well i see you've had a more technical conversation about it, but to me they decided that they finally wanted to make the art FUN ART and not just story boards for their wordy scripts. to actually tell stories with flare instead of, as you said, tedium.
im using this technique left and right in my own work.
Well, if not standard than at least an accepted way to make the layout pop just a bit more. It was also a period one started to really see more panel-less art in the mix, too.
I suppose since this was something of a "revival" period for the medium, all these adoptions were to make things more visually interesting and stand out from the old tropes — even if it was simply an amplification fofthose same tropes.
I'm assuming that the transition away from a 'kid-friendly' tone also started to occur around the same time?
My curiosity in these matters has been piqued recently because I've been to the library and checked out reprints of the silver age Green Lantern books and it amazes me how tedious the read is compared to the stuff I read from the 90's and so forth. So many words... As such, I'm just trying to get a feel for how and when the medium transformed and what things caused those changes.
Honestly, I can't really say if that specifically coincided. There were certainly examples of titles that were well on their way toward a darker tone in the 1960-70s. Undeniably, the mantra of "darker grittier" was an industry standard by the end of the 1980s, reaching fever pitch by the "XTREME!" 90s — a period in which the industry felt a need to massive overhaul itself, yet managed to become more homogeneous.
None of what was being done was really new per se, but was no longer being treated as "alternative", such that even that term became a "standard" of the times.
I see. It wasn't so much that the comics industry suddenly decided to begin marketing more to the adult demographic over kids. It just kind of evolved that way over the decades. And a part of that evolution was the rethinking of the visual layout mentioned previous.
I am sure some publishers like to think it was a decision (and for some, it probably was), but it seems to me that the publishing industry simply was going through its usual oscillations. What produced those particular expressions of that swing in comics may well be the result of very specific decisions to pursue what appeared to be the surest way to follow the perceived trend.
In the case of the 1980s, it seems to have been a path blazed by the smaller independent titles which managed to successfully shoulder into the market. Other times, (such as the present) it seems to be driven by trends in related media, such as film, games, animated series, etc.