PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Comic-Con and the Transmedia Future: 'Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture'

Rob Salkowitz understands the delicate balance between nostalgia and tradition, and he doesn’t dismiss things which might be lost as publishers begin the inevitable march toward broad digital distribution.


Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World’s Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment

Publisher: McGraw Hill
Length: 304 pages
Author: Rob Salkowitz
Format: $27.00
Publication date: 2012-05
Amazon

By the time you read this, the 2012 San Diego Comic Con will be over and preparation will have begun anew for next year’s event. "The Con" now operates in a cycle comparable to the perpetual campaigning of American politics. There are badge numbers, online sales and hotel reservations to secure, not to mention getting to the actual event itself, where endless lines and throngs of assorted humans and aliens occupy San Diego every July.

Rob Salkowitz’s book, Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, is a fascinating look at this experience. In it he explores his own personal encounters with the Con (he and his wife have regularly attended since the late '90s) but also the event’s ascendance as the epicenter of entertainment business and culture. Being a comic fan, Salkowitz avoids the pitfalls of the “ZAP! POW! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids!” stories which annually announce the arrival of the Con. Despite the event’s recorded attendance of 130,000 in 2011, actual comic books -- the staid monthly print magazines sometimes obnoxiously referred to as “floppies” -- aren’t exactly doing a booming business. Comics-related properties generate billions of dollars in licensing revenue, covering everything from movies and games to socks and breakfast cereal. Best-selling comics however,, Salkowitz writes, rarely sell more than a few 100,000 copies.

Salkowitz uses the 2011 Comic-Con as a lens through which to view the issue. The big questions are: how do publishers avoid making the same mistakes as the film and music industries when it comes it digital content? And how can the publishers grow the market for an “old fashioned” product like comic books with so many other diversions vying for consumers’ cash?

Salkowitz gets to the heart of the disconnect. Publishers aim to please an aging but vocal fan base at the expense of creating new readers. Constant “event” stories in which everything/nothing changes, limited availability, and the sometimes unwelcoming, boys club atmosphere of comics shops give new readers, especially women and children, few opportunities to jump on board. The same fans from 20 years ago are still buying the same things, but this feedback loop will eventually have to end.

These days, Salkowitz writes, making comics, “...seems little more than an expense required to keep the intellectual property assets current and trademarks up to date.” This sounds like a damning indictment, probably because it’s true. Salkowitz points to the biggest comics publishers -- Marvel and DC -- and notes they’re both merely blips on the balance sheets of gigantic media companies (Disney and Time-Warner, respectively).

Salkowitz is no doom and gloom prophet, however, and his book isn’t that of an angry fan spouting off against the industry. Salkowitz sees the value, both monetary and cultural, in keeping comics viable across any number of platforms. Much of his argument rests on the “transmedia future”, in which comics can easily be a big player. This phenomenon, in which stories featuring valuable intellectual property are spread across a number of different media, has existed for a while, and it’s fast becoming a cornerstone of successful creative empires. This is crucial, Salkowitz says, because it allows room for fans to not only consume content but to create it.

Community has long been a part of comic book culture, with no better example than the San Diego Comic-Con. Now, with the tools for creating music, film, and even comics easily within reach of fans, entertainment companies can’t afford to not look to the fans for the Next Big Thing.

What’s best about Salkowitz’s book is not the personality he brings to his subject or his ability to make a speculative graph of the future media landscape accessible. Rather, the self-described futurist not only understands where comics and pop culture in general may be headed, he also understands the important role the past has to play. He understands the delicate balance between nostalgia and tradition, and he doesn’t dismiss things which might be lost (back issues!) as publishers begin the inevitable march toward broad digital distribution.

Above all, Salkowitz understands the key to comics future: telling good stories. Reading his book, that should come as no surprise.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.