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Speech Bubbles

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Delirium and Dream, talking.

"So Deadpool speaks with a yellow outline around his speech balloons? What exactly is that supposed to sound like? I can just imagine a movie studio trying to cast someone for the role of Deadpool: Must be able to speak English clearly with yellow outline around dialogue. Red outline voices need not apply!"
— Marvel Year in Review 1993note 

At their most basic, Speech Bubbles are floating text circles (or other shapes) that characters in Comic Books and Webcomics or other dimensionally-challenged media use to communicate.

But Speech Bubbles aren't only generic circles or places to put words; they're metafictional constructs that can be painted, shaped, and written different ways!

Usually the speech bubbles have the following meanings depending on the shape and color:

  • Normal speech bubbles: Normal character speech
  • Rectangular speech bubbles with lightning bolt arrow: Mechanical voices
  • Superimposed bubbles: Interruption. Different characters can be given different shapes or colors of bubble, making keeping track of who is speaking easier, as well as how they're feeling.
  • Speech bubble with inwards arrow: Offscreen character speech. More common in manga than in western media.
  • Speech bubbles with dotted lines: Whispering
  • Speech bubbles with outward spikes: Screaming and yelling
  • Spiky bubbles, often with lightning arrow: Announcements
  • Fluffy speech bubbles with circles instead of arrow: Thinking. Also known as thought bubbles.
  • Drooping speech bubbles with shadows: Menacing speech
  • Slightly wavy speech bubbles: Weak speech
  • Black speech bubbles: Some villains and monsters like to use black speech balloons and strange colored text

If any character needs a subtly menacing tone to their speech, then it can be rendered in a black speech balloon with either white or red text (the latter maybe implying more anger). Also, madness can be indicated with mangled text, and foreign languages or accents with exotic fonts.

See Pictorial Speech-Bubble for when a Speech Bubble contains only symbols rather than words, and Rebus Bubble for when this is specifically used like a rebus puzzle. Speech-Bubble Censoring covers strategic placement of speech bubbles to preserve characters' modesty.

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  • The use of Halos in Western religious art was, at least in part, to function as Speech Bubbles, putting the prayers of angels or famous Papal quotations as written text on the Halo itself.

