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Conveying sarcasm

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Jan. 30, 2015

I spotted a forum thread yesterday on this topic, and I thought some of you might have some interesting input - how do you convey sarcasm in a comic?

From irrevenant:
“In normal life sarcasm is conveyed by tone of voice which obviously isn't available in a comic.

There are tricks using speech bubbles and fonts to represent an icy tone or a creepy tone, a whisper, etc. I was hoping someone has a good way to show that a character is speaking in a dry, sarcastic way. ”

As internet-goers, we're all aware of how hard it can be to make sarcasm understood through text alone. The added aspect of being able to show the speaker's face seems as though it should make the task easier, but I actually can't think of very many tips. You could have the character roll their eyes or elongate certain words (that's suuuuch a great ideaaa…), but those only seem to convey teenage girl-esque sarcasm.

How do you go about showing sarcasm in your comics? Comment below or in irrevenent's thread here!

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cdmalcolm1 at 9:27AM, Jan. 31, 2015

One wAy to do it is to simply say the comment and then show a think bubble from the same person making the sarcasm comment say something completely opposite. Example: "oh yeah she really looks good in THAT dress." Thinking. "Yeah. like a good way to dress a monkey. " ironscraf has the right idea.

Ironscarf at 5:01AM, Jan. 31, 2015

All good suggestions. I would usually back up the dry, exclamation mark and bold text free response by having the character reading a book or similar and not looking up. If the comic is not too serious, I might use a thought bubble, containing a small picture of the character shooting themselves in the head, to accompany the dry response.

irrevenant at 5:58PM, Jan. 30, 2015

Wow, some great tips, thank you! In the end I came up with this: (and yes, I totally stole HippieVan's semi-eyeroll. :D). Facial expression and body language is definitely something I need to get a lot better at.

kawaiidaigakusei at 4:14PM, Jan. 30, 2015

The delivery of a sarcastic response is easier conveyed with body language accompanying related text than just text alone. Take Grumpy Cat or April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation--the two use sarcastic retorts 99% of the time, but their monotone voice or dead-pan expression emphasize that type of humour. Now take away the image and replace it with a text-only version. It is difficult to read sarcasm through Instant Messenger or by phone, and that is where arguments begin. Many times, a person is trying to be funny or use "sarcasm", but the recipient may be unable to read the cues and might just write the person off as being rude or arrogant.

KimLuster at 3:22PM, Jan. 30, 2015

That's some pretty good advice, Bravo - I went back and changed page 211, 3rd panel, of the Godstrain to reflect the sarcasm, just for you! :D

bravo1102 at 11:30AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Use italic, bold and normal fonts to indicate tone of voice. Bold italic for emphasis, italic for under breath and normal everyday speech. Put in pauses with ellipses (...) or dashes (-) so the sarcastic "whatever" could be rendered "What-- everr" The sarcastic "That's such a great idea" Could be rendered as "that's -- SUCH-a-good-idea." Or if everyone in a caps italic comic font put the sarcasm in lower case, non italic for the straight-man delivery. All good hints so far and I mean that sincerely. Considering that all life has been sarcasm and I often have to be very specific about my tone of voice so it doesn't denote irony or sarcasm I just might know something about how to convey it. But sometimes it works perfectly to have a completely dry response that only the context of the dialogue implies sarcasm. Or not, that's when the body language and facial expression comes in. Think "baffled and incredulous" I-don't-believe-that-for-a-second, but I'll-just-play-along.

bravo1102 at 11:19AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Adults use half-lidded eyes and smirk. The whole eye is narrowed and the smile is self-assured. Or the "fake" exaggerated look of surprise. Eyes wider than normal surprise, mouth agape. Loose shoulders and often the head down as if looking over glasses or head up as if the ceiling is so fascinating. Think about the word LACONIC. Think about "GOD help us not AGAIN!"

Warpedwenger at 8:04AM, Jan. 30, 2015 I can't get the link to work right sorry. Here's one to copy and paste

Warpedwenger at 8:02AM, Jan. 30, 2015

MWahaha! Now the ball is in Wenger's court. I could probably write a book about creating sarcastic comics. That's pretty much all I do. There's a pretty good example from Sammy the Skunk [url=]Here[url]. Something that the other comments didn't talk about is comic timing. Which is a very important ingredient in humor. Also difficult to pull off properly in comics. The arrangement of the bubbles is key. In panel 5: Charlie asks Sammy to see the note and immediately Sammy responds with his quip. Combined with their facial expressions it's clear that we've set a sarcastic tone. If the second bubble had been lower on the panel than it was the timing would have been off. It had to be right there under the first bubble.

HippieVan at 7:50AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Haha, you jerk, Banes! I saw your first comment and was like "Oh, what a nice thing to say! ...hey...WAIT A MINUTE..."

Banes at 6:21AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Oh! And of course, punctuation. Words that usually would have an exclamation point get a period instead. Hooray. Yay. Neato. Great. Sarcasm or dryness don't usually get exclamation points!

Banes at 6:21AM, Jan. 30, 2015

The big one that comes to mind is a sort of half-lidded facial expression and look askance...that's definitely my go to (looks like what KimLuster used on that Godstrain page, too). That plus context usually does the trick. And maybe some kind of 'disinterested' body language (like slouching, or arms crossed, or the sarcastic person's body facing away from the target of their sarcasm).

Banes at 5:47AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Oh, terrific. Another Friday post by Hippievan. These are always SO enjoyable and interesting.

KimLuster at 4:58AM, Jan. 30, 2015

Yeah, great topic... and it can be difficult to convey. On page 211 of the Godstrain, 3rd panel, I intended heavy sarcasm... but I don't think anybody caught it :D... But I didn't use any tricks... as you said, facial expressions can work, as can drawing out certain words, but those don't work always. I've considered putting something like *sarcasm* right before or after the phrase when I really wanted the sarcasm to be conveyed!

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