Mixed case dialogue in comics

This is another one of those threads where I test just how weird I am… Please, don’t let me feel alone! Comment!

Traditionally comic dialogue and narration has been done in all caps for legibility reasons. These days printing is cleaner and more stuff is done for just on the computer.

A survey of the webcomics I read shows almost twice as many comics using all caps. When I did mine I did mixed case, but now that I’m starting it up again I’m trying to decide how to do it (for anybody who has seen my writing, I won’t be hand lettering. That’s why they make hand lettered fonts after all.)

What’s your opinion on mixed case type in comics? Does it look weird? Is it easier to read? Harder to read?

Not harder to read, but it certainly goes against a certain convention. The general consensus is that regular case in comic book font denotes standard tone, while, for instance, a mechanical font like arial will denote artificial speech (like the voice coming from a computer) or ancient-looking calligraphy that the speaker is from times past. This sort of stuff.

Mixed case has certain connotations, too, like implying that the speech is uttered in a soft, smooth tone, or even a whisper. This means that a reader of regular mainstream comics like me will have to make the required adjustments to this new pattern. But it’s no big deal, apart from that little initial twitch: OOTS works great with it.

Arial is mechanical? (I know what you mean, but…)

I’ve read more than my share of comics (real printed ones and webcomics). I know Marvel has started using mixed case in a few of their comics. I’m just still trying to decide how I want to do it.

Is it worth following the tradition? Does it matter? (probably not)


In Calvin and Hobbes the bully character (whose name I don’t recall) always had his speech in all lowercase. I think it was mostly for comical effect, but it was easily readable, nonetheless.

My brain likes to interpret all caps dialog as shouting, so mixed case is usually better, unless the character is actually supposed to be shouting.

Mixed case always seems more childlike to me.

I think it can work. Upper and lower cases letters are a part of written text. You don’t use them when you’re speaking. And written dialogue is supposed to simulate speech.

Mixed-case is easier to read than all caps (many, many studies back this assertion). Several of the Web comics that I read have print that’s quite small, and readability is quite important. For any given x-height, of course, all caps will generate bigger characters on average, but that’s because capital letters tend to be wider than lowercase letters. Given a fixed amount of space to work in, you can use a larger x-height when writing in mixed-case.

For the overwhelming majority of readers, that doesn’t happen in a comic when everybody’s text is the same. We read all caps in prose as shouting, because prose is overwhelmingly written in mixed case. The convention in comics is different.

My opinion as to the OP – if there’s a reason to buck the convention, do so. But as long as your panels are large enough for readability not to be a concern, bucking convention just makes readers familiar with your medium but not your work particularly think something weird is going on, whether they notice it superliminally or not.


Well, mainstream comic books have been going more mixed-case in the last decade. I think it’s fine so long as you don’t make it look stupid. F’rex, don’t use caps in lieu of boldface, & don’t overuse stress indicators unless you’re going for [del]comedy[/del] ‘crazy’.

If I recall correctly, “Dennis the Menace” comic books, like the ones I read in my childhood, used mixed case. Maybe that’s why you see them as childlike–certainly, I think of those old kiddie comics when I see mixed case in comics now.

The problem I have with non-hand-lettered dialogue is that (again) I recall the “Classics Illustrated” comics I also read as a child. The letters looked like they had been done by a draftsman–they were no different than you might see on a blueprint. Each letter was the same, and the sameness seemed to rob the dialogue of its humanity.

IMHO, hand-lettered all-caps works well, with variations appropriate to the character and emotion.

I prefer hand-lettered all caps myself in my comic books. As it is the convention in that medium, I’ve never read it as shouting - like one would on a message board.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a Classics Illustrated, but the early EC comics all had that as well – it was the product of a machine that colored in stencils of the desired letters.


If I could consistently hand-letter legibly I would, cuz yeah, it looks great. But most comics (online and off) are typeset these days.

I was going to say that mixed case would look really weird cause I’m so used to upper case, but then I saw this and realized that I didn’t notice OOTS was in mixed case, despite the fact that I’ve read the entire series multiple times. So I guess it’s not that big a deal to me.