    Comic Books 
  • Most comics use different forms of speech bubble to represent telepathy, internal dialogue, phone calls etc., etc.
  • In Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warren speaks with irregular and somewhat-squiggly bubbles and Twilight talks in a different font.
  • The Invisibles uses speech bubbles to good effect.
  • And don't forget the distinctive yellow bubbles and boxes utilized by Deadpool. He certainly can't.
  • Several characters in The Sandman (1989) have distinctive speech bubbles or fonts — each of the Endless and Matthew, in particular. At one point, Matthew "imitates" Morpheus with a speech bubble that looks like his. Delirium's speech bubbles contain wild swirls of color and wavering text, but when she was Delight (and sane), the colors were subdued and straight, and the text linear. Death is the sanest and most down-to-earth of the Endless and the only one whose Speech Bubbles are completely normal.
  • Jamie Madrox's duplicates in X-Factor get slightly different fonts from standard speech bubbles.
  • Asterix:
    • The language of the Goths is represented by a Gothic font, Greeks speak in an angular font resembling the Greek alphabet, and Egyptian speech bubbles contain hieroglyph-style rebuses (even for onomatopoeia). When Obelix repeats a phrase in Egyptian, it looks like a shakily-drawn stick figure.
    • Asterix and the Cauldron features a Roman tax gatherer whose rectangular speech bubbles resembles modern tax forms, complete with check boxes.
    • In Asterix and the Roman Agent, anyone falling under the discord-sowing powers of Convulvus (the titular agent) gets a speech bubble tinted green. When Obelix's anger subsides, his bubbles become progressively whiter.
    • When our heroes complain to the camp cook about the army food in Asterix the Legionary, the cook responds with mocking sweetness, before yelling his head off. While he's being nice, his speech bubbles are filled with smiling suns, flowers, singing birds and music notes.
    • In Asterix and Caesar's Gift, when Vitalstatistix and Orthopaedix introduce their respective wives, Impedimenta and Angina, to each other, the wives say "Pleased to meet you" to each other in irregularly-shaped bubbles with icicles and snow dripping off them.
  • Nearly every important character in Watchmen has either a different color/style speech bubble, or a different font. Sometimes both.
  • Martian Manhunter is usually depicted with a wavy tail to his bubbles, and rarely a wobbly edge to the circle, though what exactly that represents is uncertain.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • The Vision traditionally spoke with a square bubble to indicate a cold, robotic voice. In recent years, they have been redesigned to be round, with points cut into the top, bottom, and both sides. They're also used for all synthezoids, like his daughter.
    • In the late 90s, Thor was given a distinctive font inspired by Olde English to match his Shakespearean/Biblical patois.
      • Thor's font is used for any Asgardian character; even his cyborg clone Ragnarok, and Beta Ray Bill, an alien who uses a copy of his powers, use it.
    • Iron Man has been given rectangular, red outlined bubbles with typographic font to indicate that his voice is coming through speakers in the armor.
      • This style of speech bubble is used with different colorations for anyone wearing similar armor.
    • Ultron has been given rectangular shaped bubbles a lot in more modern times, and Jocasta, one of his creations and a mainstay of the Mighty Avengers lineup, speaks with a font that seems like Comic Sans/Arial as opposed to normal lettering.
    • In Great Lakes Avengers Deathurge speaks with all black Speech Bubbles, as does Doorman after he takes up Deathurge's mantle. And actually it's a generally kept convention that death-related or demonic characters get black bubbles.
    • Super-Skrull speaks with green Speech Bubbles in Annihilation: Super-Skrull.
    • Speaking of Annihilation, in the Drax The Destroyer tie in all aliens speaking in their native tongues get weird bubbles plus in the series proper Annihilus gets purple ones, Tenebrous gets black ones, Aegis gets red ones, and The Xandarian Worldmind gets square ones with a yellow border.
    • Thanos speaks in rugged speech bubbles with thick black outlines.
    • Depending on the writer, various characters have distinctive font and speech bubble styles, including Ben Grimm (pretty much all the time) and Johnny Storm (whose speech bubbles take on a fiery appearance when he's using his powers); and Wolverine, particularly when berserk.
    • With enough experience the conventions do sometimes double as Interface Spoiler. For example: Black bubble with Asgardian font? Gee... could it be Hela?!
  • The Preservers in ElfQuest originally spoke with wavy lettering, and when the series collected for the first color edition each preserver spoke with its own color of bubble. This was dropped in the Marvel reprint which was completely re-lettered, and the new lettering carried over into some collected editions. The DC Collector's Edition and Online Edition of the Original Series use new computer lettering, restoring the wavy Preserver style and colored bubbles.
    • ElfQuest also used to represent telepathy (sending) by parallelogram-shaped speech bubbles with sawtooth edges. This apparently just became too much hard work, and was eventually replaced by bubbles comprising two concentric ovals, although as you've seen from the above examples some of the original versions survive in the online edition..
    • It's also worth mentioning that in the early stories, before Humans and Elves learned to understand each other's languages, human language (which sounded ugly to the elves) was represented by rough, angular speech bubbles instead of the neatly rounded speech bubbles normally used when the elves were speaking.
  • In PS238, aspiring supervillain and world conqueror Zodon has a chip inserted into his head to make him stop cussing all the time. The innocuous words that replace his attempts to swear are rendered in a blocky font. When he really goes caroling ape-beans, he starts singing show tunes.
  • In Atomic Robo the titular character's speech bubbles are blue with small zig-zags on both sides and have a lightning bolt shaped tail. Helsingard as a Brain in a Jar has brown square bubbles. Everyone has a jagged outline over a radio and a dotted one when they're whispering.
  • The various Transformers series use different bubbles for the Transformers. Originally, the first series used squared boxes with flared corners, so as to emphasize the electronic nature of their voices. A few issues in, the bubbles switched to more conventional rounded bubbles with a lightning bolt-shaped arrow (typically associated with radio and television dialogue). This became the standard speech bubble style for the Marvel UK series, while the Marvel US series quickly reverted to the squared bubbles. The squared bubbles made a return in IDW in retro-themed issues of their main continuity, and in Regeneration One, which was a new continuation of the original Marvel US continuity. Unicron got bubbles rippled in thick black and red lines, indicating his status as a Dark God, while Primus received thick, sketchy black lines roughly arranged in hexagonal shapes.
    • Transformers: Generation 2 introduced computer-generated text bubbles courtesy of Richard Starkings and Comicraft, giving the Autobots and Decepticons very distinct fonts, and colored panels along the left side of the bubbles corresponding with the characters' colors. Autobots had square panels and a clean-looking font, while Decepticons had triangles and a harsher, more angular font. The Dinobots, being rougher than the regular Autobots, had trapezoidal panels (with the occasional triangle) but otherwise used the Autobot font.
    • Subsequent series from other publishers have experimented with different styles with different effects, such as Megatron in Dreamwave's third volume speaking in black speech bubbles with white text. Most recently, the IDW books tended to just use standard speech bubbles. Starting from around issue 14 of The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Combiners get uniquely coloured speech bubbles based on the subject's own colour-scheme (so Devestator gets green bubbles with purple font). After Dark Cybertron, Bludgeon starts speaking in black bubbles with white text, a trait shared by Onyx Prime. Centurion, from Revolutionaries, speaks with the squared speech bubbles of Furman's era (matching the bubbles from the series he was "introduced" in, Hearts of Steel).
  • In Teri Sue Wood's Wandering Star, all the characters have elaborately hand-drawn dialogue, except for a group of mind-controlled slaves; theirs is typewritten.
  • Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire uses different bubble styles and fonts for different alien races. This page alone has thirteen different bubbles.
  • Normal humans as well as the titular character of Hellboy have white speech bubbles with standard comic book font and short trails. Demons and horrors generally have red or purple speech bubles with longer, wavy trails and sharp letters. Aquatic creatures have blue speech bubbles. The demon Ualac goes from normal white bubbles to wavy golden ones when he becomes the beast of the apocalypse .
  • Disney had for a time comics about baby versions of their characters. Baby Gyro Gearloose spoke in speech bubbles outlined by equations and formulas. Considering Gyro is an inventor as well as terribly scatterbrained, it probably represents that his mind's elsewhere while he's talking.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures when a character is upside down, the text in their speech balloon would be printed upside down as well.
    • This is quite a common gag in many comics.
  • The biochips in Rogue Trooper have sort of semi-circular indentations in the edges of their bubbles.
  • In Atavar, the Uos' speech bubbles are square and all their dialogue is bold. In the first few panels, before Atavar gains the ability to speak their language, the Kalen's dialogue is represented by random Greek letters.
  • The speech bubbles in Cerebus the Aardvark could be incredibly expressive and as artistic as anything else that was going on in the comic, especially when Cerebus was drunk, mad, or having an argument with himself.
  • Null of Halcyon seems to "speak" through black narration boxes with white text, which doesn't stop anyone from hearing him. The font also changes when characters are speaking in a foreign language, à la Discworld.
  • In a number of 2000 AD strips, including Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors, robots speak with baloons that have harsh angled edges rather than curved, occasionally with a different typeface from organic characters (dependent on the letterer).
    • Since an assassination attempt in a hacked virtual reality simulation, Ramone Dexter has become aware of his own thought bubbles.
  • Norby: The backgrounds of the bubbles in this series switch between white and yellow to help them stand out against the background, which also tends to switch between those two colours (other colours, too, but predominantly white and yellow).
  • Black Hammer has distinctive speech bubbles for several of the characters. Colonel Weird's speech bubbles have a wavy border and light grey text to reflect that he's physically and mentally not all there. Talky-Walky has grey speech bubbles with a square border and bolded, blocky text to reflect her robotic nature. And Anti-God has black speech bubbles with a red border and text to emphasize his evilness. Everyone else uses normal speech bubbles.
  • Hound: Morrigan's lines of dialogue are rendered in mixed case with a unique font.

