Martin Fleischmann may be a comic book lover, but he’s also an Atlanta entrepreneur, which mean he gives presentations to potential investors. When he starts his PowerPoint deck with photos of the massive crowds at various comic book/geek culture conventions – including Atlanta’s own DragonCon – it has the same impact on the investors as a right cross from the Hulk.
“You’d be surprised,” said the co-founder/CEO of Farrago Comics. “When I give this presentation to potential investors, they’re always aghast. They cannot believe this many people show up.”
They do, and even if many of them are dressed like Kylo Ren’s stormtroopers or Captain America, they represent a huge market that has plenty of room for even more growth, Fleischmann said.
That’s because while the geeks may not have inherited the earth yet, they long ago conquered our movie theaters and broadcast/cable networks. That was evident yet again on the streets of downtown Atlanta this past Labor Day weekend for DragonCon’s 30th anniversary.Fleischmann’s presentation was part of a DragonCon panel called “The Rise of Comic-Geek Culture,” and some of the panelists gave Atlanta a special place in that ascent, thanks to the annual four-day celebration that this year drew a record 77,000 attendees, convention officials said. (The 2015 edition brought in $65 million to the city’s economy, according to Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau officials.)
“DragonCon’s existence has created a culture for geekdom in Atlanta,” said Chris Stuckey, co-founder of the anime/comic/gaming MomoCon convention, which happens in late May. (Stuckey is also DragonCon’s director of business development.) “It’s not something in the water in Atlanta. I’ve been to a lot of cons and the cosplayers are nowhere near what they’re like at DragonCon.”
Indeed, this year’s attendees included plenty of “Suicide Squad” Jokers and Harley Quinns, “Game of Thrones” Daenerys Targaryens (some with their own dragons), and Reys from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” amid the usual sprinklings of Batman wannabes and Star Trek crew members.
Thirty years of DragonCons and 12 years of MomoCons shared credit with the region’s reputation as Hollywood’s south coast as reasons for Atlanta shining bright in the geek culture universe. Recent locally-shot Marvel movies such as “Captain America: Civil War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with more on the way, join AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and several other genre TV shows that have set up shop in Georgia.
“I definitely think the (state) tax incentives – I mean, that’s why they’re here,” said Emma Loggins, Atlanta web entrepreneur and founder/editor-in-chief of the entertainment-related site FanBolt. “It’s great to see the community that’s been built around this,” she added, referring to fan-related activities such as the local tours of movie and TV show sets.
“We should continue to grow that. If the tax incentives go away, all of these projects are going to go away. So we have to get more of the creatives here,” Loggins said. “The writers need to be here, and there are some production companies working on that right now, so hopefully that will be down the line.”Also coming soon: A younger generation of fans who are growing up immersed in sci-fi/fantasy themes in their mainstream entertainment. They’re represented by the toddler girl that Loggins saw dressed as Wonder Woman during a convention event at the Marriott hotel. “She was dancing around everywhere, and I was loving it.”
Loggins was also impressed by the young girls at a coding camp she visited this summer. “Some were five years old. That blows my mind, and it’s amazing. When I was a kid, girls were given Barbie dolls and dollhouses. I had to beg my parents for a Nintendo.”
Gaming was Loggins’ gateway to geek culture, “and from that wanting to make games, and doing (web) design work and ultimately falling in love with entertainment. Getting girls involved in the tech space earlier, and also the strong female role models we’re seeing in the superhero space, is going to change the landscape dramatically.”To learn more about Fleischmann’s Farrago Comics, check out this earlier Hypepotamus article. And here’s a recent profile of Emma Loggins.
Image credits: Header/Emma Loggins; Lower/Renay San Miguel