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Pow, Punch, Pika, and Chu: The Structure of Sound Effects in Genres of American Comics and Japanese Manga

Nimish K. Pratha, Natalie Avunjian and Neil Cohn
From the journal Multimodal Communication


As multimodal works, comics are characterized as much by their use of language as by the style of their images. Sound effects in particular are exemplary of comics’ language-use, and we explored this facet of comics by analyzing a corpus of books from genres in the United States (mainstream and independent) and Japan (shonen/boys’ and shojo/girls’). We found variation between genres and between cultures across several properties of the content and presentation of sound effects. Foremost, significant differences arose between the lexical categories of sound effects (ex. onomatopoetic: Pow! vs. descriptive: Punch!) between genres within both culture’s works. Additionally, genres in Japanese manga vary in the scripts used to write sound effects in Japanese (hiragana vs. katakana). We argue that, in English, a similar function is communicated through the presence or absence of textual font stylization. Altogether, these aspects of variation mark sound effects as important carriers of multimodal information, and provide distinctions by which genres and cultures of comics can be distinguished.

Appendix: Works analyzed

American mainstream

Cho, Frank. (2005). Shanna, the She-Devil. Marvel. Issue 1.

Conway, G., Andru, R., & Giordano, D. (1976). The Battle of the Century: Superman vs. The Amazing Spiderman. DC Comics and Marvel. Prologue.

Heinberg, Alan & Cheung, Jim. (2005). Young Avengers. Marvel. Issue 1.

Hine, David & Gaydos, Michael. (2005). Daredevil: Redemption. Marvel. Issue 1.

Hine, David & Yardin, David. (2004). District X. Marvel. Issue 3.

Loeb, J., Lee, J., & Williams, S. (2002). Batman: Hush, Volume 1. DC Comics. Chapter 1.

Miller, F., Varley, L., & Jaunson, K. (1986). Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics. Chapter 1.

Moore, A., Bolland, B., & Higgins, J. (1988). Batman: The Killing Joke. DC Comics.

Taylor, T., Redondo, B., & Hugonnard-Bert, J. (2014). Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two. DC Comics. Issue 1.

Vaughan, Brian, et al. (2001). Ultimate X-Men. Marvel. Issue 50.

American independent

Adkins, Leuwin & Shelton, Gilbert. (1972). Jesus Comics No. 3. Rip Off Press. Craddock’s Crusade.

Boivin, Jacques. (1988). The Complete Fluffhead. Phantasy Press. Fluffhead.

Cannon, Kevin. (2009). Far Arden. Top Shelf. Chapter 1.

Chevat, Richie & Ewing, Dean. (1982). The Ronnie Rat Show. Ink Works. Sleep Wid Da Fishes.

Deitch, Kim. (1978). Banzai! Kitchen Sink Enterprises. Noodles’ Punctured Romance.

Greenwood, Warren & Von Sholly, Pete. (1973). Zero, No. 1. Greenwood Organization. Shadows Over Happy Times, or Broccoli Unchained.

Griffin, Rick. (1968). ZAP, No. 2. Apex Novelties. Hike.

Nicholson, Jeff. (1986). Ultra Klutz, No. 4. Onward Comics. Chapter 5.

Sim, Dave. (1987). Cerebrus, Volume 1. Aardvark-Vanaheim. The Flame Jewel.

Todd, Mort & Clowes, Dan’l. (1987). Twist, No. 1. Kitchen Sink Enterprises. Shelter Skelter.

Japanese Shonen

Amano, Akira. (2012). Katekyo Hitman Reborn. Shueisha. Chapter 382.

Hideaki, Sorachi. (2013). Gintama. Shueisha. Chapter 448.

Kishimoto, Masashi. (2012). Naruto. Shueisha. Chapter 583.

Kubo, Tite. (2012). Bleach. Shueisha. Chapter 490.

Mashima, Hiro. (2014). Fairy Tail. Kodansha. Chapter 385.

Nanatsuki, Kyouichi & Yang, Kyung-Il. (2013). Area D. Shogakukan. Chapter 38.

Shimabukuro, Mitsutoshi. (2014). Toriko. Shueisha. Chapter 266.

Togashi, Yoshihiro. (2014). Hunter x Hunter. Shueisha. Chapter 342.

Yagi, Norihiro. (2012). Claymore. Shueisha. Chapter 132.

Yoshiki, Tanaka & Arakawa, Hiromu. (2014). The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Kodansha. Chapter 9.

Japanese Shojo

Aoyama, Haruno. (2011). Kawaikunai I. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Fujii, Aya. (2014). Warui Hito. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Hashiba, Mao. (2014). Hoshi no Ko. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Meguro, Amu. (2012). Honey. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Robiko. (2008). Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Kodansha. Chapter 1.

Saori. (2014). Warui Otoko. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Shiina, Karuho. (2005). Kimi ni Todoke. Shueisha. Chapter 0.

Shiro, Ayane. (2013). Charlotte. Shueisha. Chapter 1.

Taamo. (2011). Taiyou no Ie. Kodansha. Chapter 1.

Yanai, Wakana. (2014). Mofuku no Angel. Shueisha. Chapter 1.


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Published Online: 2016-10-4
Published in Print: 2016-12-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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