    Comic Strips 
  • This has been in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip a few times. Most notably, the distinctive voice-treatment given to Daleks is represented as an angular font in a jagged speech bubble. This has been the case since they had their own strip in TV Century 21 in the 1960s.
  • In Don Rosa's early The Pertwillaby Papers series, nearly every character had their own specific font and speech bubble design, reflecting their personalities. The tradition carried over to his Scrooge McDuck stories in part later on.
  • In Pogo, P. T. Bridgeport spoke in circus posters, Deacon Mushrat used Olde Englishe lettering, and Sarcophagus MacAbre (the natural-born buzzard) spoke like a sympathy note.
  • Manfred Schmidt, author of German comic Nick Knatterton, commented that they were a primitive tool in his POV — "bubbles coming from the heads, eyes, ears, noses or mouths of characters to indicate what they think, see, hear, smell or say".
  • On Calvin and Hobbes, The Bully Moe has crudely-written text in lowercase letters for his bubbles to indicate how dumb he is. When aliens or robots appear, their bubbles are rectangular and have electronic fonts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1925 silent film The Unholy Three has a rare use of this trope in a live-action film. A con man, who used to be a ventriloquist and is now selling birds at a pet store, is tricking customers into thinking his parrots can talk by throwing his voice. Since this was a silent film, it gets this effect across by having speech bubbles pop up above the various caged parrots saying parrot things like "Pretty Polly".
  • The Three Stooges short "I Can Hardly Wait" uses a thought bubble when Curly first starts dreaming, showing his dream inside the thought bubble for a few seconds before going to full screen.
  • Discussed in When Harry Met Sally.... Harry is telling Jess about his marital troubles. His wife Helen had said she wants a trial separation.
    Harry: Then she tells me that somebody in her office is going to South America and she can sub-let his apartment. I can't believe this, and the doorbell rings, 'I can sub-let his apartment', the words are still hanging in the air, you know, like in a balloon attached to a mouth.
    Jess: Like in the cartoon.
    Harry: Right. So I go to the door, and there were moving men there.
  • Funeral Parade of Roses: A deeply weird use of this trope. The Cat Fight between Leda and Eddie has the movie going into silent film mode for a second, with Leda and Eddie hurling insults like "Bitch!" and "Whore!" at each other via speech bubbles spilling out of their mouths.

