As we walk around and read our email and check Twitter tag #sdcc, maybe it’s just because of the explosion of the social networking, but this year, like no other, it seems comics have been left sitting by the side of the road waiting to get a ride to the big show. Of course it isn’t true — everyone we know in comics has been slaving away for a month to get ready, tons of books are debuting, there are tons of announcements in the works, and tons of programming — but the movie/TV/entertainment media has really taken over the popular imagination. We’re probably a bit too jet-lagged right now to put this all down in any coherent way but it’s the only time, we’ll have so here goes.
We’ve been suggesting for a few years — ever since we started getting the press releases that the entire SD press corp gets — that comics companies have their own press conferences and media availabilities. Having seen the list, and naming no names, we can guarantee that there are many cartoonists that would make for better copy and would be more popular than some of the dubious “nerdlebrities” who are being offered up every hour on the hour.
This year, exactly one comics company has done this — Radical. Their media event includes not only comics personnel like Steve Niles, Jim Steranko, and Jimmy Palmiotti, but their Hollywood contingent, like Gene and Nick Simmons and director Sam Sarkar.
Say what you will about Radical’s comics output and business plan, but this seems like they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses and Jacksonses. Maybe more comics companies don’t do it because they’re afraid no one would show up, or other, better reasons, but we’re guessing this will eventually become much more common.
From the other side, many con vets are just wondering when the Hollywood contingent of San Diego Comic-Con is going to do an “E3” and try to scale back. Our own concept of one possible course is that in a few years, Hollywood is going to wake up and wonder why they are spending so much money on giving fans tchatchkes and try to scale down to a press-only event, just like E3 tried to do. However, everyone hated it and eventually the video game conference came back bigger and louder than ever. If SDCC’s space issue doesn’t resolve itself, maybe the con WILL go to Vegas..or part of it, anyway.
Or maybe EVERYONE loves Nerd Prom too much. You can see a little of the future of the con unfolding in this piece from Variety on how going to the Con has gone from being a dreaded task to a much-loved perk for Hollywood stars. According to the piece, it was Angelina Jolie’s appearance to tout TOMB RAIDER 2 in 2002 that really touched off Starapalooza:
In the years since, “They all want to go,” says one studio marketing exec. “Any actor who is fighting against going to Comic-Con doesn’t have any friends who have been down there. They have no idea how great it is.”Genre consultant Jeff Walker, who has bridged the gap between the convention and Hollywood for decades, says it’s always an “eye-opening” experience for first-time attendees (this year’s debutantes include Tim Burton, Robert Zemeckis and revered Asian filmmakers Park Chan-wook and Hayao Miyazaki, with rumors swirling about possible appearances by Jim Carrey and Denzel Washington). “Very few have come away saying, ‘That’s the worst experience I’ve ever had,'” Walker insists.
Now, stars have to be actively dissuaded from coming to the show if they have nothing to promote. And the unthinkable can happen, even in Hall H:
Regardless of the star caliber in attendance, Comic-Con crowds expect to see footage or other assets, and when that material isn’t ready in time, it can potentially damage a film’s reception. And as one veteran publicist notes, “If you can’t ‘eventize’ your panel, why allow the talent to come down anyway? (Dwayne Johnson’s) panel for ‘Witch Mountain’ was half empty last year.”
While the Hollywood Factor seems more unavoidable than ever this year, let’s not forget that it’s Comics’ own “Big Tent” that someone makes this possible. No matter what happened, there is still some core of comics that shines through, like the phoenix feather in the core of Harry Potter’s magic wand. Seth Green of Buffy and Robot Chicken has a nice piece on this in the EW Comic-Con issue:
Over the years, the craziest thing I’ve experienced has been my transition from attendee to professional. My friends and I used to wait in long lines to sit in a huge room full of equally stoked fans just to catch a fleeting glimpse of the next big flick, or hear Eastman and Laird explain how the Ninja Turtles aren’t selling out by saying “cowabunga.” Now I’m a part of those panels, explaining to a room of our supportive fans how we’re the same as them and we’re making stuff we love.
You could do worse.