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Wednesday, April 13, 2016 

Miller and Moore led to far more 3rd person narrative

This article on Kotaku says that Frank Miller and Alan Moore influenced the changes in narrative during the mid-80s, although some of it was editorially mandated:
If you read a comic book from prior to the mid-1980s, you’ll see cloud-shaped word balloons attached by white dots to characters’ heads. These “thought balloons” let you see what a given character was thinking, at any given moment.

But comic-book writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller started changing this standard, through comics where the character’s internal monologue was conveyed through rectangular captions instead of fluffy balloons. The most iconic example could be The Dark Knight Returns, whose long, brooding Bat-monologue was parodied in a lot of late-1980s comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Around the same time, in prose fiction, “tight” third person narration became much more standard. This is narration where all the characters are referred to in third-person pronouns, but we see through the eyes (and into the mind) of one character in particular. This replaced “omniscient” third person, in which multiple viewpoints could be represented, and to some extent it also supplanted first-person narration.

Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) says that Moore and Miller definitely led by example in comics: “Moore and Miller didn’t really use thought balloons much in the ’80s, and as they went, others followed; editors discouraged them because they weren’t “cinematic” enough; not using them could also be a way to seal off someone’s thoughts from the reader, or show a lack of interiority.”
But they did seal off someone in the comics: the co-stars. In a lot of the comics I'd read that came in the 1990s, even if they were well written, they didn't offer enough of the co-stars' perspective, which IMO, could be conveyed much better with thought balloons. And if the editors were trying to form a "cinematic" POV, that's also decidedly a flaw, which Sean Howe said a few years ago only ensured failure. Certainly if it's editorially mandated. Here's also something on which they slipped:
But Jess Nevins (Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes) says that although most 1970s comics were packed with thought balloons, some 1970s creators did help start the trend: notably, Gerry Conway’s “War Journal” captions in the Punisher comics, and Bob Kanigher’s captions in some of DC’s war comics. But it wasn’t until the 1980s when Moore and Miller popularised this.
Here they confuse something: the Punisher - and its spinoffs like War Journal were launched in the late 80s, and it was writers like Carl Potts, Mike Baron and Chuck Dixon who made it that way.

The narrative used by Moore and Miller may have worked in their time, but turning it mandatory was decidedly ill-advised. If any particular writer can make thought balloons and 1st person narrative work, then they should allow them to use it, and let the audiences decide who pulls it off better. IMO, using the kind of 3rd person narrative they did - which came at the expense of thought balloons - only ensured less time for the co-stars to have their thoughts laid out.

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