The following excerpt from Rob Salkowitz’s outstanding book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture offers a critical look at the collectors’ market through the lens of the (ever-shrinking) back issue dealers section of the Comic-Con exhibit hall. Salkowitz is a professor in the MCDM program.
As we start to contemplate a future of comics without comic books—and a future of media without media (records, CDs, DVDs, books, and other material repositories of information)—it’s important to recognize the role that the objects themselves play in the appeal of the content. Comic books are more than containers of story and art that can be transmuted seamlessly to any new method of delivery. The demise of physical methods of distribution represents a profound change in the atmospherics of media consumption. Despite everything we think we know about the superior convenience of digital, the consequences of this change from a commercial perspective are highly uncertain.
Consider the comic book collectors’ market. This is a big part of the culture of the hobby, and the existence of back-issue dealers adds intangible (and sometimes tangible) appeal to the desire to acquire and consume comics. At Comic-Con, old comics sellers used to define the exhibit hall, which was once known as the “dealers’ room.” These days, most of the dealers are clustered in the “Golden and Silver Age Pavilion” between aisles 200 and 1,000 toward the front of the hall, just adjacent to the alt.comics and book publishers.read more