Rob Salkowitz,
Comic-Con & the Business of Pop Culture
(McGraw Hill, 2012)

Rob Salkowitz and his wife are regulars at Comic-Con. Having attended the San Diego convention since the days when it was a gathering just of comic-book fans and had not yet become a trade show for video gamers, sy-fy fashions and art, toys and merchandise as well as an increasingly important sales tool for movies and TV shows, he has watched it transform itself into what it is today. He has seen the attendance grow from a few thousand to the 150,000 who attended this year's event. As the cofounder and principle consultant for MediaPlant LLC, a Seattle corporation, he is a professional working in the field of popular culture, as well as a complete comic-book geek, so he has tried to write about the business of pop culture here; he wants to take a look at the selling of all things comic that the annual con has become.

The result is a schizophrenic book. The author spends a lot of time exploring the business model that has emerged in the comics industry, which he sees as slowly choking the life out of the business both by failing to satisfy current consumers and blocking the growth of new ones. While he makes a pretty good case, the fact is he is much more excited about the fan part of the book, where he discusses his experiences at the various Comic-Cons, talks about the fun he's had and laments the growth and changes that are making the experience less fun. A self-described full bore geek, Salkowitz enjoys insider status at Comic-Con and wants to be sure you know about it; he tells you all the ways that he and his wife have devised to get around the barriers placed in the way of normal, run-of-the-mill visitors and tells you repeatedly about all of the old con veterans that he knows.

These parts of the book are fascinating. After all, who can resist a good insider story, especially one about a world as unique and off-beat as Comic-Con? Who doesn't want to know what goes on behind the scenes, why it is impossible to get into the good panels, and what you have to do to be sure you gain access to the really fun parties and meetings with celebrities? As a fan, Salkowitz tells a good story, one that excites and delights him. As an analyst of business practices, he is less involved, seemingly writing from duty instead of joy.

You might do a little skimming here and there, but Comic-Con & the Business of Popular Culture will for the most part give you, as the convention itself does, a good time.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

6 October 2012

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