The Iconic Nature of Comic Books

September 22, 2008

    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


One Response to “The Iconic Nature of Comic Books”

  1. Preston said

    There will always be a place for the paper based comic serials. Digital is nice, but it can’t beat having a brand new comic book to hold in your hands.

    Thompson Street Comics
    215 Thompson Street
    New York, NY 10012

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