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Is There Still Room For Comics At Comic-Con?

Evening Edition

— There is no question that San Diego's biggest summer convention is a pop culture blockbuster. The jam-packed San Diego Convention Center isn't big enough to contain all the week's events linked to Comic-Con. The excess spills over into nearby downtown San Diego.

Aired 7/12/12 on KPBS News.

More than 100,000 pop culture fans invade downtown San Diego this week. Comic-Con 2012 promises a cultural and economic bang for San Diego businesses.

Comikaze Owner Robert Scott
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Above: Comikaze Owner Robert Scott

"We don't even have to call it Comic-Con anymore," said Robert Scott, the owner of Comikaze Comics in Clairemont Mesa. "It's just San Diego inside the industry, when you're talking to fans or retailers, or the creative professionals. Are you going to San Diego? Everybody knows what that means. It means Comic-Con."

The store features collectibles, clothing, books and lots of comics. Scott has even written his own comic book published by a local comic book company. Scott called the medium a perfect marriage of text and art that work best when they are together.

"It'll be like trying to pull seasoning or ingredients out of a meal. They may taste great on their own, but it's that marriage that makes the dish what it really is," said Scott.

Is There Still Room For Comics At Comic-Con?
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The convention is miles away from his store, but it will boost his traffic by 10 to 20 percent. The bump is small but welcome. But even all of the attention created by Comic-Con isn't enough push the comic book industry into the mainstream.

"The comic industry is very insular and very niche, right now, and has grown a bit. But a lot of the growth that's come from comics has actually been spurred by movies, video games and TV shows," said Scott. "Getting out to people who aren't already the usual suspects, people that already reading and enjoying comics. "

This summer has been marked by the wildly successful movie "The Avengers." Ticket sales at movie theaters are proving, once again, that comics wield economic muscle.

"It's part of the strategy of DC, Sony and Marvel," said David Draize. "It's that it's a self-feeding monster. People see the movie, they get into the comic books, the comic books will spawn another movie."

Galactic Comics owner David Draize
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Above: Galactic Comics owner David Draize

Draize owns Galactic Comics in Ocean Beach. He has loved comics since his father first brought him a copy of one after church. Draize has watched the industry change over the years. He holds up a 1968 comic beside the 2012 version.

"There is Aquaman and his sidekick Aqua Lad," said Draize as he points at the two books. "And basically here's a panel showing Aquaman out of Justice League. And you can just see. It's really night and day. Look at how much more shade is in the face. How much more detail is in the costume."

The artwork and story lines got more sophisticated over the years to grab the attention of young readers.

Comic book aficionados say the persistent interest from Hollywood makes the best case for the future of the industry. Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said he's glad local stores, and the comic industry itself, get a business boost as a result of the convention, but he said that's not the reason Comic-Con was started.

"I think that is the icing on the cake," said Glanzer. "That is a great benefit for Comic-Con, but that is not necessarily the reason for it. It was to highlight this medium."

Some people argue Comic-Con has drifted away from its comic books origins, but Glanzer disagrees, even though the convention has grown to embrace a lot more.

"I think the future of comics is still a strong one. You're right. It goes through flows and ebbs but I think that's always true of almost any medium. Film certainly has experienced that. Television. Genres within those. I think we'll be around for a while," said Glanzer.

Even though the San Diego event has grown to include a lot more than comics, Glanzer emphasized that it has more guests, more programming and more focus on comics than any other U.S. convention. It's a huge boost for a unique blend of art and prose, according to Glanzer.

Video by Nic McVicker

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