Not Just Comic Books

What began over 40 years ago as a comic book convention has flourished into a pop culture bonanza full of devoted fans and big-name celebrities, including Kristen Stewart, Mila Kunis, Tim Burton, Will Ferrell, Robert Downey Jr. and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Comic-Con 2012 spanned four days in San Diego and was spread across 18 rooms that ranged from 280 to 6,500-seats.

“Comic-Con attracts the most sought-after celebrities and shows to step up and engage with fans,” says Kelly Abbott, creator of, which allows fans to view all of the conference’s social media content in real-time. “What makes Comic-Con different from awards shows and premieres is the sheer mass of fans. That’s what makes it such an important media event. And that’s what makes it such a singularly unique opportunity for social media. It’s the one real chance each year that stars, shows and studios get to listen to what fans are saying firsthand.”

And listen they do–witness the obsession through photos of fans dressed in various mashups, such as Zombie Waldo, Zombie Nurses and Zombie Minnie Mouse. Better yet, watch them parade past you in the now-classic ZombieWalk. Indeed, what used to be counter-culture has become mainstream, as evidenced by the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead and True Blood.

“I’ve been making the trip to Comic-Con for 20 years now and honestly, this year’s con was the best time I’ve had in years,” says Eric Stephenson, publisher of Image Comics. “I understand some of the concerns about comics being sidelined in favor of celebrities, films and TV, but even so, it’s a fantastic event unlike any other.”

The convention has truly come to represent the best in its genres and highlights emerging talent. Philosoraptor should know better than to ask, “If I like comics, am I ‘comic pro’ or ‘comic con’”?  There is no con in Comic-Con.

Celebrities and companies clamor to keep the fans happy. Just look at the numbers. A 2008 survey by the San Diego Convention Center Corp. estimated that the event yielded a whopping $163 million for the city. To put that into perspective that means each of the 127,000 estimated attendees to Comic-Con 2012 might have spent nearly $1,300.

“When you represent a company like Lucasfilm, you know you have a responsibility to the fans—to surprise and amaze them with your Comic-Con presentation,” says Dave Filoni, supervising director of the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “What can be easily missed is what the fans themselves bring to Comic-Con. Incredible costumes, limitless energy, and a passion for so many different characters and stories. Clone troopers, Tusken Raiders, Jedi, bounty hunters, and countless others. We are lucky to have such incredibly dedicated fans. I go to Comic-Con to inspire our fans, but I always come back inspired by them.”

Coauthored with Daniel Vahab, Social Media Researcher/Strategist and Freelance Journalist. His work has appeared in Mashable, Yahoo! News, The Baltimore Sun, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, the Sun-Sentinel, the New York Press, and the Jewish Daily Forward, among others. Follow him at

Lisa Chau has been been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Her work has appeared in US News and World Report, as well as Forbes. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. Follow her at

Photo: Ten Bandits