Comics without dialogue: How do you feel about them? (blog post)

There's a saying that, "A picture is worth a thousand words". This can work with comics. This method isn't anything new, but I just thought about the concept with the comics I read today, Amazing Spider-man #655, and the final issue of Fantastic Four #588 (I am leaning a bit since Amazing Spider-man #655 did have dialogue in it). Both comics conveniently focused on death and the follow up.  

Usually when comic writers use this approach, they use it when  someone has died and they reflect on the aftermath. There are other issues where it's about the main character(s) typical day or the main character(s) out of the ordinary day. Sometimes there's dialogue at the end of an issue, but about 95-100% of the issue is without dialogue or even sound effects.
They're a couple of comics out there without dialogue. Take G.I Joe #21 for example. It was the first comic to try this approach. I've never read (or rather seen) the issue before, but I'm pretty sure it was unusual for its time. After all, the issue focused on Snake-Eyes.

I think the first comic that I ever read without dialogue was Amazing Spider-man #39. This was part of Marvel's "'Nuff said" event.   This issue was during the time Peter and Mary Jane were, "separated" or taking a break from their marriage . It shows Mary Jane living the life as a famous actor/model, but sad at the same time, hinting that she misses Peter. Meanwhile, Peter is doing his heroics as Spider-man. It also has Aunt May canceling her newspaper from the Daily Bugle due to the negativity towards her nephew. All of this was without dialogue, but it was written by J. Michael Stracznski with John Romita Jr. for pencils and Scott Hanna for inks and Dan Kemp for color. Despite no dialogue, it was the artwork that told Stracznski's story.  

Earth-1610 Ultimate

Another example is the Ultimate Spider-man 133. This was a during the Marvel event: Ultimatum that wiped out the majority of both superheroes and villains in the Ultimate Universe. This issue focused on the possible death of Spider-man, as both Spider-woman and Kitty Pryde search for him while helping others after the huge tidal wave hit New York. At the end, they could only find his mask, leaving both Peter's Aunt and friends moaning. During that time, I was a bit worried as Peter was the only character I really cared in the Ultimate universe, so reading that issue made me feel depressed that after 133 issues (and 3 annuals) Ultimate Spider-man was no more (That is until I heard that Ultimate Requiem was coming out giving me some hope).

My final example is Moment of Silence with Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, Bill Jemas and Brian Michael Bendis   as the writers and Igor Kordey, John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley and Chuck Austen for the artist that dealt with the 9-11 attacks. In the tradeback contains 4 amazing stories but without dialogue.

What are your thoughts about comics without dialogue? Do you like them? What's your favorite comic book without dialogue? Personally, I don't mind as long as the artwork is great and it captures the story. I can't think of a comic without dialogue that was bad.

Also, if you can find it anywhere, I recommend checking out Marvel's 'Nuff said tradeback that has comic book issues without dialogue.


Posted by jloneblackheart

When done right, they are a much cooler comic experience that reading. They allow you to use your imagination. 

Posted by Silkcuts

Great blog.  G.I. Joe #21 may be the oldest modern mainstream comic recorded as silent, but depending on the historians, the verdict is still out what can classify as a "comic".  For example cave drawings, those would be the first "silent" stories and that is why I love the nod to them in Morrison's Batman.  What is great about comics is that it is a language all its own, not quite fully pictures, not quite fully words.  If I remember correctly there was some words in the "nuff said" comics, like on news papers and stuff like that, so words are not omitted completely.  Comics are an interesting dance of presenting information to both sides of the brain, words for the logical side, pictures for the creative side.
Some of the best parts of a comic is when nothing is said at all.  It is how I discovered Jeff Lemire, who depends a lot and if you ask me, mastered the "Silent narration", with works like Lost Dogs, Essex County, The Nobody and now Sweet Tooth.
A lot of the comic experience is the art and this is where the artist tells the story.  I get into arguments all the time with people when I say Stan Lee is a HACK.  The artist in his stories tells the true story, all he does is throw catch phrases over the art, any writer could of done what he did.  Sure he had "Base ideas", but then again it is the artist who fleshed this ideas out.  In the Marvel method, you can take any unlettered Kirby, Ditko or even Romita and make whatever you want of the story, the story is told in the pictures themselves.

