After years of pop cultural dominance, we’re adjusting to a new reality: Comic-Con is no longer a major industry event. Oh, the magazines still feature glossy previews and there are parties and “activations” galore, but at this point Comic-Con is a thing because we say it’s a thing, not because it’s actually driving a cultural moment. It used to, from the early aughts when the X-Men turned Hall H into a party and then Twilight turned it into a phenomenon and then Marvel turned it into their personal Valhalla.
But over the last few years, Comic-Con’s actual importance to the industry has waned, and you can tell because now it’s normal for a few studios to sit out the festivities. Five years ago, you wouldn’t DREAM of skipping Comic-Con—when Marvel skipped in 2011 they hastily explained it was because they were shooting The Avengers and couldn’t afford the break. But now Marvel has skipped enough it’s no longer headline news when they sit out Hall H. By the way, Marvel is skipping again this year. You know who else is sitting out Hall H? HBO. That is a big deal, as it’s the first time this decade Game of Thrones won’t be represented. Over the last decade, fan conventions have gained a huge amount of traction and now there is a constant rotation of conventions, “somewhere, in some city”, as Lainey put it.
What has made San Diego Comic-Con unique—the mother of all cons, if you will—is the celebrity parade of Hall H and the exclusive previews. But New York Comic Con is just about as good for previews these days, and like half the Avengers turn out every year for Salt Lake City Comic Con, so how will San Diego continue to justify its place on the pop culture calendar? Let’s take a look at the admittedly thin schedule and find out.
The first day kicks off with Fox’s panel at 10:30am when they will be showcasing Shane Black’s reboot The Predator. Fox has two X-Men movies due next year, New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, both of which got kicked from this year’s calendar and require (extensive) retooling, but I’m sure that’s not why they’re off the marquee. I’m sure those movies are totally fine. But yeah, Predator, nerds will love that, and no one will even notice the X-shaped hole in the schedule.
Also, the BBC is unveiling Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who. And Better Call Saul has a panel for some reason. I know the Venn Diagram of nerd-bros who like the Joker and Walter White is a perfect circle, but this still seems like a stretch. And ummm…Assassination Nation looks wild. See what I mean? Noticeably less happening here.
Meanwhile in Ballroom 20 (television’s home before movies started abandoning Hall H), they’re previewing the Charmed reboot and A Discovery of Witches, but sadly, no Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to round out the trifecta of witches. Oh, and everyone’s least favorite Marvel hero, Iron Fist, will have a panel which in my original notes is annotated with “LOL”.
It’s the 10th anniversary of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, so there will be an anniversary panel kicking off the day. Mostly curious to see how Joss Whedon is received. Then there is a double-header with Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead. Usually, a lot of Hall H emceeing falls to Chris Hardwick, but in the wake of Chloe Dykstra’s #MeToo revelations— OPEN F*CKING SECRET AGAIN—Community alum and superfan Yvette Nicole Brown is taking over the duties for the Dead panels. Good! She’s a genuine fan and not a weird void who pretends to like everything, so the panels ought to be lively, at least. (Also paneling are Star Trek: Discovery and Preacher, neither of which I can imagine have audiences large enough to justify Hall H.)
Then there are the movie panels. Universal is presenting M. Night Shyamalan’s long-awaited superhero crossover Glass, uniting characters from Unbreakable and Split. I am SUPER curious to see how this turns out. They’re also showing off the new Halloween which brings back Jamie Lee Curtis. In a first, Paramount is bringing a Transformers movie to Comic-Con, with Bumblebee. I quite liked the trailer, and I’ve heard the movie is actually really good. It’s probably sunk thanks to Transformers’ bad reputation, and it’s up against Mary Poppins Returns in December, but I think Paramount is dreaming of a Jumanji-like surprise with this one. And Sony is doing a spider-themed panel with the live-action Venom and animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. They will try very hard to make up for the lack of Tom Holland, and I bet they coyly insinuate these movies could become part of the MCU at least once.
Shout out to our friends at SYFY WIRE Fangrrls who are hosting “Women Changing the Game” in Room 6DE at 5:30. Founding Fangrrl and managing editor Cher Martinetti is moderating the panel which includes Rachel Bloom, Lights, and Gail Simone, among others. Worth checking out especially if you’re not into Bumblebee.
Warner Brothers gets the day to themselves since Marvel is a no-show, and though they haven’t confirmed their panel, we are for sure getting first looks at Wonder Woman 1984, Shazam!, and Aquaman’s much anticipated trailer. At least one of those things ought to turn out well. They’re probably also bringing something from Fantastic Beasts but I bet it’s not Johnny Depp. This also another panel with a Hardwick replacement, as Aisha Tyler takes over duties on the mic. Another upgrade.
And then there is…not much else. The RZA is hosting a panel, which is cool but also obviously the kind of thing that now happens to fill time where new movies should be. Then Deadpool 2 is having a party panel in Marvel’s usual spot, and a special extended cut screening later that night. But after Warners, there is no more new movie stuff on Saturday.
No movies, but there are panels for Supernatural—this is STILL ON?!—and Riverdale, the Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans MC, and Legion. Besides Supernatural, which is a con mainstay, I can’t imagine any of these being a big draw in Hall H, which seats like 6000 people, but the movie side has totally ceded Sunday to TV. Hell, they’re halfway to ceding Saturday. And Thursday. And at this rate, within five years, probably Friday, too. Serious question: At what point does San Diego Comic-Con become just any other fan convention?