It has been said in the past that the reason why super-heroes have side-kicker is so that they have someone to talk to, to express their thoughts, deductions and feelings.


However, with the advent of Spider-man, it would seem that a lot of Peter Parker's conversation takes place in thought balloons.


Is this true?  Is he one of the first superheroes to hold exposition in thought balloons?

Or did Stan Lee also make Daredevil a wisecracking swashbuckler to get away from the need for thought balloons?


Who was the first hero to use thought balloons extensively?

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Oh, I used to think in the 60s that they were standard also.

I certainly understood what they represented.

However, I've recently gotten the impression that Marvel used them alot more with their solo heroes than DC did.

But I can't confirm this.

I think they stood out for Spidey in particular because his thought balloons often were at odds with what he said. He was cracking wise while he was panicking in his thoughts. That contrast was one of the appeals.

A quick flip through some Archives show that both Superman and Batman used thought balloons back in the GA. How "extensive" it was is hard to say, and it probably varied between writers. Especially for Superman, who used to expositorily worry about protecting his identity all the time, I think thought balloons were pretty standard.

Nowadays, I think thought balloons are on the way out. Everyone seems to use caption boxes colored different to represent different characters. There's almost no internal thought unless its the POV character. It would probably be annoying if I read very many current super-heroes.

-- MSA

I never saw or read any Ms. Marvel books at all, so all the above characters are strange to me.

Kirk G said:

I never saw or read any Ms. Marvel books at all, so all the above characters are strange to me.


Deathbird from Claremont's X-Men? AIM soldiers with their bucket helmets? MODOK, the lol-inducing internet joke of the last decade? Carol Danvers/Ms Marvel of Perez's 2 great stints as Avengers artist?


You have led a sheltered comics reading life, Kirk!

"Everyone seems to use caption boxes colored different to represent different characters."

I HATE that. It makes everything seem to "detached". I think it actually makes it harder to relate to the characters on the paper as real people. they become nothing more than static images, with separate narration, as if whoever's doing it is ashamed of the "cartoon"/"comic-book" format, and prefers prose fiction AND art illustration, but not together. It's STUPID, it's B***S***!!!!!

"Someone decided thought balloons weren't cool anymore and the rest followed that decision like cattle."


Into the rotating knives... ("Is it your proposal to slaughter our tenants?" "Does that not fit into your plans?")

Ironically, I was there for the first appearance of Modok, in Tales of Suspense. And I thought he should have ended there also.

As for Deathbird, I always wondered where she had come from. Such a strange character...

Ms. Marvel only showed up on my radar scope when she reappeared from being kidnapped by Michael.  And yes, I do recall the aftermath of the abduction and "rape". Wasn't that Avengers Annual #10?

A.I.M.... well, yes, earlier in Tales of Suspense, as I recall.  The ol' beehive uniforms.

I'm sure the Beekeeper outfits made perfect sense in Kirby's head.


Deathbird is the sister of Lilandra, the Empress of the Shi-Ar Galactic empire.  Which is a big whoop thing to be, post-Silver Age.  (Lilandra's people are descended from birds, by the way...)


My first period of reading Marvel Comics ended just shortly after Ms Marvel headed off into the sunset with that guy.  Such a strange thing to do to a character that bore the name of the company!?!  Even if they thought in some muddle-headed way they were doing right by her, why get rid of her?

They were doing a lot of "Final Fate" stories at that time: Ghost Rider, Nova, Spider-Woman, Morbius, Giant-Man II, Son of Satan and Ms. Marvel had their "ends" told. Of course, they all came back.

As for Carol Danvers, her leaving with Marcus Immortus was supposed to be romantic, a happy ending for her. That was how I saw it at the time, I am ashamed to say. It took Avengers Annual #10 to open my eyes to what really happened and I did reread Avengers #200 and was shocked to see it all there, in print and stated matter-of-factly. Someone at Marvel felt threatened by a super-strong woman because afterwards the Scarlet Witch left, the Wasp returned to get smacked around and Tigra joined as a nubile sex-kitten who couldn't handle being an Avenger! Luckily this disturbing trend ended when both She-Hulk and Captain Marvel II joined!

As for Carol Danvers, her leaving with Marcus Immortus was supposed to be romantic, a happy ending for her. That was how I saw it at the time, I am ashamed to say.


Same here!  I wasn't much for subtext back then.  But as you say, it was probably more like text, in hindsight.  It does look like someone feeling threatened by strong women.


I'm not sure if I've read Avengers Annual #10...


Interesting that it was part of a pattern of clearing the decks.

Gee, when Capt Marvel II joined, and She-Hulk..... hmmmm, would that have been the Roger Stern years?

Well, we saw what happened when he would ruin her, didn't we....

Mark S. Ogilvie:

"Yea, I remember that too, thinking that it was not a big deal.  A different world back then.  I still think that was the start of Carol's downfall into the character I don't like today.  After that she was stabbed in the back by the X-men when they chose Rogue over her.  Carol doesn't do well with teams."

If memory serves, a team of writers came up with AVENGERS #200. Then, Chris Claremont got DEEPLY offended by it, and HE wrote AVENGERS ANNUAL #10, as a way of slapping them all in the face. The thing is, Claremont regularly treated ALL his characters like crap, put ALL of them thru the kind of HELL no other comics writer ever thought of back then. (Was it a case of "one-downmanship"?) It wasn't too long after Rogue joined X-MEN that I stopped reading the book entirely. Between Claremont's hopelessly nihistic outlook on life, and the J.R.Jr.-Dan Green "art" team (and I use that word loosely), there was no reason to stick around any longer (unless you were really a masochist).

Funny thing... when they did the 1st X-MEN movie, they COMPLETELY changed the personality of Rogue, making her the most likable, and certainly the most sympathetic character in the entire movie. (As the movie used the later" version of the team, I figured ut that what the writers had done was have her, in effect, take the place of Cylcops, who originally, had been the team member whose dangerous powers were almost completely out of control.)

And I really don't see this sequence working with captions.

I'm not sure why they went to captions in the final panel, but it gives an indication of how the others would have worked. I assume it was their way of summing up, so they could shift the scene on the next page. Today, more stories are told in the first person, so they use captions rather than thought balloons for all that.

SA and earlier Superman stories were often denigrated for telling the story three times. A panel would have a caption saying, "Superman blocks the bomb with his body!" And Superman would say (or think), "I'll block this bomb with my body!" And the art, of course, would show him blocking the bomb with his body.

Experts have said that this reinforcement helps children learn to read, as they see the words and pictures at the same time, and at the time, that was probably good for the age group reading them. It became less good as comics age groups got older and older. Some of that, no doubt, results from DC's script style, where the writers felt they needed to convey everything in the words.

But even Marvel over-wrote a lot with its art-first style. The first example's second tier has Wanda thinking a lot of what she's doing, especially in the second panel of the tier, and the fourth panel has Wanda falling as she says, "I'm falling!" There's a lot of dialogue even in Marvel's comics where writers seemed to think they needed to earn their pay by the word.

For both Wanda and even more for the Attuma example, thought balloons were used to carry a lot of exposition that made them seem unnatural. But they were more plausible than if the characters had said all that out loud.

That kind of expository thinking and talking was what the Batman TV show made fun of a lot. It probably would work better as captions than thought balloons. I almost never read captions, because they never told me anything I needed to know.

-- MSA

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