I’d say that giant space-going chimp blimps that spit lasers — literally — accompanied by the following onomontoPOWia effects are right up there at the top of the Awesome List:
I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough of space monkeys flinging their bodily excretions with a mighty “POOT” or “PTUI”. That’s the kind of thing that makes comics great, my friends.
(Image from “Rocket Raccoon”, Vol. 1, No. 3, ©1985, Marvel Comics Group.)
And lo, the faithful shall reach enlightenment through the sound of bullets firing from the breasts of the Skull God:
Apparently one of the world’s largest religions was formed not when Siddhartha sat under a tree until he gained enlightenment, but when he popped up out of the ground, nipples a-blazing with gunfire. Good to know.
(Image from “What the –?!”, Vol. 1, No. 9, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group.)
Like a great Zen koan, “What is the sound of a three-toed hyper-strong blond-wig-wearing green-skinned Abominatrix jumping?” tickles your brain and sprains your consciousness into a higher plane of existence. Because let’s face it, the fact is that there is no sound when you jump, only when you land. Fortunately “She-Hulk” characters are exempt from the stodgy and boring old rules of physics and acoustics, as we see here:
What’s really neat is that there are two sounds to her normally soundless take-off, KIKA and BOOMP. I can almost sort of see how you’d get KIKA, assuming her three toes have really long nails that are clacking on the cement, even though that would be KLIKA if you think about it. Which I don’t recommend you do, to be honest.
But they really lose me with the BOOMP. Again, if it were BOOM I could kind of squint my ears and imagine it’s a sonic boom perhaps, the sound of her breaking the sound barrier at the beginning of her leap. But then, you wouldn’t be able to hear her witty repartee about missing a soap opera. Or it could be the sound of air rushing in to fill the void she’s suddenly vacated by hauling her enormous gamma-radiated carcass off the tarmac.
But BOOMP? No, that I completely don’t understand unless it’s a veiled reference to the fact that what Abominatrix is really missing on TV is an X-rated Betty Boop tribute of some sort. But that doesn’t bear thinking about.
I never found the “Power Pack” comics appealing and I think part of the reason is the slightly creepy idea of skin-tight spandex uniforms on little kids. A (not so) subtle sexual component is absolutely part of the super-hero genre, with the lycra and veiled bondage and rippling muscles and exaggerated cleavage; putting kids into that is uncomfortable, even when (as in the case of Power Pack) the stories and characters are handled very well.
Which makes this confluence of onomontoPOWia and butt-crack-revealing adventure-wear so unfortunate:
Remember kids, don’t do crack, and don’t show crack. Words to live by.
(Image from “Power Pack”, Vol. 1, No. 16, ©1985 Marvel Comics Group.)
Note to all comics creators: If you have a female protagonist who is getting head-butted in a sensitive region, never ever ever use the following onomontoPOWia:
That is all.
Good onomontoPOWia should be like a strong spice in a main course — present, but not overpowering, punchy without being dominating. In other words, the complete opposite of this panel from “Silver Star”:
On one hand, you definitely get the sense of an overwhelming amount of noise, which may be what the team was going for. But it just ends up looking like visual word salad, conveying little impact at the expense of way too much real estate.
When a lithe, muscular, bald-pated outer-space super-powered individual goes through a pane of glass, it sounds like this:
But when a fat guy goes through an almost identical pane of glass in the very same comic, it sounds like this:
I am sure some fancy-pants acoustic engineer will saunter in here and make some mathematical arguments about sound waves and refractions through different cell types and whatnot, but at the end of the day I think we can all agree that what we need to settle this controversy once and for all is to throw more guys through windows.
Despite the fact that I live on a small ranch with lots of animals around, I had no idea that if you combined a sheep with a cow the resultant hybrid would transform from a placid, cud-chewing “moo cow” to the dreaded exploding “BaaaKow”:
Now, thanks to comic books, I realize we fence the cows off from the sheep for a reason. What Darkstar was doing there during the unnatural congress between the sheep and the cow, however, I frankly don’t want to know.
For this week’s installment of onomontoPOWia, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at an actual published comic page with sound effects, and then without. “Showcase ’93”, issue 9 (©DC Comics) features a fight in a convention hall between Peacekeeper and some thugs from Viper (or maybe some other snake-themed group, it’s hard to keep them all straight). Here it is as published, with sound effects intact:
And here it is with the sound effects removed via Photoshop:
You still get what’s going on, but removing the element of sound (even if that sound is nothing more than additional lines and colors of ink on paper just like the character illustrations) greatly diminishes the impact of the action. In part this has to do with how our minds process comics panels.
Sound exists only in time. It is inherently dynamic, unable to exist as a static phenomenon. And yet comics are inherently static, still images on a printed page existing as-is regardless of how much (if any) time passes around them. Combining those two diametrically opposed elements greatly enhances comics’ ability to trick our minds into believing that we are watching action, that what appears on the page is unfolding in time.
OnomontoPOWia is not unique in this ability, of course, but I believe it is one of the most powerful due to the unique nature of sound. When you see “THWAP!” you can’t help but imagine you are hearing it out loud, carrying the images associated with it forward as well. Like a movie without a soundtrack, the medium of comics can still be effective without onomontoPOWia, but it’s a much different experience.
Superman is often dismissed as an out-of-touch throwback to old-fashioned and irrelevant mainstream middle-American values, but in this shocking expose I reveal for the first time that he actually invented rap music.
All right, not all rap music, but I have indisputable proof that he invented the genre known as “Crunk”, which Wikipedia defines thusly:
[C]runk is a genre of hip hop music. Unlike the East Coast and West Coast style of hip hop, crunk has a high-energy and club-oriented feel. While other hip hop styles might involve a more conversational vocal delivery, crunk usually involves hoarse chants and repetitive, simple refrains. Lyrics are based on a rhythmic bounce, which is very effective in a club environment … The first popular figures to use the word were Atlanta rappers Outkast, who in their 1993 song and accompanying video “Player’s Ball” said, “I gots in crunk if it ain’t real ain’t right”.
So crunk first appeared in rap music in 1993, and yet I have unearthed this photo taken in 1986 in front of a well-known urban dance club, showing Superman creating the word while confronting notorious crazy-eyed drug-fueled stereotypical rap-music-practitioner “Hawaii Hank” who is, as you’d expect, wielding a handgun to further his nefarious unsavory schemes involving “hos” and “busting caps”:
So much for the myth of the aw-shucks Kansas farmboy! If you need further proof of Superman’s involvement with the free-wheeling crime-ridden underworld of hip-hop music, consider the following. In 1979 the rap group “Sugarhill Gang” released “Rapper’s Delight”, widely considered the hip-hop album that catapulted the genre to worldwide prominence. Unfortunately for the group, the following lyrics from the song also came to the attention of a certain breakdancing Kryptonian:
well i was comin home late one dark afternoon
a reporter stopped me for a interview
she said she’s heard stories and she’s heard fables
that i’m vicious on the mike and the turntables
this young reporter i did adore
so i rocked a vicious rhyme like i never did before
she said damn fly guy im in love with you
the casanova legend must have been true
i said by the way baby what’s your name
said i go by the name of lois lane
and you could be my boyfiend you surely can
just let me quit my boyfriend called superman
i said he’s a fairy i do suppoose
flyin through the air in pantyhose
he may be very sexy or even cute
but he looks like a sucker in a blue and red suit
Considering Sugarhill Gang never had another hit, you can be pretty sure that def fly guy Superman went all crunk on ’em. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, fellahs, even Jim Croce knew that. Chumps.