In the beginning, there were very few comics that caught national attention, the best known being Detective Comics and Action Comics with their flagship characters of Batman and Superman, respectively. Stories were fresh and ideas were new, so there wasn’t as much competition back then as there is now; storytelling was easier to do, though that doesn’t mean it was better done. Several of the older comics that I’ve read (which include the beginning issues of Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Batman, and the Oan Green Lantern) felt as though they were rushed to tell the story in some places, while in others it felt as though the story was really dragging, spending a very long time before getting to the “action” of the issue. When said action finally happened, the narration of it was over the top, with the need to use internal monologue constantly for the reader. Storytelling eventually got better, but it was a very long process, and it could still use some improvements.
Enter the post-World War II phase, in which comics were no longer talking about the evils of Nazi Germany, but now focused on the new sciences that have been discovered following the war. Radiation and atomic energy were making powerful influences as plot devices, most notably the origin of Spider-Man from the bite of a radioactive spider, and the old scientist version of Lex Luthor using his powers of knowledge to try and combat Superman’s brute strength. Science became a more central prospect of superhero comics, and soon after the atomic age came the age of genetics and mutations, specifically the X-Men. Storytelling again shifts to be more informative without being overly saturating, but still the storytelling falls short of what can really be done.
By the time of the Bronze Age, comic plots are more evolved and intricate, being subtle and action packed without the extraordinary amount of narration and scene-setting done, but still falling short of what is done today. And now, with the Modern Age of comics, storytelling focuses a lot around technology and the digital advances that have been acquired over the last couple of decades. For me at least, it seems as though with the introduction of the computer as an everyday tool for most people, the storytelling elements of comics have also changed; fights are more than just one or two pages, there’s in-fight dialogue that doesn’t sound as though it was taken from a really campy horror flick, and there’s well-thoughtout plans of action put in place before such adventurous teams as the Avengers or the Justice League enter into battle (though not always). Likewise, not too much time is spent on the backgrounds leading up to the fight scenes, but the ones that are still shown are done so in a way that is more informative without being overly taxing. The old axiom of “less is more” comes to mind when I think of comics in the Modern Age; less dialogue and narration, to give the finer points that are needed, but without drowning a reader in a wall of text.
Society is ever-changing, and even over the last couple of years I’ve seen changes in comics that I haven’t before. There will be even more changes as time goes on, and along with them will be new ways of storytelling and dialogue that will not only reflect the then-current society’s feelings, but will also influence them, and I like the fact that art (in all of its ways) influences society, as one does not want to be in a dull community. I am sure that when I have kids, they’ll think that today’s comics aren’t as good as the ones they’re likely to be reading, and that’s okay—just so long as none of those comics use Text Speak as a primary form of dialogue communication.