The Blue Age of Comic Books


J. David Bolter and Richard Grusin, in Remediation: Understanding New Media, define remediation as “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (273). They offer two strategies through which this logic manifests: hypermediacy and immediacy, the focus here being on the latter. The former is defined as a style of representation “whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium” (272). An example of this would be the digital storefront like that of digital comics retailer comiXology.
Immediacy is defined as a style of representation “whose goal is to make the viewer forget the presence of the medium… and believe that he is in the presence of the objects of representation” (272). The digital comic is an example of representation by way of immediacy because the new medium (the desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone) hopes to digitally (through the digital reader/application) erase itself so that the old medium, the comic, might be experienced in a kind of virtual reality.
The comic book, then, is digitally remediated by the computer, tablet, or smart phone’s attempt at an “interfaceless” interface, a virtual reality. Its aspiration is to allow the reader to read a digital comic just as they would a print comic. The screen may appear with or without the icons of tools meant to navigate it and the arrows of the keyboard or the swipe of a finger (or stylus) turns pages. Côme Martin, in “With, Against or Beyond Print? Digital Comics in Search of a Specific Status,” argues that this is a kind of skeuomorphism, which, in design, is understood to mean that the form is not derivative of the medium’s function but is instead an ornamental reference to its original. The digital comic book retains the form of a print comic book. A digital comic book does not retain the form of a print comic book because it has to do so; rather, a digital comic book retains the form of a print comic book because the producer and (traditional) consumer have fetishized that form. Some comics from the Golden Age, once worth 12¢ and mass-produced, are now only found in the hundreds and sold for millions of dollars. The further away in time a comic book was published, and therefore the closer in time to the original form of the comic book, the more it is understood to be worth. Today, publishers attempt to replicate this phenomenon by producing limited quantities of variant covers for series currently in serialization, under the assumption that it is the rarity of the object that gives it value and not its narrative or internal artwork. Variant covers do not affect the digital market.

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