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Rebus Bubble

Speech Bubbles + Images + Addition = Rebus Bubble

When you want to show the keen, obsidian-sharp mind of a character at work, or lay out their cunning and complex plans out in a Comic Book, Web Comic or similar media, the best way to do it is with a Rebus Bubble. Simply show (Person 1) + (Item/Event/Person 2) = Result. For Result, expect an Idea Bulb, Stuff Blowing Up, Hilarity Ensues, or a gravestone.

People more practiced in these mental mathematics can also subtract, multiply, divide, and do other awesome algebraic equations in the Rebus Bubbles to show more complex thoughts.

It's not rare for a given comic to replace all text in Speech Bubbles with Rebus Bubbles for especially funny non-verbal exchanges.

It should be noted that this doesn't actually have very much to do with an actual rebus, which is where a word or phrase is represented by images of objects, whose names are homophones... Which, in turn, should not be confused with Rebis. It should also not be confused with Speaking in Panels, which shows a story in a bubble.

A type of a Pictorial Speech Bubble. Exposition Diagram is often used much the same way. For this concept applied to tropes, see Troperithmetic.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • In the first episode of Excel♥Saga, Excel thinks "dog = creature = food" upon seeing Menchi.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has Potato + Tomato = Pomato, and the rather disturbing results of the possible combinations of Major Armstrong's parents.
    • Ed goes through two involving a see-saw and labeled weights when he contemplates Al's learning to transmute without a circle while his arm isn't even working. The first bubble is before: Ed(Older Brother's Pride + Alchemy Skill + Strength) > Al(Strength + Height), and the second bubble is after: Ed(Older Brother's Pride + Alchemy Skill - Strength) <<< Al(Strength + Height + Alchemy Skill + cat(?))
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Hajime Saitou's logical reasoning for making new insulting names is graphically depicted this way:
    • If Megumi = kitsune (fox) and Kaoru = tanuki (raccoon dog), then Misao = itachi (weasel)
  • In the D.N.Angel manga there's a side story about Daisuke's birthday which uses this exclusively.
  • This southbird in One Piece, to Zoro's chagrin.
  • Yusei Fudo in Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's does a dramatic variation of this when he think of a combo that will defeat his opponent. In the final season, he did it one last time with CGI effects to add to the impact of the scene.

     Comic Books  
  • Astérix does this a few times, particularly with Courtdetennis (Ptenisnet in English), the Egyptian who speaks in hieroglyphics.
  • The comic Owly uses this instead of dialogue, and can throw out some quite complex combinations.
  • In Tintin, it shows up with Haddock in Tintin The Red Sea Sharks. There is also a Snowy sequence with these later in the album, but no maths involved. Whiskey bottles and chickens feature in Tintin's thought bubbles in Tintin Tintin In Tibet.
  • As seen in the image above, the Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge story "A Little Something Special" features a more elaborate than usual application of this trope as Scrooge puts together the facts to realize that Glomgold and Magica have teamed up.
    • Also used in Don Rosa's story based on the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, where a character's rebus bubble is translated into Kalevaic prose for the reader's convenience.
  • Bart Allen thought in pictures at some points of Young Justice, but mostly in his own title, Impulse. Unfortunately, this disappeared when he became Kid Flash and lost his Fun Personified status.
  • This was done extensively in a Cerebus special, dealing with Cerebus introducing an apprentice to the world of alcoholism. After he gets the boy drunk, the boy starts bashing his master (using speech bubbles with a picture of the master in a clown costume), and, after the master finds out, murder ensues.
  • The Birger the Barbarian strip, featured in the swedish RPG magazine "Fenix", uses these almost exclusively for communication. (Though things like signs and the like are written normally.) The only exception was when a random female character says something with an overly long, absurdly complicated rebus, Birger thinks for a long moment, then says (with actual text) "Sorry, but what the heck did you just say?"
  • Occasionally done in Archie. If one character thinks another is a nut, a thought bubble with a nut (of the construction-related variety) will be their only reaction. Once, Archie's and Reggie's antics were observed by a background character for a while, until she finally turned away, with a thought bubble with a screw and a baseball.
  • Also used in some The Flintstones comic books for Dino's thoughts on the subject. (For example, a tree, key, pile of cash, and another key - "Okey-dokey")
  • This is how characters in Mortadelo y Filemón (And other Spanish works) swear.
  • In MAD's "A Mad Look At...", all dialogue is presented this way. One notable exception, though, is when some Secret Service agents yell "GOAL!", and it is revealed that they were listening to radio coverage of a soccer game on their earpieces.
  • In issue 15 of the Adventure Time comic book, Finn and Jake are forced to talk like this after Magic Man uses his powers to steal their voices.

    Film 
  • There are sequences in The Flintstones featuring Fred's thoughts as filmed bits in thought bubbles.

    Literature 
  • A piece of fanart for Wicked using this.
  • In Myth-Fortunes, a family of Kobolds (natives of Kobol, a computer-obsessed dimension) speak in their native language, causing clouds of dingbat-style symbols to appear floating above their heads.
  • Played for Drama in The Book Thief, when Liesel deduced what could have happened to her mother after finding out she was a Communist and her letters to her went unanswered.
    "The word communist + a large bonfire + a collection of dead letters + the suffering of her mother + the death of her brother = the Führer."

