In Western graphic art, labels that reveal what a pictured figure is saying have appeared since at least the 13th century. These were in common European use by the early 16th century, word balloons began appearing in 18th-century printed broadsides, and political cartoons from the American Revolution often used them. They later fell out of fashion, but by 1904 had regained their popularity, richard F. Outcaults Yellow Kid is generally credited as the first American comic strip character. His words initially appeared on his shirt, but word balloons very much like those in use today were added almost immediately. For many years, word balloons were less common in Europe than in the USA, the most common is the speech bubble. It comes in two forms for two circumstances, An in-panel character and an off-panel character, an in-panel character uses a bubble with a pointer, called a tail, directed towards the speaker. When one character has multiple balloons within a panel, often only the balloon nearest to the head has a tail. This style is used in Mad Magazine, due to its call-and-response dialogue-based humor. An off-panel character has several options, some of them rather unconventional, the first is a standard speech bubble with a tail pointing toward the speakers position. The second option, which originated in manga, has the tail pointing into the bubble, the third option replaces the tail with a sort of bottleneck that connects with the side of the panel. It can be seen in the works of Marjane Satrapi, in American comics, a bubble without a tail means that the speaker is not merely outside the readers field of view but invisible to the viewpoint character, often as an unspecified member of a crowd. Thought bubbles come in two forms, the chain thought bubble and the fuzzy bubble, the chain thought bubble is the almost universal symbol for thinking in cartoons. It consists of a large, cloud-like bubble containing the text of the thought, some artists use an elliptical bubble instead of a cloud-shaped one. Often animal characters like Snoopy and Garfield talk using thought bubbles, thought bubbles may also be used in circumstances when a character is gagged or otherwise unable to speak. Another, less conventional thought bubble has emerged, the fuzzy thought bubble. Used in manga, the bubble is roughly circular in shape. Fuzzy thought bubbles do not use tails, and are placed near the character who is thinking and this has the advantage of reflecting the TV equivalent effect, something said with an echo. However, they are restricted to the current viewpoint character, the shape of a speech balloon can be used to convey further information
1775 cartoon printed in Boston
In this 1807 political cartoon opposing Jefferson's Embargo, the form and function of speech balloons is already similar to their modern use.