Interesting Word Balloon Use in Today’s ‘Cul de Sac’

Today’s Cul de Sac features an interesting formal use of word balloons that I’ve not seen before.  The basic setup here is that Alice has a new pair of shoes that she’s been enjoying mainly for their incessant squeaking, which has now ceased.  In the strip, she’s imitating the squeaking and the placement of the balloons gets ever higher within the panel to indicate the increasing pitch of her squeaking.  Finally, the “squeak”‘s being all the way out of the panel is used to indicate that Alice’s squeaking is now so high-pitched that it’s out of human hearing range.  Not seeing = not hearing.



  1. Jo says:

    excellent—-a music lesson ready to go. I try to get students to understand that written music is a visual representation of what we’re hearing, seeing, or playing(in several ways), but particularly with pitch. And just because we run out of room on the staff and have so many ledger lines and 8ve indications we can’t possibly have anymore, the sound really does keep on going both up and down.
    I will print this strip out.

  2. Ben says:

    Cul de Sac is a great strip. You can find it online here.

  3. Jo says:

    thank you.
    ironic for today since a 7 year old just came into my classroom and stated, “my teacher said that music class was turning into art class”—OK, so I do a lot of cross-curricular stuff. yikes. Thankfully, I’m pregnant and not coming back to this particular school next year and the private school where I’m staying likes it when I tie art and music together. ho hum.

  4. Jo says:

    I guess I can’t print it, huh? That’s a copyright violation, yes? I can just show it online?

  5. Chris S says:

    O’Malley does something not dissimilar in one of the Pilgrim books. His roommate is using a blender whose sound effect obscures the dialogue inside a balloon, though the balloon is still clearly visible. I love it when the formal aspects of the medium are incorporated into the interactions, though I’ve yet to figure out a way to make it appropriate for anything but comedy.

    I love how they’re actually WATCHING the balloon rise here.

  6. Ben says:

    Yeah, I dig that kind of stuff too. But, like you say, pretty much any time the characters are aware of it, it’s gonna be odd except in a humorous situations.

    A good example, though, of this in a non-humorous context is the constraints-driven Elfworld story over at Satisfactory Comics. Here’re the constraints for the page in question:


    Note the constraint called “The Segar.” And, here’s how they dealt with it:


  7. MHPayne says:

    Walt Kelly:

    Did this sort of thing in his “Pogo” comic strip 50 years ago. Churchy, the turtle, is disguised as a woman for some reason or other, and to prove he’s female to a doubting Miz Hepzibah, he sings a note so high, the balloon vanishes above the top panel boundary. Beauregard the hound dog comes rushing in, plants a smooch on Churchy and begins professing his undying love.

    I don’t know if this is online anywhere, but I’ve got the books at home…


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