Techies and the digiterati in general are known to often be big comics fans, but after searching high and low for any kind of comics presence at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, all we found were super cute flash drives and promotional displays.
Well, super cute flash drives as well as sundry examples of comics which popped up at CES when you least expected them. Of course the Consumer Electronics Show is about electronics and there were lots of devices that could be used to display comics content. The iPad alone—the first handheld that allows you to read a full comics page easily—has kicked the growth of digital comics into much higher profile. So we can likely expect that the tsunami of tablet computers being shown at CES—anywhere from 80 to 100 tablet computers were unveiled during the four day show—is another step forward for the delivery of comics in digital form.
In fact, the convenience, ease of reading and eyepopping visual display of comics on tablet devices was more than evident at the show. There were a number of manufacturers at CES that either displayed comics on their prototypes and demo models or used them in their marketing. But actual comics content? Not so much. Since we were on hand in Las Vegas to cover CES for PW, we thought we’d see if we could find some comics. (We're comics fans so we think comics should be everywhere). What we found in our quest for comics at CES were a lot of licensing deals, big and small (though mostly small), involving comics and a fair number of comics randomly displayed on devices (especially Japanese digital readers and tablets) and used on booth displays.
Our search for actual comics content eventually landed us at the NBC Universal booth, where they featured a different aspect of NBC programming each day of the show. We headed over the booth on the day featuring the Syfy Channel, NBC Universal’s network for sci-fi, fantasy and horror programming. The network is developing programming based on the video games Rift, a fantasy adventure game, and End of Nations, a game set in a post-apocalyptic U.S., and both games were developed by game developer Trion Worlds. Both games featured free promotional comics distributed at the show at the NBC Universal booth, which was actually a kind of mammoth TV studio in the round. The comics include, Telara Chronicles, written by Richard Sanchez with art by Pop Mihan, and is based on the game Rift; and End of Nations, also written by Sanchez, illustrated by Yvel Guichet and based on the same game. Both comics are published by DC/Wildstorm in collaboration with Trion Worlds.
Actually it's not too surprising that these were the only print published comics we ran across, CES is a device show after all. We were able to find some licensed content here and there. Thanks to a tip from comics blogger and Daily Crosshatch editor-in-chief, Brian Heater—who was in town covering CES for PC Mag—we found the booth of Mimoco, a company that creates cool and cute Mimobot flash drives, cleverly designed drives designed as “big head” caricatures of a wide variety of pop characters licensed from such franchises as Star Wars and Hello Kitty. The company launched a new series of clever character-drives based on DC Comics characters, including an image of the 1939 variety of Batman. Set up on the floor amidst an array of adorable flash drives, Mimoco publicist Julie Zaitz said the vintage Batman was the first of a new series of “big head” DC Comics characters/drives to be released this year that will also include, Catwoman, the Joker and Robin. The devices come pre-loaded with content as well, including screen savers, avators and wall papers.
A quick trip around the floor turned up comics on several devices like Sharp’s Galapagos tablet/ereaders, two demo devices, a 10” device and a 5.5” device, originally from the Japanese market, displayed a bunch of manga titles as well as a Transformers title in their virtual bookshelves. In addition the Transformers comics was used to demo a very cool feature offered by Sharp that allows a user to read or view content on the Sharp tablets and instantly shift the content to a linked large format Sharp flat screen TV. While it’s very cool to see a brilliantly covered comic displayed on a 30” x 40” or larger, TV Screen, the Galapagos e-readers leave much to be desired, if indeed they ever really make it into the U.S. market. Over in the NEC booth, the company had its Cloud Communicator on display; it’s a dual LCD screen screen device with touchscreen, full color and the devices on display offered access to Japanese e-book store and naturally displayed a lot of Japanese-language manga really well. The device is currently only available in Japan and I spokesperson told us its unlikely to be released in the U.S. anytime soon.
And so it went. In the gaming showcase Peavey, a manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and sound equipment, was showing of a line of sweet electric and mini-guitars emblazoned with Marvel characters; while in another hall, headphone and audio accessories company DGL was offering a range of designer headphones and other stuff also with Marvel characters from Wolverine to Spider-Man and Thor. And that, I have to admit, is pretty much the final word on comics at CES. If you’d like to see some comics at the Consumer Electronics Show, you’d better bring your own or find a comics shop. There wasn’t a whole lot going on.