The Medium of Comic Books
It is often easier to define comics and their genres as what they are not as Douglas Wolk, in Reading Comics, does. He writes, “Comics are not prose. Comics are not movies. They are not a text-driven medium with added pictures; they’re not the visual equivalent of prose narrative or a static version of a film. They are their own thing: a medium with its own devices, its own innovators, its own clichés, its own genres and traps and liberties” (14). Like the medium through which they are transmitted, superhero narratives have their own devices, innovators, and clichés. Within the context of this work, “comics” and “comic books” will be used interchangeably to refer to works within the superhero genre published by one of the “Big Two” companies, Marvel and DC Comics. While other publishing companies may offer “superhero” titles, Marvel and DC have historically dominated the market. As such, it must be understood that not all comics operate in the same ways and that comics of the superhero genre are particularly notable for their serialization and for their systems of production, distribution, and collection. Since 1938, no other popular media narrative has so consistently been produced in sequence for public consumption as that of the American superhero.