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  1. #1
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    Default Writing: Past and Present

    For those of you born in a decade that you are familiar with:

    What makes present-day writing of comic books different/better than what has come before?

  2. #2
    Astonishing Member Raye's Avatar
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    Well, a lot of this varies more from writer to writer than decade to decade, no one writer will encompass all the hallmarks of any particular time period, some were ahead of their time in the olden days, some writers now are throwbacks to an earlier era... but... as someone who began reading in the late 90's, and has gone back and read some earlier stuff:

    - more natural dialogue with less blatant exposition dumps, villain monologues explaining their plans, and characters explaining their powers to no one in particular every other issue
    - less exposition in general, readers are often expected to put things together themeslves and infer what is happening
    - themes tend to be a bit more layered and subtle
    - less black and white take on morality, many more anti-heroes and anti-villains roaming around and less certainty on what is right or wrong
    - more decompressed storytelling, usually (but not always) with more intricate plots to match. Really, this is the key thing, because it is those extra pages that allow for the more natural dialogue etc. because now we can spend time seeing these things happen rather than have them explained to us. Sometimes it is abused to pad out a story when not warranted, sure, but in general, it was a positive move.
    - on that note you tend to see more in depth character studies, because there is more time to devote to that sort of thing due to the decompression
    - less thought balloons, though these are coming back in vogue lately. but generally, they switched from thought balloons to internal captions, more of a stylistic change, since the purpose behind them is about the same a lot of the time
    - more intricate art, coloring and lettering as printing and coloring/lettering processes improved

    That's what comes to me off the top of my head. Some of these are neutral, some I prefer over the old stuff. Mostly I prefer the modern stuff in general, but there are some that are modern, but have elements more associated with older comics, like Squirrel Girl, that I enjoy.
    Last edited by Raye; 05-19-2019 at 07:00 PM.

  3. #3
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    I did a comparison of if issue one of Contest of Champions was written today, how many issues would it take to tell that first issue.

    My math concluded that it would be two and a half to three issues long.

    The first page would be drawn out to 16 pages.

  4. #4
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    You don't really see too many one-shot stories anymore or villains that just robs banks. Everything needs to be part of a more epic scale. I miss the simpler easier stuff sometimes.

    Sure stories may be more in dept or have more character development, but they also take you half a year to get the same amount of story that you used to get in one or two issues.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member DragonsChi's Avatar
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    - more natural dialogue with less blatant exposition dumps, villain monologues explaining their plans, and characters explaining their powers to no one in particular every other issue
    - less exposition in general, readers are often expected to put things together themeslves and infer what is happening

    .....I'm sorry but were you being serious







    There are so many cases of "Word Ballon Abuse" and excessive dialogue in stories now that it is anything but natural.
    Last edited by DragonsChi; 05-19-2019 at 07:42 PM.
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  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Raye's Avatar
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    I said right in my post that i was talking generally, and that there were exceptions. Just because it doesn't apply to every single modern comic doesn't mean that the general trend isn't to use more natural sounding dialogue. As in an effort is made to make them sound like actual people instead of exposition dispensers. Also, wordy doesn't automatically mean unnatural. People do ramble in real life.
    Last edited by Raye; 05-19-2019 at 08:47 PM.

  7. #7
    Incredible Member charliehustle415's Avatar
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    For me the biggest difference is long term story telling now compared to then.

    I've been doing my annual re-read of Bendis' New Avengers and he even makes a meta contextual comment about the one and done adventures the Avengers used to always do. In Disassembled Hawkeye goes off on Cap and Tony about how they jump from one problem to the next without seeing things through to the end.

    This to me screamed to me a new edict where there is a long term plan for a writer, Bendis even references this line later when Echo joins the fray after fighting the Hand in Japan and and Cap sends Echo on a mission to figure out what they are up to while the Avengers go and deal with another situation.

    This is even more evident with Bendis' former protoge Hickman, who uses a multi-year plan to tell his story. You can lookup the map he made for his Fantastic Four run or his Avengers run, nevertheless, long form story telling has been the biggest boon for superhero comic books.

  8. #8
    Fantastic Member Jon-El's Avatar
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    I remember when Byrne was writing Superman. Speaking of older issues, he mentioned one where Superman encounters a monster underwater. He gets rid of it in a few panels and goes on. No explanation of what it was. Byrne said something like how now (80’s) you’d get three issues with the monster. I bought one of the Essential volumes of Hulk with stories from the early 70’s. One issue he fights a robot. Next issue Absorbing Man. Next issue the Leader. Then Rhino. I haven’t read a comic in a few years but I’m pretty sure comics are nothing like that. Sometimes all the characterization and detail is interesting. Sometimes I just want the story to move.

