To those of us who grew up reading comicbooks, we were taught some truly pretty powerful lessons, among these were that good guys win, bullies get punished, and (the most important one of all) that with great power must also come great responsibility. Still, on some level, perhaps an even greater lesson form all of those comics, was the gift of reading. Yep, we might have been reading comics, but we were in fact reading, and that has been something that has stuck with us for the entirety of our life. We also have an appreciation of art, history, music, literature, film and TV; all of pop culture in fact. Hence it was interesting to us to learn that (according to some sources at least), Comicbooks are now considered to lie at the very center of all of Pop Culture.
In his book Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz, postulates that comics are the amazingly powerful engine that powers the entirety of pop culture. According to Salkowitz, Comicbooks (those muchly disparaged four-color pamphlets that were once derided for ruining the youth of America are now the very core of all of pop culture, and nowhere is that more evident than when all the elements of modern-day pop culture gather together in the seminal event known as ComicCon. Well the traveling road show and circus that is ComicCon is about to descend upon New York City landing at the Jacob Javits Center (Oct. 10-13).
You see, this show isn’t just about comicbooks, it’s videogames, TV, film, books, clothing, tchotchkes, commercials and advertising, music, language, and yes, even the culture itself that has been transformed by something that our mothers would throw away whenever we went to camp. Given the huge popularity of films like The Avengers, Superman, The Dark Knight and others, people in the general public tend to still see comicbooks about colorfully clad over-muscled men and women wrapped in Spandex bashing each other about the head and chest in vainglorious attempts to take over the world or set Gotham City on fire. But that is so not the case; comicbooks are also full of thoughtful dramas, slice of life episodes and even compelling mysteries.
Sure, sure there are Zombies, Space Operas, and the like, but still, that’s not all of it. Comicbooks are as diverse in their content as regular books, TV, and film, and yet, people tend to see them as just superheroes. To be sure, with all of the cosplay that goes on at ComicCon that might be hard to see at first glance, but trust us the is so much more going on there. Hollywood producers are going way out of their way to court the ComiCon audience, Videogames are rolled out in time to the event, and even aging TV and film stars resuscitate their careers by making appearances on the con circuit.
Here’s the thing, while most of you were “growing up” what our favorite uncle used to call “funnybooks” have somehow evolved into highly literary graphic novels, quirky webcomics, and ultimately have transformed the entire sequential-art format as a whole. Believe it or not, comics are not just four-color mainstream (superhero) comics and the effect that they are currently having on Hollywood movies goes far beyond that. If you were to look closely enough you will be able to see how wide-spread the reach of comics are in today’s modern world of entertainment. From fans meeting the rock-star creators behind their favorite strips and characters, to the crumbling direct market, to the burgeoning digital distribution channels; all of this maelstrom of activity puts the entirety of the marketplace in flux.
This then is the lure of what ComicCon is all about, and this coming week when it hits New York City, it will all be happening there, with all of the glitter, pomp and circumstance of a Broadway show, combined with a Hollywoodland event wrapped around a Super Bowl-sized venue.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.