  • Death Note does this, at least in the English manga. The shinigami speak in a different font than the human characters.
  • Doraemon: In "A World Without Sound", the characters' thoughts are displayed in bubbles. Their thoughts are rendered in a different font than their spoken dialogue.
  • D.N.Angel uses this trope as well. Dark speaks in a curly fancy kind of font.
  • The font in speech bubbles in Fullmetal Alchemist is usually static, but has a tendency to change in certain circumstances. Among the more memorable instances, Roy Mustang's words become elongated and sharp (and punctuated by little "grr"s) in the scene where he threatens to fry Barry the Chopper for putting a hand on Riza Hawkeye.
  • The Occult Club president from Mahoraba alternated within each word between hiragana and katakana; one scanlation represented this by capitalizing eVeRy OtHeR lEtTeR.
  • Mokona in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- (original version) speaks in a rounded font. It takes a while to learn to read it...
  • Kengamine Nagi in Deadman Wonderland speaks with a synthesizer, which is illustrated through squarish, angled speech bubbles (as opposed to the round ones that the rest of the cast gets.
  • Yotsuba in Yotsuba&! speaks entirely in hiragana, which emphasizes her childishness. This effect, alas, has not been reproduced in any English translation.
  • Satsuki Yotsuba in Negima! has a unique way of speaking which is portrayed in the manga by her almost never using speech bubbles. Her dialogue is almost entirely in the side scribbles normally used for aside notes by manga characters.
    • Also, the French official translation renders Chachamaru's (and strangely, Kokone's) bubbles with a different font to reflect a robotic voice.
  • Fruits Basket uses odd-shaped panels and unusual fonts throughout to convey emotions.
  • At one point in Sekirei, Kazehana greets Minato upon his returning home and her dialogue appears in heart-shaped speech bubbles... at which point Miya scolds her about this, claiming they're against the rules.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi and other manga with romance in the plot often have bubbly speech bubbles to represent nervous babbling. Sometimes the bubbles will have their own Sweat Drop.
  • Ginga Teikoku Kouboushi:
    • Normal human speech is in plain round speech bubbles, with a tail pointing to the onscreen speaker.
    • Narration is in plain rectangular speech bubbles. No tails to imply anyone speaking the text.
    • A Radio Voice is indicated for broadcasts and speakers by using double-lined rectangular speech bubble, with little spokes along the edges. No tails.
    • Shouting is shown by using an angular speech bubble, as if the speaker drew the bubble while upset and was trying to draw a rectangle. Usually has a tail pointing at the speaker.

  • Priest uses this a lot; Protagonist Ivan, spirit guide Belial, big bad Temozerala, his demon lieutenants when they transform, and the zombies all have their own fonts.
  • Berial in The Tarot Cafe speaks in an elegant Gothic font.

  • In what will probably be the only example of characters in prose literature speaking in dialogue balloons, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf features a world where human beings live side-by-side with cartoon and comics characters. The 'toons communicate via visible dialogue balloons (they even come out of the phone), but can learn to enunciate verbally if they so desire.
  • A roundabout example from The Adolescence of P1, during conversations carried out in text using a dumb terminal connected to a computer, the human side of the conversation is represented by using all lower case text and the titular AI's side is represented by all upper case text.
  • All of the dialogue in One Cool Friend is written in line with the rest of the book's text but is wrapped in a speech bubble. Even the blurb on the dust jacket has the lines by Elliot and his father in speech bubbles.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In the Planescape setting, the phirblas are a strange race of humanoids who communicate by using a variant of telepathy to form words in the air right above them, about ten at a time, appearing in the language of their intended recipient. The nature of said script indicates the phirblas' emotional state, so flowing and elegant letters are used for a formal address, while quick and simple text indicates a casual conversation, messy writing indicates that the phirblas is in a hurry or doesn't wish to converse, and shaky script suggests emotional distress. This trait suggests some connection between the phirblas and the dabus of Sigil, who famously communicate by projecting Rebus Bubbles above their heads, but nothing conclusive has been proven.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: The dialogue between characters has the speech bubble appearing as a floating square-shaped box appearing overhead on whoever is speaking.
  • Danganronpa: The climax-reasoning segment of trials depict some characters have a speech bubble with random text to fit the situation.
  • In SaGa Frontier, the words in your character's speech bubbles are different colors than everyone else's. If you run into another one of the main characters during a storyline, their words are the same color as your own.
  • City of Heroes represents characters' speech in speech bubbles. Players can choose the color of their bubbles and text.
  • In Star Control II, each race's speech is subtitled in a different font. These vaguely match their personalities, so the Ur-Quan have large, bold text while the Utwig have thin, wobbly, depressed-looking text.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Paper Mario series love to play with the speech bubbles.
      • Characters talking normally have a regular rounded bubble with normal font size. If a character is extremely shocked or angry, not only the font goes all caps, but the font size grows HUGE and sometimes the speech bubble becomes more pointy instead of round. Characters who are scared or angry may use fonts that wiggle and characters who are very quiet or growing quiet have the font shrink and/or become a light gray instead of the standard black. Truly evil characters have a purple speech bubble.
      • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door at least, Boss characters also have a different sound effect that goes with the scrolling text in their speech bubbles.
    • The Mario & Luigi trilogy shares this love for playing with the speech bubbles.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, the Malkavian font is like cut out letters from a paper.
  • Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day have them throughout each cutscene.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, every character has them throughout the game, even with the scrolling text in them.
  • Persona 5: Black and red bubbles with "..." in them appear above NPCs who have things to say, and dialogue now appears as square boxes with triangular attachments pointing to the mouths of the Character Portraits that accompany them.
  • Touch Detective has the rare feature of the connector tracking the speaker if they are moving.
  • Everybody Edits:
    • Speech bubbles appear above NPCs or smileys when talking. A smaller bubble with "..." appears above NPCs before initiating a dialogue, or above smileys when moving.
    • A black speech bubble appears above a sign that's being read, or above a tile whose metadata is being checked.