    The other thing I noticed was how alone characters used to seem because you only knew them through thought balloons . They didn’t interact with others as much.

  9. #9
    Incredible Member Ying Ko's Avatar
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    Been on a binge recently reading older comics and after finishing Fraction's Invicible Iron Man run, I went staight to Byrne's Avengers West Coast. The transition is jarring to say the least, but I wouldn't say one was necessarily worse than the other.

    One issue of Iron Man can be read in about 10-15 minutes, while AWC takes closer to 30 minutes because it's, well... wordy. I don't mind it because I grew up with Byrne but I can definitely see how some people would.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raye View Post
    Well, a lot of this varies more from writer to writer than decade to decade, no one writer will encompass all the hallmarks of any particular time period, some were ahead of their time in the olden days, some writers now are throwbacks to an earlier era... but... as someone who began reading in the late 90's, and has gone back and read some earlier stuff:

    - more natural dialogue with less blatant exposition dumps, villain monologues explaining their plans, and characters explaining their powers to no one in particular every other issue
    - less exposition in general, readers are often expected to put things together themeslves and infer what is happening
    - themes tend to be a bit more layered and subtle
    - less black and white take on morality, many more anti-heroes and anti-villains roaming around and less certainty on what is right or wrong
    - more decompressed storytelling, usually (but not always) with more intricate plots to match. Really, this is the key thing, because it is those extra pages that allow for the more natural dialogue etc. because now we can spend time seeing these things happen rather than have them explained to us. Sometimes it is abused to pad out a story when not warranted, sure, but in general, it was a positive move.
    - on that note you tend to see more in depth character studies, because there is more time to devote to that sort of thing due to the decompression
    - less thought balloons, though these are coming back in vogue lately. but generally, they switched from thought balloons to internal captions, more of a stylistic change, since the purpose behind them is about the same a lot of the time
    - more intricate art, coloring and lettering as printing and coloring/lettering processes improved

    That's what comes to me off the top of my head. Some of these are neutral, some I prefer over the old stuff. Mostly I prefer the modern stuff in general, but there are some that are modern, but have elements more associated with older comics, like Squirrel Girl, that I enjoy.
    I generally agree with this.

    I find that a lot of comics I read and enjoyed as a child i just can't enjoy any more.

    Like Busiek, I loved his Avengers when it was releasing but now i find it unnecessarily wordy.
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  11. #11
    Incredible Member charliehustle415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon-El View Post
    I remember when Byrne was writing Superman. Speaking of older issues, he mentioned one where Superman encounters a monster underwater. He gets rid of it in a few panels and goes on. No explanation of what it was. Byrne said something like how now (80’s) you’d get three issues with the monster. I bought one of the Essential volumes of Hulk with stories from the early 70’s. One issue he fights a robot. Next issue Absorbing Man. Next issue the Leader. Then Rhino. I haven’t read a comic in a few years but I’m pretty sure comics are nothing like that. Sometimes all the characterization and detail is interesting. Sometimes I just want the story to move.

    The other thing I noticed was how alone characters used to seem because you only knew them through thought balloons . They didn’t interact with others as much.
    My point exactly, it can be tough going back to older books; especially because there is no through-line for character progression. Moreover, we live in an age where every character and action is thoroughly analyzed and explained (maybe even to a fault).

    Also what has changed nowadays is that for the most part the artist and the writer are not one and the same and because of that we get great duos that really work together. I'm thinking of Aaron & Dauterman, Hickman & Ribic, Tomasi & Gleason (DC), Bendis & Coipel, and Slott & Immonen.

  12. #12
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    I expected a bit more mature and more sophisticated Comic book storytelling years ago.

  13. #13
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    The biggest difference is that new comics have higher standards.


    The masters of yesteryear would be standard today. This is not to diminish the work of people like Miller, Morrison of even Moore (who is a detestable human being). But, the ain't special anymore.

    I recently re-read "the Dark Knight Returns". While it has aged better than most other product from the 80s, its vintage is obvious.

    One of the reason's that Miller's breakdowns were so striking in 1985 is because so few writers and editors even understood why breakdowns were important. If a page looked like crap, that was considered okay. Now, writers and artists are expected to be be able to do their own breakdowns. it is not even mentioned.

    The same could be said of lettering. Of course, the people responsible for lettering comics before 2000 or so had to deal with bombastic idiocy and undersized panels (getting back to breakdowns). It was harder to place text gracefully on a page when there was 2-3 times more words than necessary and panels were too disorganized to convey a story without bloviating narration.


