The passage of time affects many mediums of entertainment, forcing them to evolve to keep the attention of the shifting generations. Comics, a visual medium, have learned to adapt to keep up with the ever-changing tastes of the populace. Comics have long offered a unique combination of the visual style of movies and cartoons, and the internal views of books, bringing in readers young and old. Comic books have gone from penny-rags into staples of pop cultures enjoyed the world over enduring the test of time. Not only has comics writing undergone drastic alterations to fit into modern times, but new generations have brought with them the evolution of comic art itself. Older styles of comics never die out but the trends, like people, changed. Comic art thrives on an experimental nature, a trend that continues even to this day.
In the 30's comics were simple at their start, descending from comics found in newspapers early comics displayed a one-note and simplistic style. The panels of older comics remained as straightforward as the stories. Panels displayed bare backgrounds and characters shouted their thoughts out, seemingly at random due to tonally inconsistent art. Outfits sported simplistic designs meant to appeal to children. Movements and expressions remained simplistic and obvious, with little need to search for deeper meanings in their actions. Simple Whimsy and wonder reigned as the goal of earlier comics. The story, and thus the art remained simple to appeal to children.
The younger generation of readers grew up, and the world lost its fabled sense of innocence comics had to evolve to accommodate more adult readers. Comic art became less simplistic and detail reigned, giving more of a visual feast beside the written wonder they featured alongside. Comics lost little of their color and gained even more. With the adult focus of its writers, the art evolved to fit in by becoming more human and less cartoon. Art took on more subtle leanings, marking a shift in the focus of art from what was a simple backdrop and to an actual prop of storytelling itself. The art became abstract but remained tightly focused. Symbolism grew in importance and grew closer to pop fiction though that gained its own notoriety.
By the 70's comics taught social and moral lessons. While the world changed, the comics looked to teach and with that wish to teach the art of comics became darker and drabber. Heroes stopped being alien but looked closer to someone you might meet every day. The art became more vivid but meant to hit home and evoke a realistic picture. Pictures told the stories themselves without a need for words as they often focused on hitting hard and heavy to show the roughness and chaotic nature of the world. Comic art did not lose its spirit still looking to give its readers both young and old figures to look up to and admire. They emphasized the human nature of people once so out of reach.
The 80's began an age where comics began to focus more on the darkness of the world. Colors began to grow darker and more depressing, and details were meant to illustrate the gory nature of a hero’s life. While not everything was doom and gloom, it was the norm for the artist to make the visual impact of the story more visceral and crushing. It was this age where people began to realize that comics had more to offer than childish entertainment despite the oft adult rendition of older issues. Of course, this new focus brought with it complications especially deep into the 90's where the edge and extremity were what many comics focused on the most. It began an age where art could be inconsistent so long as it looked fun strangely mirroring its older origins. Comic art was more of a spectacle, with artists surpassing others in extremity.
However, as the times change so does art and the evolution of comic art continues. While some art mimics the ages of old for novelty, mixing in the deeper storytelling techniques of today more stylistic choices have begun to appear. Comics have learned to take advantage of new technology and technique like digital painting, or even bringing in drawn over 3D models for an ease of movement and expression. Subtly is normal, as sometimes words cannot express what a picture might, and the art becomes cleaner. Throwbacks are quite common, but comics continue to creep forward to keep up with an increasing cinematic age.
And they will only continue to adapt with its audience.