimes enhances, the pencilled artwork using ink (traditionally India ink) and a pen or brush to create a high-contrast image for photographing and printing. The extent of the inker's job varies depending on how tight the penciller work is, but nonetheless requires the skill of an artist, and is more or less active depending on the completeness of the pencils provided.

Colourist

The colourist or colorist adds colours to the finished artwork, which can have an effect on mood and meaning. Colourists have work with a variety of media, such as rubylith in the past, paints, and computers.

Writer

Sometimes also called scripter or plotter, the writer or writers script or otherwise plot out the work, which may plot, dialogue and action, in a way that the artist or artists can interpret the story into visuals for the reader. Writers can communicate their stories in varying amounts of detail to the artist(s) in a number of ways, including verbally, by script, or by thumbnail layout.

Letterer

Normally separate from the writer, the letterer is the person who fills (and possibly places) speech balloons and captions with the dialogue and other words meant to be read. Letterers may also provided the lettering for sound, although this is often done by the artist even when a letterer is present.In the West, comics have traditionally been hand-lettered, although computer typesetting has become increasingly common. The manner in which the letterer letters the text has an impact on how the message is interpreted by the reader, and the letterer can suggest the paralanguage of dialogue by varying the weight, size and shape of the lettering.

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