While I was waiting for my tires to get changed earlier today, I sat in the waiting area reading an essay examining the word balloon. It touched a bit on its history, but mostly focused on its specific functionality. It got into some interesting nuances of placement, shape, color, fonts, etc. play into one's reading of a comic, but author Catherine Khordoc summed up the word balloon's purpose this way: "I'm speaking." That is, the word balloon itself is telling the reader that a character is saying something, sometimes even when the character is not visible! The word balloon's tail points to who the "I" is, but the point of the word balloon, more generally, is to indicate that someone is talking. "I am speaking."
Here's what struck me. There was a discussion online a couple years back asking what the "message" of Twitter was. It was asked in the McLuhanian (is that a word?) sense of "the medium is the message." Doc Jenkins came up with perhaps the best/most concise answer: the message of Twitter is "Here I am."
Now, let's say you have a comic book. Doesn't matter about the creators, genre, style, length, any of that. But in your comic book, by and large, you expect the characters to speak. At least to some degree, even if it's through some more graphical format like Owly or something. But what if there was some character in the book that didn't speak? Not in a "Well, he must be a mute" kind of way, but just a single character, who is decidedly not integral to the plot, and just happens to be drawn into the background an awful lot. Almost in a Where's Waldo? kind of way. With a more focused plot and other recurring (and speaking!) characters going on, though, this character would easily sink into the background. Odds are that you wouldn't even notice that he or she appeared repeatedly throughout the story. Why? Because the character wasn't drawing attention to him/herself. She/he didn't say anything and, thus, didn't have any word balloons to indicate "I'm speaking." There would be no word balloons for the reader to point to him/her in a "Here I am" manner.
The word balloon in comics functions in the same manner as Twitter does in the real world. It's an alert to let other people know that you are out there saying something. With that in mind, I would like to propose a new, modified logo for Twitter...