     Live Action TV  
  • In an episode of My Wife and Kids, Michael tries to help Jay study for her psychology test using what he calls "Psy-Kyle-Ogy", using rebus images to teach key terms (example: Lion + Shaquille O'Neill = Rorschach). This causes Jay to fail the test, so she gives him a "Psycolo-Jay" image reading "Booty on Lockdown". After Michael successfully convinces her professor to give her a retest, Jay hands him another image and walks off:
    Michael: "Spank that donkey"? Why would I want to spank that a- (Eureka Moment) Baby! (chases after her)
  • Larry Kubiac had his moment in a Parker Lewis Can't Lose episode involving Jerry Steiner's coat.

     Professional Wrestling  
  • From a 2007 episode of WWE Raw, when Chris Jericho challenged Randy Orton for the WWE Title:
    Jericho (Me) + Cookie Monster (Want) + WWE Title belt (Title) + Lit match (Match)

     Scratch Projects  
  • In this project, Astro thinks X-Cube + 4000 lemonade cups = rich Astro when X-Cube says that he will take all the lemonade Astro has.

     Tabletop Games  
  • In Planescape, the Dabus are a race of goat-horned municipal custodians who only communicate this way. There's also an Ethereal race that communicates only by creating glowing, floating words, which seems to have been created solely to spawn Epileptic Trees about the relation between the two.

     Video Games  
  • According to the first mission of Elite Beat Agents, everything can be calculated to a quantity equal to "football". (American football, incidentally.)
  • Quite a bit of dialogue in The Sims is enhanced through the use of this trope.
  • All dialogue in the adventure game Machinarium is in rebus bubbles.

    Webcomics 

    Web Animation 

     Western Animation  
  • Kim Possible: Ron + Battlesuit = Victory.
  • Chuck Jones' Looney Tunes short "Cheese Chasers" has mice characters Hubie and Bertie attempting to commit Seen-It-All Suicide by inducing Claude Cat to eat them. Claude's reaction to their initial attempt:
    • Map of Scandanavia + Denmark highlighted = "Something rotten in"
    • The short Bartholomew Versus the Wheel has the titular dog blaming wheels when a scooter runs over his tail. Wheel = Arrow pointing to squashed tail.
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "My Dear Ed" uses this with Band-aid + Hand = Pain.
  • Of course, The Simpsons has done this. Homer + Beer = Car crash. "Wait, I didn't add that right." Redo: Homer + Beer = President Simpson the basketball star.
  • Like on SpongeBob SquarePants, with "Sponge... + Starfish... = Scallop!?"
  • Here is a Spy vs. Spy cartoon which plays with the idea.
  • It's also done in one of Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry shorts.
    • Tom + A Second Cat = Jerry laying dead holding a lilly
    • Jerry + Lettuce + Ham + Cheese + Tomatoes + Onions + Sandwich in a lunchbox = Fat Jerry
      • Tom's response goes: Fat Jerry + Sandwich in a lunchbox = Jerry Sandwich
  • Teen Titans: Raven + Larry = Explosion.
    • And Beast Boy + Meat + Eggs = Not Himself (Source: "The Beast Within")
    • Also, according to Terra: Starfire's Homemade Glorg = Sushi + Ice cream
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider had one interesting scene, in which the Exterminator - very, very determined to kill the spider realized he's about to step on his own grenade.
    • Exterminator + Grenade = Foot on Grenade = KABOOM!
  • The Mask: Obnoxious Old High School Bully + The Mask = Nuclear Explosion
  • Mickey Mouse has one in an episode of House of Mouse when he realizes that Mortimer Mouse used a newspaper ad to dupe Mickey and steal Minnie from him. Mortimer + Newspaper = SUCKER.
  • Donald Duck, in the short cartoon "Honey Harvester", finds a bee in his greenhouse, and thinks: Bee + Flower = Hive = Honey
  • Randal Graves has one in Clerks: The Animated Series: Monkey + Burrito + Dying Leonardo - Burrito + (Due to the recent lawsuit by Dustin Hoffman over the alleged unauthorized use of his likeness, the face of Dustin Hoffman in Randal's cartoon brain calculation will be played by Al Pacino!) = OUTBREAK!!
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door while watching the odd behavior of his teammates who actually were their evil versions from an Alternate Universe Numbuh 4 comes up with the conclusion...
    • 2 + 2 = PIZZA!
  • Beany And Cecil had Beepin' Tom, a little alien who spoke in word balloons filled with rebuses.
  • South Park: Cartmans take on Osama bin Laden (e.g. holds up pic of rooster and lollipop) shows that the rebus can also come without solution (which the viewer adds on the fly). Of course, the gag is a nod to analogous ones on Looney Tunes.


Pointy-Haired BossBorn in the Funny PapersSpeech Bubbles
Post-CrisisComic Book TropesRedeeming Replacement
Pictorial Speech BubbleWebcomic TropesSymbol Swearing
Rainbow SpeakPainting the MediumScreen Shake
The RashomonExternalizing Internal MonologueSurrogate Soliloquy
Parody AssistanceImageSource/Comic BooksRunaway Train

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