Category Archives: OnomontoPOWia

Flash Ka-Rack would be a good band name

I have a second great example of OnomontoPOWia from the pages of Flash number 131:


The camera angle here is great, giving you a street-level view of the impending collapse. The rendering on the building is perfect as well, with the dramatic vertical lines drawing the eye up to the falling corner, further heightening the visual drama. So already you've got a very good comics panel, a moment fraught with maximum peril heightened by suspending it in time, the crowd below (including the reader!) just realizing the danger they are in.

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A post with kick

In honor of "OnomontoPOWia Friday", I bring you a series of kicks to the crotch. Some of these you have seen here before and some are new, but I think we can all agree that any blow to the boys is fun, no matter what. Enjoy.


And finally, when fighting for your life in a transgendered future bar, there's no relief like realizing the person you just kicked in the crotch is pre-, not post-operative:


Note that when American Flagg kicks someone in the junk, it is silent. I don't know for sure what that means, but given that this is Howard Chaykin writing, it's probably both deep and disgusting at the same time.

Frozen moments and sound

A good onomontoPOWia doesn't have to be flashy or obnoxious; sometimes subtle works better, as in this example from "Hitman" number 9 (DC Comics):


This panel encapsulates a lot of what makes comics as a medium so powerful and unique. It captures the moment of maximum effect incredibly well, by which I mean that you see everything at its most dramatic possible instant. Look at the policeman in the back -- if he leans any further to his left he'd fall over. He's been captured at the very moment of maximum movement.

So is the female detective's punch. In the very next moment the arm will begin to swing back away from the reader, momentum slowed and its power completely spent. Were she drawn with the fist earlier in the punch, there would still be too much energy to come, spent on potential rather than kinetic visual impact.

And of course, the tooth. Captured just as it's about to leave the panel completely, trailing blood making for motion lines, almost leaping from the page.

In this context, of a timeless moment of intense drama with every movement captured at maximum intensity, the "KRAK!" in intense red, filled with sharp angles and an aggressively pointed "A" is the perfect cherry on top, the extra garnish on the plate that makes the meal. Anything more would be too much, anything less would be disappointment. Sound can only exist in time, and yet it's been captured here in static form. When you put that time-dependent element into a tableaux that is frozen time, the contrast is uniquely "comics".

And uniquely onomontoPOWia.

OnomontoPOWia meets onomatopoeia

In actual English, onomatopoeia means both "a word with way too many vowels in a row" and "the formation of a word, as cuckoo or boom, by imitation of a sound". Changing that to onomontoPOWia eliminates excess vowels from the concept (which, given the critical shortage of vowels in many former Eastern Bloc nations is the responsible thing to do), and narrows the concept down to mean sound words used as visual effects in comic books. Sometimes, though, the two cross over, as we see in these panels from "Sovereign Seven" number 20 (©1997, DC Comics):


Both "slash" and "gloop" are legitimate words with recognized meanings that arguably originated by naming the sounds for which they stand. In that sense, both of these onomontoPOWias are actual onomatopoeias. They ultimately both fail as onomontoPOWias, though, and here's why.

While I can buy a knife going "slash" as it swings, it does nothing to mark the different ways a leather belt, a cloth shirt, and denim pants would sound as they rip. It's just a ploy to clear the way for one skin-tight-suit-wearing ninja woman to cut the clothes off an unnaturally lithe and winsome country female sheriff.

The second panel fails because while "gloop" is probably the right sound that biogenetic slime makes when flung onto a newly-naked sheriff, the dialog and the art are at complete odds with each other. Her words say she's angry and surprised, but the expression on her face is right out of a bad porn flick.

On balance, though, they fail because the sound effects do not enhance the action or the story in any way. They're just lazy window dressing, when they could have been much more.

Regardless, of course, I think we can all agree that using hot athletic ninja women slicing the clothes off of authoritative assertive in-charge chief female sheriffs so they can leap around in skin-tight biogenetic combat suits kicking the crap out of bad guys is yet another example of why they ought to ditch "Dick and Jane" in our public schools and teach with comic books instead. I can guarantee you more boys would start reading.