    My math concluded that it would be two and a half to three issues long.

    The first page would be drawn out to 16 pages.
    Yes, and those pages and issues would look and read better. They would be more expensive, but a higher quality. I do not care if a comic has a "complete story" if it is not worth having read. If a run takes 2 years, but is better written, I am more than willing to spend time/money on it.


    In "the Dark Knight Returns", Miller has scene changes mid-page, between similar panels. The shifts are abrupt, and clumsy. They were standard for the time, and used every inch of the page. But, "the Dark Knight Returns" would be a more graceful series if certain scenes began and ended with pages, or at least differentiated panels. (The scene where Superman consumed a rainforest took 3-4 standard panels. It merited at least a page or over-sized panels. But, Miller still deserves full credit for not loading the page with pointless narration.)


    .....I'm sorry but were you being serious
    "X-Men" is traditionally wordy. Some of this may be lingering influence of Claremont (one of the worst offenders for Silver/Bronze Age gibber-scripting.) Regardless of who you want to blame, the x-books tend to spend inordinate amounts of time on navel gazing. (But, yes, I want to curb-stomp the writer of the above-scanned page.)
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  14. #14
    Incredible Member charliehustle415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CentralPower View Post
    The biggest difference is that new comics have higher standards.


    The masters of yesteryear would be standard today. This is not to diminish the work of people like Miller, Morrison of even Moore (who is a detestable human being). But, the ain't special anymore.

    I recently re-read "the Dark Knight Returns". While it has aged better than most other product from the 80s, its vintage is obvious.

    One of the reason's that Miller's breakdowns were so striking in 1985 is because so few writers and editors even understood why breakdowns were important. If a page looked like crap, that was considered okay. Now, writers and artists are expected to be be able to do their own breakdowns. it is not even mentioned.

    The same could be said of lettering. Of course, the people responsible for lettering comics before 2000 or so had to deal with bombastic idiocy and undersized panels (getting back to breakdowns). It was harder to place text gracefully on a page when there was 2-3 times more words than necessary and panels were too disorganized to convey a story without bloviating narration.




    Yes, and those pages and issues would look and read better. They would be more expensive, but a higher quality. I do not care if a comic has a "complete story" if it is not worth having read. If a run takes 2 years, but is better written, I am more than willing to spend time/money on it.


    In "the Dark Knight Returns", Miller has scene changes mid-page, between similar panels. The shifts are abrupt, and clumsy. They were standard for the time, and used every inch of the page. But, "the Dark Knight Returns" would be a more graceful series if certain scenes began and ended with pages, or at least differentiated panels. (The scene where Superman consumed a rainforest took 3-4 standard panels. It merited at least a page or over-sized panels. But, Miller still deserves full credit for not loading the page with pointless narration.)

    You now that you bring it up as a modern comic reader, you actually learn of the actual making of comics and the different techniques that is required to make a great story. I remember when I was a kid and I read Ultimate Spider-Man I couldn't believe how breezy each issue was, you could quite literally finish a issue under 10 minutes; but when you took them and read them as a trade or omni it was spectacular to see the story unfold over the course of 200+ pages.

    I understand a lot of people do not like decompressed stories, but you are totally correct that it makes better story telling in regards to art, wording, and pace.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Raye's Avatar
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    Yeah, i find a lot of old comics a bit of slog to get through. While i can recognize what they contributed to where we are now, and can see that they were important to the history and good for their time, I just prefer the modern decompressed style. I don't care if a story is stretched out over more issues, if the story is better told as a result, and that can mean more in depth character work, or a more intricate and involved plot, or more emphasis on making the story visually pleasing, or some combo of those things. My first exposure to comics was Sandman, and then got into Warren Ellis' stuff like The Authority, so that's just kinda where my tastes developed.

    Though, I have definitely seen done in one issues that I really liked. but overall, I prefer letting a story breathe. As with any tool, yes, it can be abused, or used poorly, some writers do blatantly stretch stories out longer than they should to fit a trade or just tread water waiting for something to happen in another book or whatever. Mostly i think the story should dictate the length, there shouldn't be a push to make every arc 6 issues to fit a trade,(but I do recognize that trades do have to be considered on some level these days) or make every story a done in one. Some stories are better told over several issues, while others one or two will suffice. There is a happy middle ground where you aren't cramming stuff in there with awkward narration and cramped panels, or stretching things out to an absurd degree, and I think comics have been finding that balance more successfully of late.

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