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Co-creating with superheroes

July 11, 2009

To most of us, comic books, graphic novels and other adult bande dessinée may look like a minor genre, borne out of the psyches of tortured minds writing in the dark solitude of their Gotham buildings. Over the last forty years, though, the genre has grown into an impressive, full-fledged industry, including movie blockbusters such as the Batman and Superman series and television hits with a supernatural angle like Heroes, Lost, and Supernatural. In just a few days, this expanded industry will hold its annual grand mass in San Diego, where Comic-Con will cram 125,000+ visitors eager to engage with the creative minds behind their favorite superheroes.

Beyond the traditional fan community phenomenon, Comic-Con illustrates the irrepressible desire of aficionados of the genre to engage with creators, rather than merely “talk among themselves”. Authors come to the convention because it offers a unique opportunity to get out of their studios and feel the passion in Q&A sessions. As a result, the place is simply outgrowing the San Diego Convention Center, and spilling into neighboring hotels. There’s even talk (oh, sacrilege!) of moving elsewhere if the Convention Center does not expand fast enough.

The development of this direct bond between creators and fans is forcing what one might call a “double disintermediation” of the conventional media press and the producers of the shows. And the way I see it, it’s essentially co-creation in its purest form. Many journalists, including Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune (herself a regular Comic-Con attendee), question how the conventional media press will be able to re-insert itself in the dialogue.

Answer: with some difficulty. You see, with Comic-Con, the balance of power has shifted toward a more co-creative exchange. As Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael of the distinguished Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might say: Cowabunga!

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