Comics, How Do They Work?: Inner Monologue, Part 2

In part one I talked about some of ways inner monologue is misused in comics, analyzing the New 52‘s Mister Terrific and Birds of Prey as examples.  Fortunately for us, DC’s New 52 also has some great examples of inner monologue done well.  Let’s start with:

Batgirl in action
Lucky for us, Batgirl thinks best when she's in motion.

Batgirl.  Written by Gail Simone, this title has a wonderful balance between inner monologue and art.  Barbara Gordon has a lot to think about: she’s isolated from her peers and overcoming her setbacks, so her mental state often comes into play.  With no one to bounce these doubts off of, Gordon must work these things out on her own.  She’s also a detective with incredible reasoning powers.

In fact, from the description I’ve just given, she sounds a lot like Eric Wallace’s Mister Terrific.  It’s how Simone uses the inner monologue that makes the difference here.  Monologue snippets are used respectably well to set up the next bit of action (without “doubling” or stealing the action’s thunder).  Something happens in the art; Batgirl cognates on it; and then she takes action.  A good writer can use this sort of set-up to support the art rather than detract from it, and that’s what Simone does here.  It also doesn’t hurt that these asides are usually short or, if longer, sliced up into smaller boxes to match the art’s pace.


Batwoman and Batman on a rooftop
"You again? Well, I guess I *did* need to talk to someone about something..."

That brings us to to titles that completely forgo inner monologue in favor of action: Batwoman and Wonder Woman.  Both titles are very well written, and both heroes are surrounded by a lot of people.  Batwoman has her sidekick and her normal-life romance (as well as her father, SEO agents, and Batman dropping in and out of panel) to talk out her feelings and hang-ups.

This is how Greg Rucka sops up a lot of needless pondering – Batwoman very frequently has someone to bounce her ideas off of or to talk with about the plot.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Batwoman’s a brash bad-ass who often acts before she thinks.  There are more jarring changes between scenes in Batwoman than I’d like, but I don’t see any reason they’d go away if inner monologue was brought in.


Wonder Woman Issue 5.  A conversation.
"Hello, new person! Do you want to chat, too?"

The new Wonder Woman follows a similar model.  With a regular supporting cast accompanying her on her travels, there’s plenty of time to discuss recent happenings and next.  And since her buddies are always around, it’s a more natural fit than Batwoman always running into someone at the crime scene, or having Batman drop by, and so on.  And with godly politics afoot, there’s a lot of plotting to be done.  Things can get a little chatty, such as in the scene below.  But considering the pay-off (wrestling with gods, wordless sequences of savage gore), it’s well worth it.

And to put a fine point on it – in my book, conversation counts as action.  It mirrors what has happened and guesses at the future.  It lays bare characters’ emotions and can point to what they’re concealing from others.   Granted, inner monologue can do all these things, too.  But inner monologue can’t really tell us more about what the characters mean to each other, nor can it further the plot.  Only action – including good dialogue – can do that.

Check out part one of this post here!


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Marshall Edwards

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