Jan 28 2010

Hit and Miss with Dynamo 5: Introducing Characters in Combat

Opening with the characters in combat can be tricky because the characters can’t speak as naturally.  For one thing, if your superheroes have secret identities, they’d be bloody stupid to blab about their day jobs when they’re surrounded by enemies (more on that later).

This dialogue is tacky.  First, is there any remotely intelligent reason to tell the villain where she went to school?  Second, even if there were, ideally the writers could imply her background rather than have her tell us.   Third, that is a lot of words for the middle of combat.  She’s monologuing like a 1970s villain.  Finally, if the point of this is to show that she’s a skilled writer, shouldn’t her comeback be, umm, witty?

This is far more effective.  The writers have made it clear that he’s a football player without having him explicitly announce it.  (Show, don’t tell!) His line is short and fits into the combat much better.  Having just removed the immediate threat, it’s sort of believable that he could take a few seconds to gloat.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Hit and Miss with Dynamo 5: Introducing Characters in Combat”

  1. Lighting Manon 29 Jan 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I haven’t read it so I definitely might be wrong, but isn’t she jumping…not flying? How is she saying all of that before she lands on the villain? If it was imperative that line exist, which it isn’t, that action should have been broken up into three panels (jump, hit, dismount) the line along with it and shown the character more impressively and not making the people involved appear completely ignorant of the limitations of the art form.

    Great points, thank you for the article.

  2. k1dorkon 29 Jan 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I’m not familiar with how comic books make distinctions in spoken words versus thoughts. Do they use italics? Are you sure those aren’t the character’s thoughts in the first example?

    I mean, if the first example was thoughts instead of speech, it might be OK—basically, the character would be thinking to herself while disposing of the bad guy.

    Other than that, that’s just bad.

  3. Lighting Manon 29 Jan 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Comic books generally make the distinction via the shape of the bubble, thought bubbles are generally literally comprised of a rope of bubbles leading from the mouth or head of the thinker to a bubble like the one above, but sometimes textured to appear more ethereal, such as given a bubbly appearance, or overly rounded appearance. Narration is typically done in dialog boxes located in one of the four corners.

  4. B. Macon 29 Jan 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Yeah, all of the lines above are definitely spoken dialogue.

    Thought-bubbles would look like this:

    Usually, I think the difference between thoughts, speech and narration is that narration uses boxes that aren’t attached to any character, thoughts are connected to a character by a series of bubbles, and speech bubbles usually have a line pointing at the speaker.

    Comic books usually do NOT use italics to indicate character thoughts. That’s much more common in novels.

  5. B. Macon 29 Jan 2010 at 3:06 pm

    LM, the lady above is jumping rather than flying. I agree there are chronological/pacing problems. How can you deliver 25 words in the time it takes you to jump at an enemy?

    I think the dialogue throws off the pacing by making it seem like the action is taking much more time than it should. She says 50 words in the time it takes her to jump at someone and deliver a kick. Even if she were speaking at a freakishly fast 120 words per minute, she’d still need 25 seconds to deliver that much dialogue. Unless you’re on the moon, a jump and kick should probably take 5 seconds. Maybe 10.

    Finally, one last thing I didn’t mention before. One thing I like about the football player’s line is that it’s used to show that he’s acting dumb. The football player takes a few seconds to gloat after beating his enemy and then the faceless guy thinks “that idiot needs to take this seriously or he’s going to get himself killed.” I agree! In contrast, the NYU grad takes 25 seconds in the middle of battle to remind everybody how witty and sophisticated she is. The problem is that what she’s doing is far MORE stupid than what the football player pulls. If ever there were a time to pay attention in battle, it’s WHEN YOU ARE LEAPING AT A GIANT ROBOT. Just a thought.

    In Superhero Nation, the combat instructors chew out any agents that talk to an enemy while the fight is in progress. “Save your taunts for the bodies.”

  6. Ragged Boyon 30 Jan 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Ah, Dynamo 5! I’ve read this issue. I believe (take this with a grain of salt, I haven’t read the comic in quite some time) that the girl’s name is Thrash or Thrasher. The football guy is Scatterbrain and the faceless guy is Myriad.

    I wasn’t particularly fond of this comic books premise and premiere. The action was okay and the art was good, but I don’t feel that this story was interesting enough.

  7. B. Macon 30 Jan 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I love the team sponsor, Madeline. I find her so much more interesting than Professor X it’s not even funny. She’s got a personality and is Crazy-Prepared— at one point she’s about to be killed by a supervillain that has taken her hostage, so she stabs herself with T-Rex transformation serum that she had stolen from a previous villain. Also, I found some of the power combinations refreshing. For example, the psychic is the team jock rather than Jean Grey or the Invisible Woman. So EVERYBODY on the team gets into brawls once in a while. Even the sponsor.

    Also–the characters are generally pretty intelligent and the plot almost never hinges on them acting like idiots. In contrast, it’s hard to think of a Fantastic Four plot that DIDN’T hinge on Johnny and/or Reed blowing something up.

    However, I was put off by the character names (Scatterbrain? Visionary? Slingshot?) and the dialogue was very rough around the edges, particularly at the beginning.

  8. Lucas Irineuon 13 Feb 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I was reading Deadpool, and one of the pages reminded me of this article.

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