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Larry Hagman Rides the Batmobile to Work: Rob Salkowitz's "Comic-Con" Pt3

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Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012
There's jazz coming in from who-knows-where as I finally put Rob's Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture down. It floods in by the windows, it fills the room. These really are the best of times.

There’s jazz coming in from who-knows-where as I finally put Rob’s Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture down. It floods in by the windows, it fills the room. These really are the best of times.


I’ve had to sherpa my own way through Rob’s book, and I don’t mind saying that it was no hardship, and that I enjoyed every minute of it. If anything, Rob has found a unique voice among business writers. He writes passionately not about the lurking enormity of search as Ken Auletta did in Googled nor does he write about the human revolution of connecting via the internet, as David Kirkpatrick did in The Facebook Effect. Instead, what Rob finds is a deep honestness in the very things were thought of as throwaway culture. Comics, Rob reminds us all, is the very foundry of not only popculture, but of twenty-first century business.
  


One of the tracts that stand out on this reread of Rob’s Comic Con goes around transmedia. Just as an aside, transmedia is the core of the book, and it is new and fertile field of analysis for Rob, and a new conceptual lens. It inhabits every crevasse of this book, fills every recess. Rob’s nothing if not diligent, dogged even in trace out those many contours of this new phenomenon that is transmedia. But this time round, among all those careful teasings-out of the concept and its real-world execution, one tract does stand out.


Our heroes for the book, Rob and his wife Eunice, have made it through Hotelaween and have helped friends setup their stand on Wednesday’s Preview. Now it’s Thursday’s Liftoff, and the day is wearing on. Our heroes are in a danger they haven’t realized yet—they’ve not eaten the entire day. Will they survive? In this episode, they join the panel for the TV show Wilfred. And it’s Rob’s keen eye that observes the invisible effect of transmedia.


In a nutshell, transmedia is the idea that Intellectual Properties will find a meaningful, viable place across all media. That Batman won’t simply be a comicbook superhero but will appear in videogames and in TV shows and in movies. And here’s the kicker. That the Batman appearing across those media, will operate in accord with the genre conventions of those media. That the videogame Batman will be every bit the equal of Assassins Creed or Call of Duty. That the TV show Batman will high-level TV the equal of Lost or Glee.


But while framing his experience of the Wilfred panel, Rob makes what I’ve be now come to accept as a classic Rob observation—that transmedia also has a doppler effect, that it also means the superhero genre, and the comicbook genre codes have entered into the unconscious of the popular imagination. That without transmedia, mainstream audiences wouldn’t be ready for shows like Wilfred or like Family Guy.


So when you think back to Dallas the next time you do think back to Dallas and you wonder for the umpteenth time who shot JR, wonder something else instead. Wonder if JR faked his own shooting, and if he drove off the set that day in the Batmobile. Transmedia, Rob reminds us, reaches far beyond the patently ridiculous gesturing of the postmodern kind, and gives us a workable format for the future of popculture. And once you realize that, you’ll realize that the true gift in Rob’s book is how very hard it becomes for you to decide, whether you’re a business reader reading a popculture book, or a comics fan reading a business book.


Rob’s Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture is available on Amazon as of today.

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