Friday, October 29, 2010

Word Count

I did a pair of posts a year or two ago on the number of punches thrown in Batman versus Spiderman, on the basis that Marvel Comics were often perceived as more violent in the Silver Age. What I found surprised me; Batman actually had a slightly higher punch count per page than Spidey.

Another common belief is that Marvel Comics were wordier than DC Comics. Certainly Stan Lee seemed to have been vaccinated with a fountain pen. So I picked an issue of Spiderman at random (ASM #56 as it happens) and actually counted the words. There were 3,288 words on 20 pages, or an average of 164 words per page.

Then I picked the nearest Batman issue chronologically to ASM #56. That turned out to be Batman #197. Ironically, the issues have a common theme: the teaming of the hero with one of his longest-running villains. In Spidey's case, he has amnesia and is conned by Doctor Octopus into helping him steal a critical part for a nullifier that has the power to shut down anything mechanical. In the Batman story, Catwoman joins forces with him in an effort to win his love.

But the word count isn't significantly different in Batman: 3,455 words on 23 pages or about 150 words per page. I noticed a few other things:

1. Word counts went way down during fight scenes. In ASM #56, Spidey and Doc Ock have a battle from pages 14-16; those three pages have the fewest words in the entire comic (with the exception of the splash page). Who needs words when you've got real conflict going on? Ditto with Batman. Here's page 7 of that story:

Excepting the splash page for ASM #56, that page had the fewest words in the two issues.

2. For some reason, Spiderman was wordier in the front end of the comic (1,727 words in the first ten pages) than in the back (1,561 words in the last ten), while Batman had the exact opposite trend with 1,570 words on the first twelve pages and 1,885 words on the last eleven.

3. The most verbose pages had to do with scene transitions. Page 15 of the Batman issue has Batgirl explaining her inability to defeat some crooks (it turns out that the Catwoman had disoriented her), followed by a sequence where Selina Kyle is autographing her new book to adoring crowds. That page had 287 words. Spiderman #56's page 7 starts with Harry and Gwen paying a visit to Aunt May to check on Peter's whereabouts and then cuts to some military men (including JJJ's son) discussing the new threat of Spiderman and Doctor Octopus.


snell said...

As memory serves, I wouldn't be suprised that your results might be reversed if you picked a Superman or JLA issue. In that era those were, I think, the talkiest books around.

Whalehead King said...

A very scientific dissection that begs a broader sample.