    Web Comics 
  • Ava's Demon shows off the characters' various colour schemes in their speech bubbles (fill, lettering, and outlines). This is also used to emphasize altered states like curses and being near death.
  • In A Moment of Peace, humans have normal speech bubbles and gods speak in floating, colored, Comic Sans MS text.
  • By the Tail: Most of the cast have regular speech bubbles. Echo, meanwhile, speaks in black, dripping letters, while Sugar and Spice speak with with rather oriental-looking letters.
  • In Exterminatus Now, the Dark Gods have different colored speech bubbles and fonts, and the main character's superior's speech bubble is black with white text. He himself is nearly always in shadow. The writer pointed this out in the comments for the comic.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court uses a different color balloon for each character; the differences are usually subtle. When Shadow2 copies another character's voice, this is indicated by his balloon's color. One character's bodily possession is indicated by overlapping balloons. Initially even minor character got their own bubble colors, but this was later dropped; in later chapters, only the major characters get colored speech bubbles. Most minor characters have even lost the bubble colors they once had (e.g. Paz, whose bubbles used to be brown, but now are a generic white).
  • Similarly, Irregular Webcomic! uses different colors for different characters, or at least tries to. Many characters and many crossovers have led to a few cases where multiple characters in a strip speak with the same (or very similar) colors.
  • Richard from Looking for Group falls under this proposed trope.
  • The Order of the Stick uses numerous variations in the shape or color of the Speech Bubbles for specific characters:
    • Undead have black speech bubbles with white text. When Xykon becomes a lich in Start of Darkness and his speech bubbles change to the undead format, he comments on his dramatic, echoey voice. Redcloak clarifies that this is because Xykon no longer has a functional larynx, so his voice is magically powered by negative energy.
    • Diverse colored speech bubbles for outsiders such as gods, celestials, infernals, and ghosts. Infernals usually have black speech bubbles with colored text inside (lampshaded with Qarr the imp, who is recognized by his red-on-black speech bubbles). Celestials have brightly colored bubbles with black text. Elemental spirits like Celia have a color related to their plane of origin.
    • Dragons and half-dragons also have colored speech bubbles linked to their species. Giants too, it seems.
    • Being under some magical effect can alter the color of a character's speech bubbles, like with the Oracle doing a prophecy, Vaarsuvius under the Soul Splice, or Haley having imbibed a Potion of Glibness.
    • The shape is sometimes significant too, like with Lawful Neutral Modrons having rectangular bubbles.invoked
    • The connectors pointing to which character is speaking also give indications. They are straight when the speaker is healthy, but become irregular for a sick, stunned, drunk, confused, wounded or dying character, to represent shaky speech. Malack's are always this way until he shows his Game Face, hinting of a raspy or hissy voice.
    • More classically, bubbles with dotted borders and grey text indicate whispering. Zz'dtri's bubbles always have grey text, since he's The Quiet One and hardly ever raises his voice.
    • Early in the comic, mumbling to oneself or aside comments by the characters were texts without bubbles and just a connector. But this became rarer and rarer and has phased out by book 3 — except for the Demon-Roaches, who only ever talk this way.
  • anti-HEROES does the same as The Order of the Stick with undead, and lampshades it.
  • Erfworld uses one font (Maiandra GD) for real-world characters (including Parson even after he is summoned into Erfworld), and another (Gorilla Milkshake) for Erfworld's native inhabitants.
  • Coga Suro has the usual convention of robots having square speech balloons. Most of them, anyway. Styx, an evil example, has black speech balloons with white text. For a few chapters, each character had a different font, but this was dropped later.
  • Comic Book SNAFU uses speech bubbles with different colors or fonts for certain characters, particularly to denote non-human characters like Lancer or Mark Twelve.
  • Chainmail Bikini uses a different font for each player (with the same font being used for table talk by the player and in-character statements by that player's character).
  • The Wotch uses a black speech-bubble with white letters for Dark Lord Xaos. During a flashback, you see the moment where he discards his old persona as the Lawful Good "Worlock", and dons the spikey darkey helmet of Lawful Evil Lord Xaos; his speech-bubbles reverse their colors from one panel to the next.
  • 8-Bit Theater has the Dark Warriors, were everyone but Bikke has weird speech bubbles; Garland's are red on black (formerly black on gray), Drizz'l's are white on black, and Viblert's are black on red. There's also Sulk's (a whiny version of The Hulk), which are green. The Light Warriors also get uniquely-coloured text when they don't speak in normal speech bubbles; this has led to much discussion over the identities of the speakers in one particular comic. A question which has recently been answered. (Spoilers!)
  • Spider-Man Unlimited (2023): In the first issue, "Doctor Doom" gets normal speech bubbles until he's revealed as a Doombot robot duplicate. At that point he switches to italics and his speech bubbles acquire jagged tails, emphasising his mechanical nature.
  • Bob and George has the Shadowy Author, whose bubbles are normal colored, but just float around without the tail pointing to his mouth. About two years before the end of the comic, his speech balloons suddenly gain a tail; this is our first clue that it's actually George, pretending to be the Shadowy Author.
  • Dream Catcher typically uses a standard font for everyone, except early on in the gateworld where they briefly used hard to read cursive text.
  • Similarly M9 Girls! used a different font for each major character. For example, the Valley Girl character had a very fancy font, while the villain would get a gothic-looking font. The authors seem to have dropped this in later chapters.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Agatha and other "Sparks" get a gradual change of font as they draw more and more on the madness that is their source of power... it's not just for decoration, either. With all the cool machines the Sparks can build, it's easy to forget their most insidious power — the ability to draw the easily-impressionable to them, binding their wills, and turning them into "minions". When the font starts getting curly, people start kneeling. Agatha just has a bit of extra punch in that department, thanks to her Mongfish blood.
    • When Bangladesh DuPree breaks her jaw and has it wired shut, her speech bubbles become rebuses. Some of Agatha's little clanks "speak" using rebuses as well.
    • Other groups that have their own special speech bubbles: Jagerkin (and the Generals are even more special), and voice-enabled clanks. Castle Heterodyne has a bubble similar to the Jagers.
