New York Comic Con is a massive, sprawling and energetic trade show for the worlds of comic books, graphic novels and sci-fi/fantasy that takes over the Javits Center in New York each autumn. Jam-packed, the show occupies every corner of the trade show hall, and people flow through the halls in search of artwork, toys and a look at the latest news in dozens of properties. Throughout the hall, and on the surrounding streets, costumed attendees (dressing up is referred to as “cosplay”) act as a mobile homage to their favorite characters.
Despite the name, New York Comic Con—as well as the related conventions that take place across the country—indicate the power of motion picture and television industries in shaping and driving popular culture and a handful of markets.
Massive banners advertising shows and movies line the halls, and inside the hall booths, for Star Wars, Amazon, Starz, AMC and others. (Netflix, following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, pulled their New York Comic Con appearance.) Marvel, who was acquired by Disney in a $4 billion deal, who would later acquire Star Wars in a similar deal, anchor much of the comic industry.
It’s not, however, Marvel’s comics that drive this market, though; it’s their movie properties. In a speech at a comic convention in 1993, author Neil Gaiman prophesied the collapse of the comic industry, and is reported to have said:
“You can sell lots of comics to the same person, especially if you tell them that you are investing money for high guaranteed returns. But you’re selling bubbles and tulips, and one day the bubble will burst, and the tulips will rot in the warehouse.”
While the speech wasn’t well received, it was accurate, and Marvel, as well as others, suffered from declining revenue.
It would be hard, from looking around at the enthusiastic crowd, to see signs of that decline of the comic book industry, but the strength of the brands aren’t due to their printed, illustrated form, but instead to their TV and movie incarnation. While The Walking Dead from Image Comics birthed the story, it’s the AMC show that pushed it to popularity.
The company Funko, which makes the popular vinyl bobble head toys for practically every functional property (and had their own booth and were for sale at several other booths at well), sells boatloads of their vinyls based on the TV show.
What’s pretty clear from the show is that the renaissance in television, and Hollywood’s desire to bank on proven brands, has created a market where content is at the forefront of global branding strategies. That creates a great market for digital cinema and television professionals, and it’s all thanks to the humble comic book.