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Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture

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What IS Comic-Con? How does it work? And how in the world did a tiny little gathering of comic geeks turn into the biggest, most intense convergance of pop culture media outlets, creators, and fans in the world? And what does its future hold?

Rob Salkowitz, the author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, has put together a book that is part personal travelogue, part business guide, part pop culture history book. And he swirls them all together into a compelling tome that peeks into the underworkings of what makes Comic-Con tick. Rob is best known for writing and teaching about trends in digital media and business analytics. And McGraw Hill is best known for publishing books that are meant to inform more than entertain, but Salkowitz does both with ease. I figured it would have been kind of a dry read, but when the facts and stats are backed up against Rob’s stories from his experiences at Comic-Con over the years, all the way up to 2011′s adventures, the book comes together in a way that adds a new dimension to what I understood about Comic-Con.

The book goes beyond just analyzing how Comic-Con has come into existence and how it maintains its status in a highly volatile entertainment industry. He looks at the cultural and financial factors that feed into it and have been produced from it, even in our current economic climate. Then he goes a step further in speculating what the future holds not just for Comic-Con, but for the struggling comic book industry and nearly every other medium that finds itself swept up in the cultural maelstrom that descends upon San Diego every July. He looks at the media powerhouses, the struggling independent comic creators, and the hellbent fanboys on the hunt for that one-of-a-kind Comic-Con experience. How do they all fit together and why at this place and time does it work? It’s a wild, maddening mystery that media marketers and fans and creators have been trying to solve for years. No one seems to have yet cracked the code to “win” at Comic-Con. But Salkowitz explores each of those views and lays it out for the reader to explore, mapping out each aspect of the con and the culture as he relates his observations of the mega-event as it unfolds day by day.

If you’re a student of the entertainment industry or even the self-perpetuating world of fandom that has grown into a powerhouse thanks to shows like San Diego Comic-Con (well, primarily San Diego Comic-Con), it’s worth your time to pick up and pore through Salkowitz’s detailed explorations into the Big Show’s deep underbelly all the way up to the shiny gloss of the surface that most people see when they step through the doors of the convention center.

No, it’s not a dirty tell-all. Yes, it’s a business book full of talk of trends and technology, but it’s also got a human element that goes further to explain WHY such a thing as Comic-Con exists in the first place. I highly recommended it to anyone who, like me, has ever called Comic-Con their home away from home. Sometimes it’s good to know how the house was built, how it could possibly still be standing after all these years, and if we can expect to call it home 20, 10, or even 5 years from now.

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