Music in Comics

I’m working on a mini-comic of short experiments right now and one of them deals with representations of music in comics. I’ve come up with a few, and I queried the Oubapo list for more (those who responded are listed after their suggestion). I thought I’d share what’s come up so far:

1. Musical notes floating in the air.

2. Just the lyrics.

3. Little sound waves coming out of a speaker or possibly an instrument. (straight lines or wavy)

4. Combinations of 1, 2, and 3 or just 1 and 2.

5. Musical notation (staffs, notes, etc) like sheet music.

6. Various abstract expressionistic backgrounds.

7. Visual representation of the content of the lyrics (comic within the comic)

8. Notes/waves surround the musicians/listeners/scene flowing around them. (Gary Sullivan)

9. Words to describe the action/sound a la normal sound effects (thump, jangle, toot, etc).

10. Symbols to represent off key music (lemon for “sour note”) (Gary Sullivan)

11. Abstract shapes (curlicues, triangles, etc). See this Gene Deitch image. (Marc Weidenbaum)

12. Images of things that make sound (horns, birds, etc.) (Marc Weidenbaum)

13. Ribbon type shapes a la Megan Kelso in Squirrel Mother (haven’t seen this, so I’m not sure) (Matt Madden)

14. Screen tone shapes and abstractions. (Marc Weidenbaum)

15. Blankness (music can not be represented). (Marc Weidenbaum)

16. Oscilloscope-style wave pattern (Jason Lutes does this somewhere for a rave scene) (Marc Weidenbaum)

17. Austin English’s Christina and Charles has a section where he uses a kind of abstract notation for different instruments: like this and like this. This is fascinating, some of the images give the music a real sense of force or light. Like a superhero’s energy power shooting from the instruments, particularly the horns. Almost like normally invisible breath transformed into color (which is a great metaphor for that type of instrument).

18. Circles emanating from a speaker to represent the thump thump of bass. (Gary Sullivan)

19. Words to describe the music. In “Gloriana”, Kevin Huizenga uses musical notes along with text (“elevator” and later, “Chariots of Fire”) to add description. (Matt Madden)


Notes: Jaime Hernandez draws bands in great poses, but he never represents the music (that I can find). If anyone knows of Dave Sim representing music, I’d love a reference, I don’t have the energy to skim all 6000 pages of Cerebus looking.