We know what it was like back in the day, fellas. You had to get those pages drawn and to the engravers so they can shoot the negatives and burn the plates and get them down to the printing plant so that the latest issue of TALES TO ASTONISH can make it to the newsstand in time for the neighborhood kids to spend their dimes. Speed was of the essence. That means that sometimes you take shortcuts, you work a little hack magic, you throw in some dark caves or silhouettes or whichever of Woody's 40 Panels That Always Work that work for you.

But that doesn't mean you can get away with using the same exact space-filling panel over and over, does it? Can some of the greatest names in the comic book industry stoop to repeating themselves ad infinitum merely to squeeze out one more panel in a 12 page story? Well, I guess it does.

What we're talking about, of course, is the famous Word Balloon From Earth. Where no matter the story, no matter the setting, no matter who's doing what to whom in terms of your plot, you can always kick things down the road with a word balloon or two just emanating out into space from the surface of planet Earth. We'd like to emphasize that the examples you're about to see all come from different stories published in different comics over the course of several years. Once was kind of strange. Several times would be weirdly hacky. But over and over and over... now we're talking Stupid Comics territory!

Let's join our journey into tales of astonishing strange suspenseful mystery, already in progress.

I'm sure that's an exciting looking barricade and some worried looking officers desperately clutching their firearms waiting for the monster to attack. Unfortunately all we get is the Earth and what I think is the moon, and some really serious sunspots.

The Earth Balloon panel can also be used to grind through expository dialog that otherwise would just be talking heads. Or rather, talking people heads and a talking space robot head, whose outer space ship is propelled between planets by the force of wind. Why didn't our scientists think of that?

One great thing about the Earth Balloon Panel is that you can use it with any planet - Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Zarkulon in the 5th Quadrant - as long as people are on a planet and as long as the inker can find his circle template, you're in business!

On occasion the Earth Balloon Panel actually makes sense in the context of a story, as seen here where radar beams are shown emanating from their source somewhere in the Yukon. Brrrrr. I dunno why this guy is looking for hidden worlds as I can see eight or nine planets right there pretty close to home that we should probably finish investigating first.

Mix things up a little, put some satellites in orbit. The story has nothing to do with satellites, or outer space, or Florida, but whatever!

On occasion the sheer weight of the word balloons threatens to engulf the entire solar system. Watch it there, Stan.

Just in case you forgot what planet Earth was, here's a handy reminder. It's the planet you're on.

The panel can even be used while characters are describing events that occurred via flashback. "Yes, and remember, I was on Earth! The same planet we're standing on right now!"

Show a village? The village is in India, isn't it? And that's in Asia, which is on Earth. I'll just cover all the bases and show the Earth. There.

Hush up, Luke! A body never knows that their hayseed dialog is being listened to up thar in that thar outer space, what with the moons and Saturns and all!


Here's another weirdly proportioned North America where Hudson's Bay and the Gulf Of California are enlarged, seemingly at the expense of the Gulf Of Mexico. On the other hand, both the lost continents of Mu and Atlantis are back!

I'm pretty sure SOMEBODY involved in this panel needs a vacation. Probably the guy drawing it.

Sometimes an Earth Balloon panel is just what couples need to work through their issues about giant monster men. Also I think North America is pregnant. Congratulations!

Some believe the best use of an Earth Balloon panel is to give your story a serious, cinematic tone as the camera pulls away from our characters who have learned an important lesson about creating machines as the instrument of their own destruction. Can you prove it didn't happen? God help us... in the future.

Yes, Earth Balloon panels fit into a grand design of hacking it out, a destiny which is far wiser than we. THE END

And remember to check your local newsstand for our newest title, 'The Fantastic Four'! Get your spine-tingling copy today!