Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

We’re proud this week to welcome Donna Barr to the team, possibly most well known for her excellent Desert Peach books. While many of her books are currently out of print, “Beautiful” (#25) and “Peach Slices” (collection of short stories) are now available at http://www.moderntales.com/ for your delectation and delight.

Here’s the direct link: HERE I AM, CLICK ME! If you like Moderntales, you’ll love http://www.Girlamatic.com/ — where one of Donna’s pre-career stories (1980), “Paid Home,” is running on alternate days. “Rape not love. Love is not a weapon.”

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to [email protected] and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from writer Fiona Avery and is as follows:-

“Where do sound effects come from? Who makes them up? Who decides what sound, for example, a shamanistic force-field makes when deflecting a fired bullet? And how on earth is this decided? Finally, are there any unspoken rules about when to use – and not to use – sound effects?”


Fiona Avery:

For the record it’s:

SFX NOISE : KSHHHHWWWOOOOSH!

Fiona Avery plays in the Marvel Universe, with Wildstorm at DC, and is the creator of No Honor.


Donna Barr::

The sound a shamanistic force-field makes when deflecting a fired bullet is:

“Ba-WONG-ga — flubba blubba blubba ….. doit.”

When deflecting a THROWN bullet, the proper sound is “bloop.”

In very small letters.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once.


Stephen Holland:

As Fiona astutely noted last week: when it comes to writing, the best draw from real life.

In my own personal experience most (but not all) shamanistic force-fields go “tkek” when deflecting the average calibre bullet. (Note, the first “k” isn’t entirely silent: the nearest equivalent can be replicated by firing your tongue off forwards against your mouth’s upper palate.)

Hand grenades are another matter entirely, I’m afraid: last time I was deafened for three full days (though the shaman in question was, I later learned, something of a novice – and three sheets to the wind).

As to rules about usage, I’d recommend restraint when it comes to first dates, job interviews, bus queues, police questioning, psychiatric evaluation and dining out. What you do in your parents’ company is a matter for your own individual conscience. They definitely liven up evening prayer, though.

Stephen Holland runs Page 45, a comic shop in Nottingham, with Mark Simpson and Tom Rosin. He has his own monthly column in Comics International, but desperately prays you don’t forward this answer to its editor. Not without the question, anyway.


Alan Grant:

The writer comes up with the original sound effect. The artist might change or embellish it. The letterer usually does as he’s told by the editor.

John Wagner and I always tested our sound effects by speaking them aloud while we acted out the dialog.

Only rule is–don’t use them in space. Nobody can hear you scream.

Alan Grant is maybe most famous for his Batman and Judge Dredd work, and his classic EPIC series The Last American is due out imminently from Com.X as a trade for the first time.


Scott Allie:

Sound effects come from the writer’s own little mind, and I’ve seldom heard any intelligent discussion of how, why, or when to use them. My rule of thumb is to only use them if they aid storytelling. I don’t need to “hear” a faucet running if I’m given a closeup of the faucet running, but it’s usually helpful to hear a gun fire, since that’s the most distinctive indication that the gun has actually fired. A little burst of color from the muzzle doesn’t have the same impact. Sneezing’s another good one. Without the sound effect, the look on the character’s face might be really confusing. But I don’t really need to hear a punch, unless I’m supposed to know that it’s a really strong punch.

When writing sound effects, I try to sound them out in my head, reduce them to phonics, and then have fun spelling them out. I actually get a real kick out of it. I also have a fondness for sound effects which I guess would be the reverse of onomatopoeia-a sound effect which is simply the word that’s being conveyed, like Shove, or Kick. Evan Dorkin, in an upcoming Hellboy: Weird Tales story, used Gurve as a sound effect, and it might be my favorite moment in the whole series. In that case, the way in which the sound effect aids storytelling is that it makes it funnier, which I think is almost always a legitimate enhancement of storytelling.

Scott Allie edits and writes for Dark Horse – a trade of The Devil’s Footprints is just out, and is not only a superb collection but is an excellent story too.


Michael David Thomas:

I was surfing the Web something like five years ago and came across a web site that had an entire catalog of sound effects by alpha and referenced by the comic books they were gleaned from. I thought this was the best thing ever. Someone had meticulously gone through and looked for these overlooked gems.

So that takes care of part of the question; we mine from the past and what has come before us. But where did these guys get them.

The buck stops with the writer, most of this has to come from the writer. He or she has to sit there and think that very question, “What sound would a shamanistic force-field make when deflecting a fired bullet?” I working off of my own supposition and experience, but I fall back on watching “Blow Up” with John Travolta and foley artists. The sound has to look and speak like what’s happening. The way I’ve worked when dabbling in creating sound effects for scripts is sounding it out based on real world sounds. Is the shamanistic force-field hard or soft? What’s the nearest real world equivalent to its surface? Hard Glass? Diamond? Formica? Gelatin?

And there are no rules for sound effects. I read a recent roundtable with Richard Starkings, Kurt Busiek and others about this very subject. And I came away with a couple of loose rules that make sense when applying it to comics. One that I like is that if you can see it, it probably doesn’t need a sound effect. The easiest example is if you have 1000 guns firing, each one does not need its own sound effect if at all. In your mind, you’re filled in the sound already. Otherwise, it’s just common sense and your own sense of style.

Michael David Thomas works at Dark Horse Comics, trading hats between front desk reception, lettering and proofreading.


Vince Moore:

I wish I knew, to tell you the truth. I can imagine sound effects evolved from the comic strips, where they were used for comic effect. You know, Popeye hitting Bluto, resulting in a big “Pow” in the panel. For the most part, it’s up to the imagination of the letterer and writer to determine what most sound effects are written as.

Some writers, like Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, skip the sound effects, feeling the image alone should be enough to spark the imagination of the reader, as well as seeming more mature than “normal” comics that use effects. I don’t know.

To mention a more adult book, the sound effects in Housewives At Play go a long way towards stimulating the imagination (pardon the puns). In the end, to use or not to use sound effects is entirely up to the creative team, particularly the writer and artist, who have to plan for their use. That’s my guess and I’m sticking to it.

Vince Moore is the writer of Platinum Publishing’s upcoming book, Kid Victory & The Funky Hammer


Alonzo Washington:

BAM!!! That’s what I am talking about. POW!!! These sound effects were created within the pages of comic books. No wait, which came first – Pow or the comic book? Anyway sound effect help describe the story of most comic books. Moreover, they show how creative a writer can be with visual sound. KRACK! ZZZAP! SLBABOW! KAPOW! BLOP! Come on, have we ever really heard these sounds or have they been put into or consciousness by comic books? I think the sound effects should always be in comic books.

The 60’s Batman TV show played up comic book sound effects. However, sometime serious comic books try to stay away from sound effects so that they won’t look campy. However, I think sound effects work in comics. POW!, BIP! & BAM! are a part of or popular culture. ZOOM! I’m out!

Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and a noted black rights campaigner


About The Author