    • The Geisterdamen have their own particular fonts, but the same speech bubbles as human characters.
    • Tinka, a malfunctioning clank, gets a strange effect around the edge of her speech bubbles, vaguely reminiscent of broken pixels on a low-resolution screen.
    • Von Pinn has her own very distinctive bubbles, with curved slices all around the edge, faintly reminiscent of a circular saw blade.
  • Metroid: Third Derivative gives every character a different font, color, and text effects for their speech. When JD copies Joey's voice in comic 160, his color changes to indicate it.
  • Mr Square has often used word bubbles as actual characters in 12 and 143 as well as using them as scenery in #48.
  • The Last Days of FOXHOUND does the inverse. When Decoy Octopus is in disguise, his speech bubble remains white, making it easier for readers to identify him. Each character has their own colors of speech bubble, with their own Painting the Medium moments. When Psycho Mantis is using his powers, his text turns from black to red green. It's when he goes totally nuts that his text turns red. And when one character is possessing another, the possessing spirit's speech bubble is used. This is actually used in the last comic, to reveal that Big Boss has taken over Ocelot's mind, not Liquid as the games would have you believe.
  • In Ozy and Millie, all the dragons have their own distinctive fonts. Lampshaded in the April 10, 2006 strip.
  • Vinci of Vinci & Arty has a thick Greek accent, which is generally rendered phonetically only when other artists "borrow" him. In his home comic, it's represented by a pseudo-Greek font. Most characters in Vinci & Arty have distinct fonts, with the exception of non-recurring characters, who just get a generic font.
  • Combo Rangers has speech bubbles Color-Coded for Your Convenience, in accordance to the character's uniform colors. This was useful when it was revealed that a Big Bad was a clone of Power Combo, thanks to their similar speech bubbles.
  • The style and fonts used in The Monster & The Girl for each of the major characters. Mayu has blurred edge rounded speech bubbles, Kenrick has extremely ragged edged rectangular speech bubbles.
  • Since the characters of 1/0 are actually in a comic strip, they have no audio even to them; their voices are distinguished instead by their fonts. Well, they seem to "hear" their voices, but in the same sense that we do — by seeing the fonts and imagining how they sound. This provokes a bizarre conversation halfway through the strip where they begin arguing about what their voices sound like. Zadok the grass golem is told that only he thinks his voice is a sexy rich baritone instead of a creepy rustling scratching.
  • Kismetropolis uses different speech bubbles, colors and fonts for varying purposes.
  • In DM of the Rings, the GM speaks with square speech bubbles with yellow background, and NPCs (played by the GM) had regularly shaped speech bubbles, but also with yellow background.
    • This convention was picked up by Darths & Droids... and nearly every Campaign Comic in existence.
    • And in the recent Deep-Immersion Gaming portions of The Wotch.
    • The B-Side Comics from Applegeeks use a similar system: conversations between the artist and writer have the artist speak normally through his avatar and the writer using only square speech balloons while remaining offscreen, almost as a Narrator.
  • David Hopkins' Jack uses a very distinctive style of speech bubble with notches along the border for any dialogue spoken by the Sins in the strip and a second distinctive style for those characters who are/were Fallen angels, although the latter is rarely seen. Also, Candy and Ryan Dewalt, the pair behind Vinci and Arty, did a story arc for Jack (with full approval from David Hopkins) and brought their talent for character-specific fonts to Jack.
  • The first panel on page 10 of the Energize/Dasien crossover uses a small drawing of each hero's face next to the relevant speech bubble.
  • Home On The Strange has one character speak in a different font from the others. There's a good reason for this, which is explained in the sidebar.
  • One strip from Lick My Jesus (which is regrettably defunct) had one character agreeing with everything another said. It turned out to be because he didn't understand what the person was saying — because he didn't speak Papyrus. The rest of the strip was a series of gags which involved treating fonts as if they were languages.
  • Most dialog in The Easy Breather is set in three standard Apple fonts: Chicago for heroes, Sand for villains and Chalkboard for other characters. In the second story, the "neutral" dialog font was changed from Chalkboard to Rehotalko, and Self Destruct Button is used for talking robots.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Starfish Aliens often speak in hexagon-shaped balloons, while robots usually speak in stylized square balloons reminiscent of the Marvel Comics Transformers.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the Big Bad race of the time had an in-universe font change to something more readable as part of the terms of a surrender.
  • Miss Delta (a digital artist from @hens) in Adventures In ASCII has half-triangular speech bubbles reflecting her body shape.
  • College Roomies from Hell!!!'s speech bubbles are mostly in the distinctive "Good Dog" font, but Satan has his own font, and the cyborgised Brazil speaks in a plainer font to suggest his computer-synthesised monotone.
  • In Kagerou, different colors are used to differentiate characters, as well as to show which of Kano's personalities is at the fore. His speech bubbles usually match his eyes.
  • One special Mountain Time episode puts speech bubbles to a somewhat meta use.
  • Although Something*Positive mostly uses standard speech bubbles and fonts, this strip deserves special mention for its humorously creative use of bubble colour, heavy outlining and symbols such as storm clouds, teardrops and a dead kitten to convey heartbreak.
  • The Way of the Metagamer started out using Comic Sans for everything. Later on, it switched to Gemelli — but when characters are under mind control or otherwise possessed, their font changes back to Comic Sans. Additionally, the narrator speaks with floating rectangles instead of bubbles — whenever a character imitates the narrator, they too use rectangles.
  • Drowtales uses differently colored speech bubbles for different characters. In one panel, Ariel and Chirinide both yell at Kyonne to leave them, and share one bubble with a gradient between their respective colors.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • The comic has mostly normal speech bubbles, but occasionally, an Immortal (or flat-out Eldritch Abominations) get black speech bubbles that get progressively less normal as they get angry and/or emotional. The Goo doesn't even have a speech bubble, subtly implying that the Goo does not speak using vocals, but instead through telepathy of some sort.
    • Also, in one strip, where a new character with long hair is introduced, a little bubble naming him shows up with "gothic" script. He glances over and notices it, physically strikes it with a fist, and it reverts to normal text. It's in the "one-shot" strips, though, where that's more common.
