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Ever-changing Comic-Con diversifies, embraces tech

Jason Snell | July 23, 2013
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Comic-Con keeps changing, but at its core it's still about people enthusiastic about entertainment.

Only three years ago, technology was much scarier at Comic-Con. Comics publishers and artists feared tech—it was the source of rampant piracy and seemed to augur the utter destruction of the print comics industry and the bankruptcy of most comics retailers. In 2013, people have chilled out. Digital comics are great—comic app-builder Comixology is everywhere at Comic-Con, with sponsorships and panels and their own booth—and print sales are actually up. The angry panels about how computers were about to Ruin Everything have been replaced by panels about how digital-first comics and interactive, animated books are the future of the medium.

This isn't to say that there isn't a fear of the long-term future of the medium, here and there. But it's not the screaming abyss that was 2010, when the iPad (which seemed to me, at the time, as a tremendous opportunity to reach people who would never darken the door of a comic-book store) was threatening, Galactus-like, to devour the entire comics world.

In 2011 I wrote a story about how app makers were branching out into other media, including comics, based on my sightings of Pocket God comics and Plants vs. Zombies figurines. That's still true, of course—there were even Plants vs. Zombies bags on the show floor. But the app world is no longer an interesting trend: it's a given. Every single bit of marketing, every property, every publisher, every brand, they all have an app story to tell. They're based on an app or they've got an app or they've got a tie-in game that's an app. Apps seems to have gone from being an interesting thing to being like the air we breathe.

Twitter was already getting big a couple of years ago, but now Comic-Con is utterly drenched in hashtags. Sure, commercials and TV shows already pimp the hashtag at every turn, but in addition to banners and the like, several panels I attended were actively taking questions via Twitter using hashtags for the occasion. I've seen that at tech conferences before, but Comic-Con is decidedly not a tech conference—some tech-focused people are here, for sure, but it's hardly CES or Macworld Expo.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Comic-Con may always be in flux, and its attendees may always declare that they remember when it was a simpler event—even if that time was just a couple of years ago. It's full to bursting and has overflowed its original comic-based definition. But in the end, it's about people connecting enthusiastically with entertainment. The composition of the audience and the entertainment have changed a lot, but that woman in the Game of Thrones outfit is just as excited about her Comic-Con experience as that dude in the Superman tights was back in the day.


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