How do you cite speech bubbles from a graphic narrative or comic book?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Cite each speech bubble individually. Do not use slashes to indicate quotations from separate speech bubbles. Use ellipses only to omit text from a single speech bubble.
In Fun Home the narrator recalls episodes in her parents’ troubled marriage. In one scene Alison and her brothers are shown sitting at the top of a staircase, listening to their parents argue below. They hear their mother say, “I’m warning you. You can’t keep doing this.” Their father retorts, “I can do whatever I want” (68), a declaration that is punctuated by a loud crash. “What was that?” asks Alison’s younger brother. “Sounds like he knocked . . . books off the desk,” Alison replies (69).
If the text of the graphic novel is presented in full caps or with other nonstandard formatting, when quoting from it you may use sentence-style capitalization, as in the example above, for readability.
For more examples of how scholars cite graphic narratives, see the MLA volume Approaches to Teaching Bechdel’s Fun Home (fall 2018).
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006.