I'm currently writing my first graphic novel/comic and am wondering when people feel SFX should be added. I know it probably depends on the tone of the story (for reference mine leans on the more serious side, a sci-fi civil war story). I know for myself I intend to limit them mainly to combat scenes.

Some comics like The Walking Dead seem to have SFX for every action in combat scenes, from explosions to gunshots, where as others such as Marvel's X-Men don't. Just flipping through X-Men 8-10, many actions such as slashing of swords and explosions had no SFX whatsoever, while others did, which kind of confuses me.

So this leaves me with the question of when should I add them? Are there some cases such as a particularly significant explosion when no SFX should be added? What's the general rule, if any?

Any advice and thoughts on this topic are much appreciated, thanks :)

2 Answers 2


There is no general rule for this. If and when onomatopoeiae and ideophones are used is an individual stylistic decision for each comic. Genre conventions might give some orientation regarding reader expectation. American superhero comics and Japanese action manga employ more sound words than traditional European BD, but there is variation within these genres to some extent.

As the use of sound words is more of a visual and design deciscion, I would involve the visual artist(s) in this or even leave it to them. If you look at examples of comic scripts, the sound words are not usually part of the scriptwriting.

A good strategy to find your own style might be to take one or a few published examples that are close to what you are aiming for both in content and style and use that as a guidebook for what to do.


Generally, in modern American comics, sound effects text are still used but not in combat, since they tend to take away from the art, but also they get mocked as being in tone with the fight scenes from old Adam West Batman fight sequence, which used them to hide the physical contact (as was the purpose in old school comics). X-Men retains them for certain actions because they have some notable unique sounds associated with certain actions. For example, anytime Wolverine reveals his claws, they make a signature "schnick" sound, which evokes the sound of the metal claws cleanly sliding out. Nightcrawler's teleport makes a signature "BAMF" sound (doing so before Samuel L. Jackson gave those letters an acronym meaning). The sound in X-men is explained as the air displacement related to Nightcrawler's teleporting (if he leaves a point, it's the air rushing in to fill the man sized vacuum left in his absence. If he suddenly appears, it's the sound of the air being pushed out by his sudden appearance. X-men aren't the only characters with signature sounds, as Spider-man's web shooters make a "thwip" sound effect and in Doctor Who comics, the iconic sound of the TARDIS is rendered "vworp vworp vworp".

When it's not an iconic sound, it's normally reserved for an event which noise is expected and dominant in the scene (Such as explosion or the Thunder associated with lightning).

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