Decoder Ring -- Comic Book Markup Language
Decoder Ring -- Comic Book Markup Language
Jerry Spiller 0
0 Art Institute of Charleston
Follow this and additional works at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/atg Part of the Library and Information Science Commons Recommended Citation
Decoder Ring — Comic Book Markup Language
Column Editor: Jerry Spiller (Art Institute of Charleston) <>
Ito reason that you also missed my talk on Comic Book Markup
f you missed the Charleston Conference this year, then it stands
Language (CBML). If you have a collection of comics that you’d
like to open up for retrieval and analysis, CBML is a vocabulary for
representation of comics documents in XML developed by John Walsh
CBML is an extension of Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). As such,
it incorporates elements of TEI as well as its own elements focused
on comics content and features. Many TEI elements are available to
represent common structures in a variety of text documents, for instance
chapters, paragraphs, spoken dialogue, or features as particular as
epigraphs. The full list of TEI elements is available at http://www.tei-c.
Chapters can be represented with the generic <div> that is familiar
to Web designers and developers from the HTML version of the same
element. Attributes are used within tags to provide more specific
information. A type attribute, typically written as @type with the @ denoting
that it is an attribute, here qualifies that this div represents a chapter:
Our other examples of paragraphs, spoken dialogue, and epigraphs
can be represented with <p>, <said>, and <epigraph>. When Sherlock
Holmes awakens Dr. Watson in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange,3
we might encode the interaction something like this:
<p><said who=“#sherlock-holmes”>“Come Watson, come!”
</said> he cried. <said who=“#sherlock-holmes”>“The game is
Extending from that TEI base, CBML provides elements for
representing features unique to comic books, graphic novels, and related
media. The most basic unit of comics is the panel, which can be
represented with <cbml:panel>. Similarly, speech and thought balloons can
be encoded with <cbml:balloon>.
Now <cbml:panel> is a good start, but clearly not enough by itself
to represent everything that’s going on. We can choose from a set of
useful attributes to note more about a particular panel. Let’s take a look
at a panel from Little Nemo in Slumberland in 1907.
We might want to note that this is the first panel of a page, or
whichever panel number a particular panel is within the page. We can provide
that information with @n, for number:
Further, we might want to know what characters are depicted in
the panel. Similar to the way we used @who with <said>, we can list
characters with @character, prefixing each individual character with #:
<cbml:panel n=”1” characters=”#nemo #little-imp”>
A full list of characters appearing in the document would normally
appear in the <teiHeader>, as with other TEI documents.
We can keep going with the balloon. Nemo says to the Little Imp,
“They are looking for us! We must get down from here!” Using
<cbml:balloon> the useful attributes here will be @type to denote that this
is a speech balloon and @who, much as it was used in <said> with the
great detective above.
<cbml:balloon type=“speech” who=“#nemo”>They are looking
for us!We must get down from here!</cbml:balloon>.
These few elements and attributes barely scratch the surface of
what’s available. There’s also <cbml:caption> for captions from a
narrator that are not speech or thought
balloons, the <sound> element
straight out of TEI for sound
effects, and ways of representing
features like letters pages or ads
for x-ray glasses and ways to bulk
up fast and stop that sand-kicking
Want to learn more about CBML? Feel free to check out my slides
from the Charleston Conference, “Metadata for Metahumans” at http://
jerryspiller.net/pres/CBML.5 Or for much more in-depth look, go back to
the source and check out John Walsh’s http://cbml.org6 and his excellent
Digital Humanities Quarterly article, “Comic Book Markup Language:
An Introduction and Rationale” at http://www.digitalhumanities.org/
So I’m looking forward to an endless
supply of laughable, hopelessly clueless
suggestions based upon my Echo activity.
But perhaps more alarmingly, what if the
suggestions become better over time? What
if the usefulness of what Echo can do for us
counterbalances our latent squeamishness
over Echo’s potential eavesdropping powers?
Is it HAL? Is it SkyNet? Or is it C3PO? Or
Well, too late to worry about that now…
1. John Walsh, “Comic Book Markup
Language,” accessed Oct 26, 2014, http://
2. Text Encoding Initiative , “ P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange, Appendix C : Elements”, accessed Oct 26 , 2014 , http://www.tei-c.org/release/doc/tei-p5-doc/ en/html/REF-ELEMENTS.html.
3. Arthur Conan Doyle , “ The Adventure of the Abbey Grange,” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes New York: McClure, Philips & Co., 1905 .
4. Winsor McCay , Little Nemo in Slumberland, comic for September 9 , 1907 , accessed Sept 14, 2014 , https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Little_Nemo#mediaviewer/File:Little_Nemo_ 1907 -09-29.jpg.
5. Jerry Spiller , “ Metadata for Metahumans: An Introduction to Comic Book Markup Language , ” Nov 7 , 2014 . http:// jerryspiller.net/pres/CBML.
6. John Walsh, “Comic Book Markup Language.”
7. John Walsh, “ Comic Book Markup Language: An Introduction and Rationale,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 6 , no. 1 ( 2012 ), accessed Oct 28, 2014 , http://www. digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/6/1/000117/ 000117.html Against the Grain / December 2014 - January 2015