Monday, July 24, 2017
Comic-Cons Morphing in Digital Media World
One of the biggest questions in “geek culture” in the digital age is what will happen to Comic Cons. At this point, they are still primary opportunities to gather with like-minded fans, meet idols and show off favorite cosplay outfits. But that may change as the world becomes increasingly digital and VR creeps into the conversation of gamers and even TV fans.
To help answer this question, it’s a good idea to visit the true bell cow of all comic conventions: San Diego Comic Con. And here’s where we find yet another challenge organizers face. For years now, one of the biggest draws of this Con, for both fans and the media, were the peeks at upcoming movies. Fans who got tickets and secured one of the coveted spots in various breakout rooms were given an exclusive first look at the films millions were waiting to see.
But that attraction may soon be a thing of the past. Major movie studios like Disney and Marvel, which play well at Comic Con, have built other marketing programs that either preempt or ignore the Con model. Thanks to social media, digital streaming and the ever-present allure of smartphones, movie promoters don’t have to wait for 130,000 people to gather at the San Diego Con to help get the word out. The stars of the shows often have thousands – if not millions – of followers on Facebook and Twitter who will do that for them.
Take, for example, Deadpool. The movie was a massive hit … but shortly before its release, most in the movie biz were convinced there was no hope for an R-rated superhero flick. But star Ryan Reynolds used social media to petition endlessly for a chance to reprise the Merc with a Mouth … and the studio finally caved to insistent fans. Deadpool was made. And that’s when the social media campaign really ramped up. Using Reynolds to full effect, the studios involved had fans clamoring to see the mayhem long before it hit theaters. The movie subsequently became a huge hit, and studio execs began taking social media a little bit more seriously.
There’s also the time factor. In the past, when a film preview was released at a Con, other fans still had to wait weeks or months to see it in theaters. Now, it hits the web in minutes after the “sneak preview.” There’s no incentive for being first because you’re only first by a minute or so.
And, since digital media, especially for this demographic, is not going away. Promoters of Comic Con, and indeed of comics in print as well, need to find a way to coexist in an immediate, digital world.