The Voice We Read In

When you read anything you are using your own voice for the inner monologue. This however can be changed, often to fit a given scenario. Here’s an example, look at the image below for at least ten seconds then proceed to read the following quote.

Morgan Freeman

“With blood and rage of crimson red, ripped from a corpse so freshly dead, together with our hellish hate, we’ll burn you all- That is your fate.”

Most people just read the Red Lantern Oath in Morgan Freeman’s voice. Now as amusing as that little trick is it can have some very interesting applications. Think of Batman, when you read his dialogue what voice do you use? Are you using Christian Bale’s voice or are you using your own? This may be attributed if you have just finished watching one of the Dark Knight movies. On the opposite end maybe you have never seen a Dark Knight movie and thus can’t use that gravelly voice when reading. Batman is an easy case study as there are so many iterations of the character. Compare two people from different generations; one person grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series where Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy and the other person is watching Batman: The Brave and the Bold where Batman is voiced by Diedrich Bader. In this instance these are the only sources of Batman media either has seen. If you gave both a Batman comic neither has seen before would they read the dialogue the same way? No, you would expect their inner monologues to sound different. With that can we say which person is reading it using the correct voice? Simply put, it’s too arbitrary a question. There is no better voice as there is no scale, it’s all preference.

There is a larger topic that the Batman example points to; does the voice change the character? Would a rougher voice make a character seem darker? If so, does that mean comic book writers need to concern themselves with the voice in which their work is being read? I personally think it would be amusing if at the beginning of a comic, or any form of writing, a little note told me what voice to use specifically from the creator.

Another case study is when actors decide to portray a comic book character. One must expect casting attributes a portion of their concern to how the character sounds along with the general look. But when looks gets covered up, more emphasis should be placed on voice. This responsibility also falls onto the actor, who can alter their own voice to match what they think the character should sound like. Look at Hellboy and Ron Perlman. When Ron reads Hellboy he has no reference for the voice thus uses his own. However this is not the voice we hear in the movies.

Have you ever listened to your voice recording? Sounds different right? This is because when someone else hears your voice they are only hearing the projection. When you hear yourself the vibrations from your vocal chords are transmitted through the soft tissue and bones of your body back to the ossicles and cochlea causing addition signalling noise changing how the sound is interpreted. Applying this to Hellboy and Ron Perlman makes you wonder what he believes Hellboy should sound like.

 Comic VersionFilm Version

               In short we use the voice as a catalyst for information exchange, literally and emotionally. Yet altering the voices we use can play significantly in our interpretations of the source.  To deny the existence of this parameter is both naive and insensitive, but it also shows how diverse characters can unwittingly be or become.

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6 Responses to The Voice We Read In

  1. yuenly says:

    I too agree with this post, these inner monologues and voices a person uses in their head as they read a comic is a crucial part of the comic reading experience. An actor does have a lot of responsibility in how they voice a character they’re bringing to life. However, despite their attempt whether be good or bad, I think it ruins the magic of the comic book. In particular Batman’s voice in the Dark Knight trilogy did not match the voice I had envisioned while reading the comics, which kinda spoiled both mediums for me.

  2. Ali Bayne says:

    I think it’s important to note here that the intended impressions of comics have changed so much over time. Take, for example, Adam West as Batman saying,
    “I never touch spirits. Have you some milk?” versus Christian Bale as Batman saying,
    “SWEAR TO ME.” The former Batman is intended to be more of a gentleman, while the latter is intended to be rough and intense, better suited for cinematic impact. It is farcical to re-watch the Adam West version having been exposed to Christian Bale’s take, because the plot is modernized, the subject matter is much more serious, and Batman’s voice has changed to match that mood.

    In addition:

  3. jcdegner says:

    Great post! I completely agree with what you said regarding the different voices that we read in. This is a topic that I, too, have considered before. Usually I find that when I read a novel or a comic before I see the film adaptation, I will invent voices for the various characters. However, as soon as I watch the movie or TV show, I automatically change the voice of the character in my head when I re-read the piece of writing to what I heard on screen. I find that you can also apply this idea to the appearances and looks of certain characters. The first time you read about fictional individuals, you create a picture in your mind of how you think they look. Once you see an actor or actress portray them on screen, however, you are either disappointed in their looks or you approve, depending on whether or not they match the image you had in your head. Once again, when you go back to read the original novel or comic, your mental picture of the character has changed due to what you saw in the film adaptation. This is demonstrative of how much the film industry affects our impressions or thoughts regarding pieces of writing.

    -Julie Degner

  4. leejnelson says:

    I have to agree with this post! The first time I was ever in a comic book store a fellow customer that was friendly enough to give me a hand picking some books out and told me to read Wolverine: Old Man Logan. Although, he also told me to do so while I listened to metal music. It really is about setting the stage, and if you know the mood of a comic you can really get sucked into the world it conveys through altering your own inner dialogue.

    Thanks for you post!

  5. scottdouglas says:

    This was a very intriguing post and I completely agree. To that point, I believe that the emphasis of character, environment, topography and all the other intricate details contribute to the inner monologue we experience. The dynamic angles and ambient settings set the tone and tempo of that dialogue. As much as Morgan Freeman, the Buffer brothers, and ads serve to motivate their narrative, the parameters are deliberate. Acoustics in comics are arbitrarily set by the style and intensity of the metanarrative. The motion-lines and ‘Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzwap!’ sound effects either heighten or lower our level of involvement. I personally find these simple notions of ‘click’ and ‘KBLAMMM’ add a level to the whole. Moreover, accents are inherent in the dialogue and we individually interpret what the auteur may have intended.
    Awesome Post!
    Scott Douglas

  6. benwong2369 says:

    Great post Ty!
    I always find myself associating the character with the voices that I’m used to hearing from that character. I’m sure most of us who grew up waking up early on Saturday morning for the cartoons can clearly remember the voices of certain characters whether it was the Spiderman cartoon or even X-men.
    I even catch myself nowadays, if I pick up an X-men comic book and see a speech bubble over top of Wolverine’s head I automatically go back to the gruff voice I remember from the cartoons (not so much Hugh Jackman for me).
    Going off from what the person above me was saying about sound effects, even with those “BAM” or “KERPLAPT!” I reminded well of Adam West Batman and the distinct sound effect that comes from those words.
    Though maybe I’m a strange one now, that all “narrating” types of words I read them in a Morgan Freeman voice.
    Thanks for the post


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