Tuesday, July 20, 2010

...the invention of the dialogue balloon was a "good thing",

as ckc (not kc) noted in comments a few weeks ago. As well as balloons, there were experiments with blimps and dirigibles, though these designs were not as effective as hoped on account of the lack of movement on the page. Early cartoonists enjoyed a lot of scope for flexibility until the conventions settled down.

The woman below, from 1543, can only speak in question-mark balloons. She seems to be questioning the hegemony of the patriarchy and the automatic subjugation of women to the male gaze, which is why she has been sentenced to an unusually cruel form of execution involving a late-medieval sauerkraut slicer.

Slightly later, in an episode of the Nuremberg Chronicle, the speech from Mr Buttock-Cap at the left is coming out as an unwinding toilet roll. Mr Buttock-Cap incurred some form of toilet-related mishap every time he appeared in the strip, and soon became such a popular character that he was made the star of a strip of his own. The guy at the right is making a circular argument. Even so, he seems to be convincing the portly party in the middle.

The invention of lighter-than-air balloons came several centuries later, obviously, so they were named after speech balloons rather than the other way around. Some early accounts of Montgolfier's first vehicle call it a "lighter-than-air dialogue box" but that name did not catch on.

This led many early balloonists to the understandable error of thinking that a successful ascent required the passenger to talk a lot to keep the envelope inflated. This in turn inspired a tradition of sending passengers aloft while riding a horse, relying on the well-attested fact that people talk more and louder when they are on horseback.*

These are not Orb Abductions so do not panic.

Here in 1786, the pioneering animal activist Tessu-Brissy rescues an unwanted horse from the Lie-Big Viande factory where it was about to be veritably extracted. His balloon is shaped like that because it was sponsored by the Gouda Cheese Company.

* "In 1852, Madame Poitevin, who had made several such journeys in Paris, ascended from Cremorne Gardens, London, on horseback (as 'Europa on a bull'); but after the first journey its repetition was stopped in England by application to the police courts, as the exhibition outraged public feeling."
What more need I say?

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At Riddled Research Laboratory we are attempting to revive that early freedom in the shape and appearance of speech balloons. This political cartoon about the mining-in-National-Parks debacle would have been cogent as well as funny, but the artist went overboard and filled in the balloons above the speakers' heads, leaving no room for the words. There have been beatings.

16 comments:

fish said...

As well as balloons, there were experiments with blimps and dirigibles, though these designs were not as effective as hoped on account of the lack of movement on the page.

Also, the early ones were filled with hydrogen and we all know how that turned out.

Substance McGravitas said...

Horse balloon is cheating using the lifting power of getty images®. Understandable I guess, but tragic as scientists later discovered the ® stood for Radioactivity.

mikey said...

Actually, it is rather well known throughout Lackademia that in medieval Europe those were known as "Speech Ribbons" that term led directly, albeit slowly, to the invention of the typewriter and later, the tape recorder.

Alas, AK left the M-Chip on the site and thus I am blocked from viewing Tessu-Brissy's heroic rescue, very likely out of concern it will cause me to tell a long, pointless story that includes a randomly selected firearm and ends with sex. A not-unreasonable concern by any measure.

Do carry on...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

These are not Orb Abductions so do not panic.

That's what the orbs want you to think!

Smut Clyde said...

M-chip disabled now so mikey has no excuse to eschew the long pointless story.

Smut Clyde said...

the early ones were filled with hydrogen

When helium was isolated and became affordable, the squeaky-voice helium-filled speech balloons were a great boon for comedy.

Kathleen said...

the origin of a ticker tape parade?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

These are not the orbs that are looking for you.
~

ckc (not kc) said...

(...the invention of english helped me a lot, too)

Mendacious D said...

Helioum-filled speech balloons were also a precursor to the telegraph, as it was easier to transmit lighter words.

fish said...

When helium was isolated and became affordable, the squeaky-voice helium-filled speech balloons were a great boon for comedy.

And was also a tremendous relief from the inflammatory rhetoric of the hydrogen blimps.

Another Kiwi said...

Personally I saw nothing wrong with the Curly Wirly speech ballons. Yes you had to move around a bit to see what people were vouchsafing but it was all part of the social intercourse in them days.

fish said...

And by "social" I believe you mean "pig".

Another Kiwi said...

Holy Corkscrew Batman,that's gotta hurt

Smut Clyde said...

In the top picture, I am wondering whether the lady's twirly balloons keep working after the angry crowd have closed the lid and nailed her up inside the vouch-safe.

Another Kiwi said...

Vouch safes do allow vouchsafing after nailing operations, but the crowd MUST be an angry mob.