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January 10, 2008

Comments

Thomas Aylesworth

I'm probably going to sound like an old fart, but sometimes I miss this feature in modern comics. Don't get me wrong -- I love how well modern comics tell stories as sequential art with little (or even no) text. But what you are calling exposition is comics version of a greek chorus or Shakespeare's soliloquys.

Admittedly, plays are a very different medium than comics. But, as your example shows, a little text can go a long ways in explaining background material that can't be easily shown in pictures.

As comic book universes become more and more complicated (wasn't the point of the original Crisis to simplify the DC universe -- never mind, that's a rant for another day), new readers need this kind of exposition in order to follow along. Heck, even us old readers could use a reminder every once in a while!

As a related aside, I *really* loved (and miss) the editors notes that Julius Schwartz and E. Nelson Bridwell put into their books in the 60s and 70s! For a long time, that's how I made out my comic book back issue want lists, using those notes to figure out what comics I wanted to track down.

Mark Engblom

"I'm probably going to sound like an old fart, but sometimes I miss this feature in modern comics. Don't get me wrong -- I love how well modern comics tell stories as sequential art with little (or even no) text."

I know what you're getting at. I like a more expanded form of storytelling (being more a child of the Bronze Age and beyond), but I think alot of the modern "decompressed" storytelling goes too far toward the other extreme. Just as the expositional panels of Silver Age were too hyper-compressed, alot of the decompressed stuff just seems bloated, meandering and lazy. Both extremes seem to avoid the real art of skillful writing, i.e. propelling a story with words in a way that's neither too didactic or, on the other end of the spectrum, too vague.

"As a related aside, I *really* loved (and miss) the editors notes that Julius Schwartz and E. Nelson Bridwell put into their books in the 60s and 70s! For a long time, that's how I made out my comic book back issue want lists, using those notes to figure out what comics I wanted to track down."

Absolutely! Those little asides where great...not only because they were helpful, but also for that fun, informal vibe they projected (moreso with Marvel than with the more formal DC). I plan on doing something on those at some point in the future.

Brian Disco Snell

Man, I'm willing to bet some Silver Age Green Lantern or Flash come up next in the exposition watch...between explaining the "necessary impurity" or expalining a physics-defying super-speed stunt, sometimes those guys did more talkin' than fightin'!

Siskoid

What's really special about this panel isn't just that Superman is taking the time... He's also completing the narrator's thought!

suedenim

It is a shame to lose some of this stuff as comics creators have become more self-consciously "cinematic."

The comparison with soliloquies and Greek choruses is a good one. Of course, neither of those things is remotely "realistic," but they're part of a certain style and medium.

A lot of comic book conventions are corny as heck, but it seems unwise to throw out these tools of the trade *completely* because they can't be used in movies.

Mark Engblom

You hit on something important here, suedenim. As great as certain advances in storytelling have been, one gets the impression so many modern comics are, essentially, try-out vehicles for much more lucrative TV and movie writing gigs, in that the comics are paced and dialogued so much like TV shows or movies.

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