Languages Magazine

The Serious Language of Comics

By Expectlabs @ExpectLabs


There is significance in even the most comical of things. The Lexicon of Comicanapublished in 1980 by cartoonist Mort Walker, explains the importance of comic book symbology and how these symbols come together to represent their own language.

Walker invented an entire dictionary of comic book terminology. One of those terms is emanata, which are lines drawn around objects that illustrate their inner state, whether that be a temperature, time frame, or feeling. Our favorite emanata is the waftarom, which is the swirling steam that illustrates how delicious something is.

Doodling is one of the first ways kids learn how to express themselves, which Walker felt underscored why comic books were so critical:

"The more international we become, the more we need symbols and the more important it becomes that they are universally understood… We must take heart, then, when we see people in remote parts of the Earth reading Blondie and Peanuts and Donald Duck. Not only are they being entertained but they are educating themselves in the world language of symbols.”

Read more about comic book symbology in John Brownlee’s Co.Design overview.

(viaCo.Design & The Lexicon of Comicana)

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