Even a worldwide economic recession doesn’t seem able to slow down the popularity of blockbuster movies based on comics material. Just take a look at the results of Marvel’s Wolverine: Origin—released in May the film grossed over $360 million. And of course there are more comics being turned into films as I type this story—not to mention videogames and TV shows. Comics continue to attract the attention of Hollywood producers as well as the recreational dollars of consumers interested in seeing their favorite comics transformed into the other kinds of media they consume.
Milton Griepp, longtime comics and pop culture business analyst and CEO of ICv2, a pop culture trade news website, decided to take a closer look at the powerful connections between comics, the Hollywood film industry, TV and the videogame industry and has organized the Comics and Media Conference to be held on July 22, just before preview night at the San Diego Comic-con International. Griepp is also organizer of the Graphic Novel Conference, a professional gathering focused on comics and graphic novel publishing that is held annually on the eve of the New York Comic-con. But his new conference will focus its panels and discussions on the lucrative business of turning comics into other things—from blockbuster films and TV shows to videogames, toys and other media. PWCW spoke with Griepp about organizing the event, who is likely to attend and what he expects his new conference will be able to offer them. PW Comics Week and The Beat, the comics news blog, are cosponsors of the Comics and Media Conference.
PWCW: Tell us what prompted you to organize the Comics and Media Conference at this year’s San Diego Comic-con International.
Milton Griepp: We got the opportunity to do something on cross media properties at Comic-con so we looked at the show. Its roots are in comics but Comic-con is also a nexus of comics, film, TV and Videogames. Comic-con is the one place where all the pop media audiences—from fans to professionals—come together. We wanted to put on a conference that reflected the influence of comics on other media.
PWCW: The impact of comics on film, TV and videogames is as powerful and ongoing, as the influence of film, TV and gaming on Comic-con itself. Is this mutual influence permanent or is there an end in sight?
MG: One of the people who will be a panelist at the conference said to me that comics and all the rest of this media stuff is all one business now. Not everyone shares this view but it’s a viewpoint that is growing.
PWCW: I see that librarian Robin Brenner will be a panelist at the conference. What role do libraries and librarians play in this new cross-media environment?
MG: We have Robin on one of our panels because consumer and media interest is reflected in the popularity of materials that circulate at libraries. Libraries reflect the audience for comics and comics-related materials. Librarians have a lot to say about the popularity of properties like the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, especially now that there’s a movie coming out.
PWCW: What’s the biggest difference between the two conferences you organize?
MG: This audience will be different than the one at the Graphic Novel Conference at New York Comic-con. At the comics and media conference in San Diego, there will be material aimed at Hollywood. Attendees will be able to hear from people who do the deals; from Hollywood producers who have been successful at this stuff.
PWCW: There is so much interest in comics material by Hollywood and so many new deals, is it possible to track all of this stuff?
MG: There are so many stages involved in getting something made into a film, a TV show or a videogame, that it’s almost impossible to track. Some of these deals are about skill and savvy and some are just about luck. What we’re going to do is present individuals who have been successful and know the difference. Comics, film and TV writer Jeph Loeb will give the keynote address and he can provide great perspective on the crossover between all kinds of media. We’ll have a panel, Comics After Hollywood, that will look at where the business is today. It will feature Hellboy creator Mike Mignola representing the creator’s perspective and the panel will have 2 producers and a couple of successful publishers. Our panel on Comics and Transmedia Storytelling is going to bring together publishing execs, members of the trade, and other experts to talk about how comics are now part of a narrative that may jump back and forth between comics and film, TV, or videogames. And we’re also going to offer two case studies on successful comics and media crossovers and we’ll announce the specifics of those case studies very soon.
PWCW: Comic-con can be a platform for deals between very big publishers and very big media companies. Will the conference be of use to small presses and even self-publishers?
MG: We’re trying to appeal to all levels; to individual creators or to a publisher trying to manage a stable of cross media properties. We’re offering a wide enough range of presentations to fit different levels of expertise.