The Blue Age of Comic Books


A digital comic book is not a print comic (another example of a comic book being best defined by what it is not). It is not something that you can hold in your hands and its pages cannot be pinched by your fingers. You cannot slip it into a plastic bag backed by a cardboard rectangle or seal it and assign it a grade out of ten. A digital comic book is a comic book digitized. As Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media, “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium” (23). Following McLuhan, the content of a digital comic book, one medium, is a comic book, another medium. At the same time, a digital comic book is not simply one medium within another because all comic books produced in the Modern Age are (in some way, shape, or form) digital.

A digital comic book does not always have the same content as a print comic book of the same name and number. In April of 2017, print issues of X-Men Gold (2017-) #1 were delivered to comic book stores. Fans were quick to point out that the artwork, by former Marvel artist Ardian Syaf, included controversial references to the Qur'an and Indonesian politics. The artwork was removed from later printings, the digital issue, and the forthcoming trade paperback; however, print issues had already been distributed with the artwork included. There were, simultaneously, print and digital issues of one comic book that did not have the same content. 

In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich argues for the expansion of the definition of new media beyond that which uses “a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than production” (19). Manovich writes,

There is no reason to privilege the computer as a machine for the exhibition and distribution of media over the computer as a tool for media production or as a media storage device. All have the same potential to change existing cultural languages. And all have the same potential to leave culture as it is. (19)

Following Manovich’s extended definition and argument: print comics would be understood as digital if they are scripted, penciled, lined, colored, lettered, formatted, edited, and/or mediated through a computer. Digital comics are not just one medium within another. They are a remediation of an old medium through new media.

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