  • Little Worlds features blurry-edged color-coded speech bubbles for each of its characters.
  • Keychain of Creation has the usual (round, black text on white), and a number of special ones:
    • Yelling is indicated with spiky bubbles.
    • Some Abyssals or otherwise death-aspected creatures get white text on a black background.
    • Marena has a more animalistic font when in her Deadly Beastman form.
    • Nova and the semi-alchemicals have rectangular bubbles, with rounded corners.
    • Unnatural Mental Influence is often indicated by the text having a color.
  • In The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom):
    • The Unspeakable's speech bubbles use the Caslon font, as opposed to a "normal" comic font for other characters.
    • Also, when Zalgo comes (and goes) in one of the strips, his speech bubbles are oddly-colored and covered in swirly lines.
  • Kevin & Kell has started altering its bubbles; once converstations start showing up in 'feline', the bubbles grow cat ears and whiskers.
  • Game Destroyers does things a little differently than most other web comics. Unlike other comics, there are no dialogue arrows on the speech bubbles in this comic. Instead, each character has a unique font, text color, and background color. Some characters who know telepathy speak in a rounded edge rectangle instead, whenever the author remembers that, anyway.
  • In Level 30 Psychiatry translated Pokémon Speak is rendered in Blue and Yellow balloons reminisant of the Pokemon logo.
  • Naturally, these get used throughout the whole of Ears for Elves; however, the ways their shape and layout can be used is shown excellently here.
  • In the xkcd "Time" animation, the Beanie People leader's speech to the protagonists is obfuscated in various ways (words written over each other, gray haze partially blocking the text) to represent the barely-bridged language barrier.
  • In Digger, many characters haver unusual speech bubbles, particularly those that live underground. The Cold Servants speak in white-on-black text, and each word is in a different segment of speech bubble. Sweetgrass Voice has white-on-black words in his/its speech. Shadow Child also speaks in white-on-black, but in normal font and speech bubbles. The Statue of Ganesh always has straight edges around His words. The Skin Lizards speak in a different font than most characters.
  • General Protection Fault uses a different font for alien speech. Beings from between the dimensions have an extra outline around their speech bubbles - when the webcomic was in color, the ring was red.
  • In Funny Farm human characters speak in a handwriting font, while PC, ASCII, Tor the Calculate and other machines have a capitalized sans serif font.
  • In Consolers, the Mobile Demon speaks in green, partially transparent speech bubbles with wavy lines and uses a different font from the other characters.
    • In one panel where Nintendo is drawn in CD-i Zelda style, she speaks in Comic Sans as opposed to the regular font.
    • When a character is speaking from offscreen, their head will show up right next to/partially inside their speech bubble.
  • In Curtailed, Seley and Fox are seen dodging speech bubbles that contain questions about their upcoming wedding.
  • Different fonts are used in Leif & Thorn to represent people speaking different languages. The speech bubbles of vampires are outlined in red.
  • In Rusty and Co., Malevolus speaks in black-letter font on scroll-shaped bubbles. His speech bubbles turn normal once, precisely because he's making an effort to disguise his voice.
  • In Sandra on the Rocks Eva, a model, has taken a shine to Marie but when Eva's stylists Adrianne (fashion) and Adrienne (makeup and hair) cruelly put down Marie, Eva's face goes dark with an evil glint in her eyes, and her dialogue for that followup scene is in a black balloon with white text.
  • In Sticky Dilly Buns, on two separate occasions, when characters become coldly angry, their speech bubbles start dripping icicles.
  • In Cucumber Quest, characters in general use Rainbow Speak. Additionally, each of the Disaster Masters speak in bubbles designed after their theme.
    • Splashmaster has white text on navy blue bubbles, with wavy tails. They also have water dripping off them, and his text is rendered in ALL CAPS to denote his Simpleton Voice.
    • Noisemaster's bubbles are neon with the colors changing every page. Each bubble has a "shadow" the same color as the text. When not playing up his raver persona, the bubbles use darker colors.
    • His partner, Mutemaster, speaks in white-on-gray cloud-shaped bubbles. Mutemaster's magic power also removes the text from other characters' speech bubbles.
    • Rosemaster speaks in white-on-green bubbles with vine-like appendages. The first letter of every bubble is also written in a fancier style, denoting her elegance. When angry, the bubbles become red and the vines have thorns. When she's empowered by a magical artifact, her bubbles are white-on-black with a pink outline, and the fancy lettering becomes fancier.
    • Quakemaster speaks in blocky pitch-black charcoal bubbles with orange text. His text is also in ALL CAPS, though like Rosemaster, the first letter of every bubble is larger than the rest.
    • Glitchmaster speaks entirely in EarthBound-styled text boxes, with each statement preceded by a bullet. When angered, her boxes become glitchy and misshapen and use a pixellated all-caps font.
    • The final, unnamed Master speaks in dark blue bubbles with a fuzzy outline and its text uses a different typeface for every letter that aren't aligned with each other, giving off a very erratic feel.
  • Fillbert: Most speech bubbles are black text on a white background. Fabian's speech bubbles are white text on a black background; he chose this because the default was too bright for him. Black text on yellow rectangles are a character.
  • In Sleepless Domain Magical Girls have their speech bubble outline and fonts colored their main color, while civilians have the traditional black. Meanwhile, The Purple One has the inverse, the balloon itself is purple while the outline and the font are white. This mostly holds over when she fuses with Tessa, with the exception of when she poses as Tessa, in which it's the same as the normal magical girls to blend in.
  • Pixie Trix Comix: When Zadie is introduced to Marie and is jealous over her closeness with Dante and Gwynn, there are icicles hanging from her speech bubble when she says, "Charmed."
  • Aurora (2019): Most characters have basic black-text-white-background speech bubbles with variations in shape to convey tone and volume. Some supernatural characters, mostly gods, have speech bubbles with brightly colored text and background matching the character's overall color scheme. Elemental primordials don't use speech bubbles at all; their speech appears as text imposed directly over the scene and is further embellished by a distinctive font and a larger text size. A few other characters or types of being have unique visual effects on their speech bubbles; one character sometimes has transparent text, showing the colors of the background, inside a white speech bubble.

