Next month, Comic-Con International descends on San Diego, and as always, it will be a spectacle. Die-hards will break out their best superhero costumes for the occasion. Top celebrities will appear out of thin air to hawk their upcoming movies. And the media will be there in force, cameras in hand.

Yes, Comic-Con International is a spectacle—but underneath all the glitz, frenzy, and apparent silliness is valuable information for leaders of any creative enterprise. According to futurist and digital media educator Rob Salkowitz, “Comic-Con is a laboratory in which the global future of media is unspooling in real time.”

In his new book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, Salkowitz points out that Comic-Con is one of the best places to look for answers about the challenges businesses face in today’s digitally saturated environment. How do you reach fragmented audiences efficiently and effectively? How do you negotiate the transition to digital distribution? How do you deal with piracy of intellectual properties?

This epic gathering of freaks, geeks, weirdos, and outliers is, in truth, a mainstream event. You don’t need to speak Klingon to hear what’s really going on at Comic-Con.