Look at the difference between 1950s and ’60s comic books and those drawn and written in the 1990s. Older comic books were more about developing story lines, while newer books even of the same title have become more and more about sensationalistic artwork. Look at Spiderman of the ’60s versus Spiderman of the ’90s. Did he ‘roid up, or what? Everything about those same comic books are newer, flashier, more muscular, and more sensational.
The ’90s saw the advent of the full page spread, where the pencils and inks flaunted their stuff, highlighting every crease in the face or bulge in muscle. In some cases, the quality of content was surrendered to make room for bigger and better artwork. And even when the stories weren’t lost, the amount of dialogue and narration was dramatically reduced so that the readers had to spend more money on more comic books to get the same amount of story. Bigger artwork meant fewer dialogue boxes. Image Comics, like Spawn, Shadow Hawk, Youngblood, and Savage Dragon are prime examples of the excesses to which comics took their artwork, to the detriment of their storyline. The stories were there… readers just had to read twice as many issues to get anywhere with the storyline.
Hollywood has followed the way of the comic book. Obviously, films like The Matrix prove how much directors can borrow from the comic book creating process to make a movie. Storyboards are often drawn up to look like comic book pages. But beyond the storyboards, everything in Hollywood films seems heading towards a bursting of the film making bubble. How much time in a film can you spend on special effects, cheesy one-liners, and head shots? Quite a few, if you’re making an action movie. But action movies don’t usually win awards or critical acclaim. They’re fun, sensational, and forgotten.
The “artsy” critics shifted away from Hollywood long ago in preference to Cannes and Sundance and many other film festivals featuring very few sensational effects. These films are rich in content, focusing on emotional details or clever story telling rather than bizarre shifting camera angles.
Comic books sales took a drastic down turn in the ’90s. Altogether, I think it was the combination of ridiculously increased prices, more space taken up by advertising, and the lack of quality narrative and dialogue. The commonly accepted value of comic books dropped drastically and new independent comic book companies cropped up to compete in a suffering market space. Hollywood’s bubble hasn’t popped just yet, but it could be coming.
It’s hard to predict what will happen. In some senses, the general populace has been conditioned to expect less from most films. It has sadly become enough if three of four films out a year’s 30+ are of any real value.
Thousands of comic book readers decided that sensationalism isn’t compelling enough to warrant expensive comic books. The question is: will movie watchers come to the same conclusion?