    Western Animation 
  • The Owl House: In the episode "Lost in Language", when Luz opens a graphic novel during the Wailing Star's influences, speech bubbles appear above Luz, Edric, and Emira's heads when they talk.
  • Many cartoons of the silent era, such as Felix the Cat, would use Speech Bubbles as opposed to the word cards usually seen in live-action silent films. Lampshaded by Walt Disney in his first color television show, when he goes over how cartoons acted prior to the dawn of sound.
    Walt: And as for sound... Well, if a character had something to say, he said it like this.
    [he notices a bubble with what he just said written in it, which he pops with a baton]
  • The Belgian cartoon short series Kabouter Wesley does show speech bubbles when the characters are talking. While this is mostly due to the cartoons being virtually unaltered adaptations of the comics they are based on, some of the series's absurd jokes involve characters directly referring to spelling mistakes in another character's speech balloon, so it is quite essential for the text to show up to make these jokes work.
  • Thought bubbles are often used on The Simpsons to show what a character is thinking.
  • In the Muppet Babies (1984) episode where the babies make their own newspaper, Fozzie makes a comic strip and points out the speech bubbles when they appear (starting with one that says "Booooo!" after his first joke). The bubbles eventually start hurting him when he runs into the pointers, and eventually crowd him out.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sleepy Time", dreams are shown as thought bubbles, which SpongeBob's dream self is able to jump into and invade other's dreams.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Speech Bubble, Speech Balloon, Thought Bubble, Speech Balloons


Nothing Happened...

When Luz opens a graphic novel during the Wailing Star's influences, speech bubbles appear above Luz, Edric, and Emira's heads when they talk.

How well does it match the trope?

4.44 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpeechBubbles

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