Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics shows that the artistic and celebrated world of comics has gotten lost amongst the interactive glitz of today’s new technology.  Once a preeminent media in American culture, comics have largely been relegated to niche fan bases of superheroes and political cartoons.  Still, the importance of comics should not be overlooked, especially considering the genre’s development of the “icon.”  Icons are comic images that represent a broader message to the reader.  These messages vary based off its storyline and publication date.  Regardless, icons allow comic books to carry a deep, important meaning throughout society despite assumptions that they are simply recreational. (McCloud, 27)

    Although the physical medium of comics may be less popular than before, the medium’s effects continue to be felt in today’s television and film industry.  Over the past decade, nearly all of Hollywood’s highest grossing films are adapted from comic book superheroes.  Spiderman, Batman, and Iron Man are three of numerous blockbusters that have captivated audiences and spawned franchises.  Put simply, comic book heroes are commercially valuable in today’s culture.  This is likely due to the iconic nature of many characters. They stand for timeless American values like patriotism, justice, and strength.  These principles will continue to thrive in America, and so will the content that promotes it.

    Given the success of comic book films in Hollywood, one wonders about its future prospects.  Could the paper based comic book serials that were a cultural norm decades ago ever flourish again?  How has new media, and the progression from paper to digital content, affected the prosperity of comic books?  One obvious consequence now is that many artists and writers are producing for the internet, hoping to capitalize on digital comics.  But can one achieve the same enjoyment reading comics online instead of getting monthly issues in the mail?  Or is magic lost in the conversion? 

    For those entertained by today’s crop of comic book films, consider reading their source material.  The Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse websites (three of the biggest comic producers today) have a wealth of titles that truly conveys the magnitude of the medium.  Don’t worry about becoming a geek.  If anything, you may help renew a once popular trend:   

 

 

Marvel Comics

 

DC Comics

 

Dark Horse Comics

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The advent of the internet and convergence of new media has led to the development of infinite possibilities to produce and consume media.  As such, it has given rise to narroly defined subcultures known as niche cultures.  Amazingly, these niches have changed the way media is produced and marketed.  Before, media was offered on a mass scale for the largest, broadest audience possible.  This was because sources of media were few and consumers sought the widest range of information available.  Today’s internet and existing new mediums though have given consumers a wealth of subcultures to be apart of.  So instead of once producing general media for a broad appeal, narrowcasting is emerging as a primary approach to successful media distribution.  (Jenkins, 2-5)

 

As mentioned before, the rise of the internet and new media has required producers to rethink how to the sell to the masses by focusing on narrow subject matter.  One shining example is that movie studios are bypassing traditional mass print and television ad campaigns in favor or online viral marketing that’s targeted to niche fan bases.  The goal is to generate hype with a film’s base fans and have their word of mouth spread to the rest of the public.  One need not look further than Warner Brothers’ and The Dark Knight to see the effectiveness of such an approach.  The year long marketing campaign was narrowly catered to the film’s die hard fans which created tremendous publicity leading to its release.  The film is currently the second highest grossing picture ever.  Expect plenty of other movies to follow suit.   

 

As Nicolas Negroponte pointed out in 1990, narrowcasting has ascended while traditional mass media is in decline.  To what extent though will this continue?  How much of one’s life today is associated with niche media as opposed to mass media?  What are the benefits of one or the other?  And will society reach a point where typical mass media is entirely replaced with one’s personal narrowcast of subject matter?

 

The concept of niche culture has gradually gained attention as it has become a prominent aspect of media.  Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine, has become an icon for identifying and expounding on the shift into narrowcasting.  His book The Long Tail, effectively highlights the development of niche culture and how producers should cater to it.  Here is also a link to a conference he spoke at discussing the changes in today’s media:

 

www.thelongtail.com

 

YouTube-The Long Tail

Emerging from the Industrial Revolution and throughout the twentieth century, the modernist view of technology has been adopted to address society’s influx of new media.  This approach to defining new mediums argues that the convenience, variety, and innovation offered by developing technology dramatically improves culture.  While there remain dissenters to its use, new media has been largely a welcomed addition to American and global culture. (Lister, 11)   

Over just the past few years, American society has seen an addition of gadgets and media that have been touted as improvements to society.  Smart phones, GPS devices, and iPods are a few of a slew of “all in one” media tools that allows one to communicate, travel, and entertain like never before.  In addition, websites like YouTube and Facebook have demonstrated the ease at which one can correspond with others through interactive video or social networking.  In fact, such mediums have become so popular, one observes that face to face and traditional forms of communication have gotten lost in the shuffle.  

Considering this, one must assess the consequences of these trends and determine if the recent changes in media have in fact made improvements to society.  Has the rate and convenience at which American culture now communicates affected the purity and importance of the communication?  Has it jeopardized the quality of face to face communication?  If so, what does that say about society’s emphasis of communication, and does it really mean an improvement in our culture as the modernist seems to hold? 

Author Michael Bugeja’s Interpersonal Divide delves into the consequences today’s new media has upon society’s relationships and the quality of communication.  He contends that today’s culture is relying increasingly upon virtual means of communication, to the point where the quality of relationships are suffering.  Here is a link to more information on the book:   

http://www.interpersonal-divide.org/