How do you introduce acronyms in a comic book? For example, CIA means Central Intelligence Agency, but no one will say "Central Intelligence Agency", they will say "CIA". Likewise, the characters when they speak, they will say "CIA" so how do you properly introduce acronyms to imaginary organizations without making your characters say what it means in a dialogue?

  • Could you show a scene where the name is written in full on a sign? Jan 30, 2023 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


Typically you do this with a newbie, a new recruit or somebody new to the team, that is basically standing in for your reader.

Then there is a story excuse for the new recruit to be confused by the speech (as the reader is) and for a mentor to explain the acronyms.

Often if your new recruit is reasonably smart, let them guess from the context and be right.

"FTR, is that First Tactical Response?"

"Hey, you're catching on."


Or you could have a character say "I work for the FBI"* and in a box at the bottom of that panel, or the bottom of the page have a note: "*Federal Bureau of Investigation".

And for all that I know later in the story the character might be revealed to not be a lawman, and the protagonist character might ask: "but you said you work for the FBI", and the character might say: "I do work for the FBI - the French Biodiversity Initiative" if they are relatively good, or maybe they work for the "Fiendish Bloodthirsty Idolaters" if they are relatively evil.

Of course most US comic book readers don't need to be told what FBI stands for.

But comic books can have many different types of imaginary organizations known by strange acronyms.

For example, nobody would be likely to guess that in the tv series Phineas and Ferb O.W.C.A. stands for "Organization Without a Cool Acronym".

Thus you may need to use a note to say whether CRUSH* stands for "Criminal Rogues United to Smash Honduras", or "Cute Rabbits United to Serve Humanity", a rather important distinction to make.

And a note may be needed to specify whether FOE* stands for "Friendly Origami Enthusiasts" or "Forces of Evil" or even the real "Fraternal Order of Eagles" - I was once quite startled to see FOE on a building sign.

Or instead of Using an asterisk * you might want to write, for example, "CHAOS (note)" and the note might say "Criminal Hierarchy Attempting to Overthrow Society". (note).

*I remember an evil organization named CRUSH in an Archie comic book about 60 years ago. Thus the acronym CRUSH might be copyrighted. CRUSH was obviously a take off on the evil organization THRUSH in The Man From Uncle, and possibly the owners of that tv series might object for some reason to an evil organization named CRUSH.

*I remember watching a cartoon about 60 years ago where characters found wreckage on the beach. Something was marked "F.O.E." which one of the characters interpreted as "Forces of Evil". It is possible that the owners of that cartoon, or the real Fraternal Order of Eagles might object for some reason to your use of a fictional evil organization FOE.

(note) CHAOS might lead to problems with the owners of the Get Smart tv series which had an evil organization named KAOS.

And there are other questions on this site about the legality of using copyrighted or trademarked material, or similar sounding names.

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