In our case, the history and study of the American comic book must take into consideration both technological and social factors. It is only when we examine the ways technology created appropriate conditions for the rise of comic books in conjunction with social and cognitive developments that allowed for the creation of such technologies that we can hope to understand this topic in its entirety. Reductive teleological approaches, while attractive in their simplicity, are limiting. We must look beyond such arguments and examine the ways in which these two perspectives work together. Based on this new, more complicated view, we can argue that the modern comic book and graphic novel are only possible because technological and social agents worked together to create them. If it is still desirable to reduce such an argument to its simplest terms, we might say: rotary printing press + pulp paper + color ink + binding methods + standardized formatting & compelling narratives + World Wide Web + iPad = modern comic books and graphic novels. Without the aesthetic inventions of standardized formatting and the use and development of compelling narratives, the comic book medium would have never formed. So, we must combine the theoretical work of Gabilliet, Kubler, McLuhan, Ong, Eisner, McCloud, Drucker, and Latour to approach this discussion with any authority.
While we recongize that this project is incomplete, we hope it begins to map a more complex approach for understanding the continually evolving text and fixed image media of the modern American comic book. For more specific information, see our collection of objects and events related to this exhibit.