When you've got Carnivorous Humanoid Underground Dwellers in your pants, believe me, you welcome getting kicked in the junk by a hot chick in spiked heels:


Although given the fact that the underpants carnivores like the taste of human flesh, I think it would have been more polite for her not to mention biting. But that's just me.

OnomontoPOWia -- it saves lives, my friends.

Good onomontoPOWia — the ice cracketh

I tend to mockery on this blog, but I only kid because I love comics so much. Oh, and I'm a jerk. BUT I do think it's important to recognize examples of good work from time to time, and it's in that spirit that I offer up this page from "The Flash" #116:


A giant glacier sheet has begun moving on Central City, and has just breached the dam. I love the chosen onomontoPOWia; the "kk-kk" immediately brought to mind the sound of ice cracking and creaking. The colorist has complemented this nicely by using a cool whitish purple for the letters, reinforcing the idea that something cold is making the noise. The KOOM! brings home the sharply different effect of a concrete dam finally exploding, again strengthened by the color choice of red and yellow.

This is a great example of onomontoPOWia done well. Everything works together -- the lettering, the actual art, the coloring, the panel layout -- to give the reader that uniquely comics experience of dynamic action frozen in time (no pun intended) while still moving forward.

I want to expound on that for a moment. A friend of mine once told me that music is an art form that exists only in time. Movies are the same way. They are art only so long as they are moving forward; once they stop, the artistic experience stops except in the memory of the person who experienced it. Yes, you can see music written on a sheet, or study individual film cells, but it's not living, breathing art at that stage.

Comics, on the other hand, exist independent of time. You can hold it in your hand, look at an entire page all at once, put it aside and pick it up later, and it's still the same coherent art piece. You don't have to experience it as it plays out, you can stop, go forward or back, skip around, and do whatever you like with it. Even while you're consuming a panel your eye can jump to the next one, or you can leaf back to the previous page.

That uniquely comic effect -- that ability to exist both in time and outside of it as an art form -- shows clearly on this page. We're very much in the moment of action with the dam exploding, the sound echoing about us, and we're pulled into a close-up of two characters experiencing it along with us. But we're not limited to that reaction shot, our attention can bounce back and forth between them and the frozen explosion, setting up a wonderful sensory experience.

Which is really amazing considering that all of it is just ink on paper.

(Image and character ©1996 DC Comics, “The Flash”, #116.)

An onomontoPOWia twofer

As if having to marry Deanna Troi wasn't punishment enough, Worf the Klingon now has the dubious "honor" of having his very own onomontoPOWia:


While I am sure it's nice to be memorialized, I have to wonder if having your name be the embodiment of the sound of a giant, gas-filled fat guy exploding is all that great.

What the hell am I saying, of course that would be an honor for a Klingon! Having your name associated with exploded enemies is pretty much like winning an Academy Award for those guys. Which, given the level of acting in the Star Trek universe, is, let's face it, not going to happen.

At this point, the only thing the former Enterprise security chief has left to accomplish is to track down this "Hoogh" guy the former blimp is calling out for so he can give him a bad case of the BWORFs too.

The Sounds of Bondage

James Bond scores with so many women, even his sound effects are filled with sexual innuendo. I think it's pretty clear that "Swut" is really "Slut":


"Skankt" is just plain ol' "Skank":


And while James probably doesn't speak Yiddish, I think it's clear what this sound effect is all about:


James Bond, License to Love.

I really must learn to control my urges, mustn’t I

Yes, James, you really lust. Must!

(All images and characters from James Bond 007: Serpent’s Tooth, No. 1, ©1992, Acme Comics Ltd., Dark Horse Comics, Inc., and Glidrose Publications, Ltd.)

Crappy sound effect?

This onomontoPOWia from "Jack Kirby's Teen Agents" will surely rank as one of the all-time greats ever given to a grateful humanity:


Yes, that's "BA-THROOM", as in the sound of your local toiletry exploding in a fiery, drawing-filled, white-outlined concussion of methane-fueled fury. I don't know what might cause the "BE-DROOM!" effect, but I'd darn sure pay to find out.

My name is CHUK!

Now here's a neat science fact -- if you kick a man (like camo-clad terrorist Chuk here) in the junk, said junk will shout his name:

The jig is up, Creeps!

I tried this myself, learning that my name is actually pronounced "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" and should be said in a very, very high voice.