Posted by ComicMan24

I read ASM #655 and I liked that part. I don't mind it. Sometimes words are not needed to convey a powerful emotion.

Posted by KenTheProfile

I am open to them. but so far the only one done right I have read was the Marv's Christmas story in Sin CIty.

Edited by jamesewelch
@Duo_forbidden said:

They're a couple of comics out there without dialogue. Take G.I Joe #21 for example. It was the first comic to try this approach. I've never read (or rather seen) the issue before, but I'm pretty sure it was unusual for its time. After all, the issue focused on Snake-Eyes.

I've read G.I. Joe #21 (and own the issue and also have Larry Hama's Best of GI Joe hardcover trade/collection that has it included in it) and I liked it a lot (my vote for best silent issue). Having no dialogue in that issue made sense. It focused on a ninja (Snake Eyes) infiltrating a castle (COBRA's HQ). Also the main character is mute, so he couldn't talk anyways - any dialogue would just be from the bad guys. Since it would have been so little dialogue anyways, it was unique and different to do it without any dialogue and it works well. It also has a great story behind it, if you've read the letter from Larry Hama concerning how it became a silent issue. That issue also started the entire relationship between SnakeEyes and Storm Shadow on the last panel, by showing the tattoo on Snake Eye's arm (same tattoo as Storm Shadow).
However, I don't like the silent issues that are suppose to reflect on loss or gimmicks. It just feels too gimmicky. For something like the 9/11 or superhero dieing books, I'd rather see a little bit of well-thought exposition and reflecting back on that character's or story's life. An example would be the dialogue heavy issue of West Wing that followed 9/11, that was a well thought out story with educational and rational discussion that would have been great in a comic (or something like that). The silent issues, to me, seem like a stunt or gimmick trying to make you feel or evoke emotions rather than just provide a good story.
Posted by TheCrowbar

I like to grab digital copies of them and put my own dialogue in!

Posted by JediXMan

When done right, when it's written well (a story like that probably requires even more writing than one without words), and when the art is good, it's fantastic.

Posted by Vitality
@jloneblackheart said:
"When done right, they are a much cooler comic experience that reading. They allow you to use your imagination.  "

I would much rather be able to read the comic. After all...I am buying this comic...not creating it. 
I'll use my imagination for things I want to create. 
If I didn't want to read a story told by someone else...I wouldn't buy the comic book.
Posted by jloneblackheart
@Vitality: if the art is good enough you don't need words. You can pick up on the mood of the moment. The story is being told in art and emotion. Then you can imagine what they might be saying. I'm not creating my own story, just filling in a few things on my own. I enjoy it. Sometimes I read a comic and blitz through it, probably not noticing everything I should be noticing because I'm too focused on the words.
Posted by aztek_the_lost

I feel like I must have read some silent comics before but for some reason I can't think of any...

Posted by Duo_forbidden
@TheCrowbar said:
" I like to grab digital copies of them and put my own dialogue in!

Lol, that made me laugh.

when done right i like them, i don't want them too often tho.  but i think they're good cuz it challenges tha creators to convey different emotions.

Posted by Caligula

I don't really care for them. While yes some are entertaining like the Goon # 33. I prefer my comics to have dialogue. I feel like i run through the comic too fast without actually having to read.

Edited by mrtrickster

I like comics with lesser dialogue, english is not my first language, sometimes reading sh#t load of words just kill the joy for me

Posted by Video_Martian

I like to read them.

Posted by TypingKira

I read this really super disgustingly cute manga last year, I can't remember what it was called but it was about this little girl in the victorian era who lived in the country, and she met this little fairy girl with cat ears--the cutest manga ever, hands down. No words, six chapters, chibi-style, it reminded me of my sisters Nani and Ciana. So much cute.