I’ve noticed over the years that “thought balloons” have slowly evaporated from comics.
Instead, the current “internal dialogue” device is to have the main character narrate the story. I first noticed this was consistantly used in the first ongoing Punisher series. Rather than “seeing” Frank Castle think “I’m all out of bullets,” he would include mention it as part of his War Journal entry — “It was a lousy time to run out of ammo. I was pinned down by crossfire and no where to go.”
Now I’m not saying that the loss of thought balloons is a bad thing. In “Countdown to Infinite Crisis,” the narrative captions provided a great insight into Blue Beetle’s character.
Likewise, in the recent “Avengers/Thunderbolts” mini series, each issue was narrated by a different character. This gave the reader a chance to see the story from multiple angles.
But the one thing about the missing (or at least dwindling use of) thought balloons (and non-character-associated narrations) is the loss of the omniscent point of view. This forces “monologuing” by many characters, which in turn leads to some really odd dialogue or worse, a plot with too many things left unexplained.
So why have thought balloons disappeared? They certainly were useful.
Though I’ve never read anyone’s official reason, one reason I think is valid is that thought balloons are ugly. They add clutter to panels. Their poofy look detracts from the general harshness of most comic pages. Likewise, their connector dots are equally intrusive.
Additionally, I suspect the omniscient narrator has fallen out of vogue because “he” is less useful in today’s comics. Why? He’s redundant, especially in trade paperback form. We don’t need to be reminded what happened “last issue” when we read a trade. Also, the market no longer sees a constant influx of new readers the way it did years ago. Now, readers stick around much longer. This makes the omniscient narrator less useful because he doesn’t need to explain origins, relationships and history as much as in the past. Nowadays, most readers are informed enough that such recaps aren’t needed.
What are your thoughts? Do you miss thought balloons? Do you like character-style narration? Do you prefer the omniscient narrator?