New York ComicCon was this past weekend, and while it yielded cool news, there were no massive announcements to shake up geekdom and be hashed out over here on the Geek Beat. But that in itself is interesting -- every major movie website and news organization sent representatives just in case, and those of us unlucky enough to be stuck at home waited breathlessly for dispatches. That's pretty crazy -- when did comic book conventions become a major media scene?

As I mentioned in a sleep-deprived manner last week, it's a very interesting time to be a fan. Two of the most intriguing announcements from the con weren't about comic book movies, but about the future of comic books. You can already download your weekly comics into your computer or your iPhone, getting rid of those pesky longboxes and creaking shelves. According to io9, two new distributors, UClick and iVerse, are seamlessly transferring comics to iPhones without animation or voice over gimmicks -- UClick even does it panel by panel so you can read spoiler free, which is a major improvement on the old paper books.

Meanwhile, Marvel announced plans to sell digital "in motion" comic books via iTunes, akin to what Warner Bros and DC have been doing with Watchmen. Panels will have animated scenes and dialogue spoken by voice actors. Brian Michael Bendis was excited about it, which makes me feel like a female Walt Kowalski for grumbling that it's a death knell for literacy. (I mean, really -- when it comes to reading, you can't get any easier than comic books ... why not just abandon comics for cartoons if you're going to go that far? Now get off my lawn!)

If paper comics cease to be except as antiques, where will that leave comic cons? Every year, dealers complain that SDCC is driving them and their books out ... but if the industry itself makes paper comics obsolete, what will happen to those rooms and booths? What happens to the conventions? Will they simply become trade shows for things based on comic properties, such as movies, video games, and meticulously sculpted collectibles? I imagine people will still flock to hear their favorite artists and authors at a panel and pester them with questions ... but what do you have them sign? Will the digital format start to eat away at our need for that kind of thing?

As the newbie on the scene, NYCC might be forced to navigate those waters sooner than SDCC, where they can skate by on nostalgia factor a bit longer. It's a baby convention (it kicked off in 2006), just finding its way as geekdom becomes more and more mainstream. So, I decided to use the lack of earth shattering news to investigate the con itself. I haven't been, but I was curious to find out what it was like, and how it might be changing. Had it already "gone Hollywood" like San Diego ComicCon? Or did they actually focus on books and artists?


To answer my questions, I turned to the brilliant and talented Rick Marshall. Longtime Cinematical readers might remember him from those essential reading lists we posted last year. Well, he's now the editor of the MTV Splash Page, and so plugged in to all things comic book that it's scary. We were both short on time, and so we didn't begin to approach things like "What will happen to cons if comics go entirely digital?" (Marshall, a man of the future, already downloads his. I'm still buying them in paper form, as I watch piles of Wolverine slide out from under my bed because I never have enough longboxes.)

Marshall's take was pretty illuminating. Turns out, the comic side of NYCC benefited from Hollywood freaking out about the economy, and not sending as much silver screen talent: "The comics talent really seemed to rise to the occasion ... From a movie sense it did push the media to dig into some of the lesser-known properties out there for news. I had a great talk with Greg Rucka about Whiteout. It sort of tested the movie media's 'comics cred' this year. There are a lot of films like that flying a little below the radar of general movie sites, and similarly low-profile among comics sites that don't have as much access to filmmakers and studios. So I feel like this year's show really tested the media, and provided an opportunity for updates on those projects. These days, there isn't a publisher out there who doesn't have a dozen or so projects optioned or in some stage of movie production, so without the big presence of upcoming blockbusters, it was nice to just go around and check in with all of those publishers and sort of get back to one's 'go and find out' reporter roots."

Unlike San Diego, which can terrify and traumatize a newcomer, NYCC also seems to have attracted (and won over) its share of newbies. "Attendance was up overall, from what I hear, but I think it's the mainstreaming of geek culture that's caused that -- and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. I actually like that more people are discovering and accepting comics -- or just becoming curious about them. I saw so many people start out the show being somewhat skeptical of the scene, and then by the end of the day, they have a big bag full of free comics and a Spider-Man t-shirt. It was fun to watch that happen. When they were shocked by Friday's crowds and I told them Saturday would be much, much bigger, they didn't seem to believe there could be that many comic book fans in the world. And then Saturday arrived, and they were floored."

Now, you past, present, and future con attendees can pick up where we left off, and ponder the future of our rapidly changing scene. I'm heartened by the idea that NYCC was filled with fascinated newbies -- somehow, I think no matter what happens with comics, technology, and movie trends, we're always going to have the need to flock together, gawk at the Marvel booth, line up for Q&A's, and fight our way to exclusives.
categories Cinematical