Every year in July, the nerd community gathers at San Diego Comic-Con or SDCC to celebrate the comics, movies and shows that they love. And every year, the rest of the world doesn’t understand why people fight crowds to go sit in conference halls watching movie trailers. I get it. It’s a bit weird but it’s also a huge part of pop culture now. Movies that have no connection to comics at all, like Top Gun Maverick, have panels at SDCC with Tom Cruise actually showing up.
What if you want to seem hip and in the know with pop culture but don’t want to pay constant attention to Geek Twitter for the four days required? Don’t worry. Your friendly neighborhood supernerd is here to help with five things you most need to know from San Diego Comic-Con. Let’s get started with the biggest one first.
Marvel is still happening. I know you were worried.
Marvel went into San Diego Comic-Con with a blank slate. Sure there were rumors about some movies but nothing concrete. Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, confirmed A LOT in Hall H on Saturday night. Sequels to Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, Black Panther, and Thor Ragnarok were announced, as well as new titles, including The Eternals, Shang-Chi and The Legend Of The Ten Rings, and a Black Widow solo film. That’s a lot. And that doesn’t even cover the fact they announced 5 new Disney+ shows: The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, What If…? and Hawkeye. Marvel owned the convention this year. They dominated media coverage.
But what does that mean? To put it simply, Marvel’s not going away anytime soon. Many people weren’t sure if the film franchise could continue after the goliath that was Avengers: Endgame. They needed to prove that they weren’t going anywhere. Kevin Feige put up a board showing a very packed and strong two years of content. They are expanding into streaming and expanding their stories to include multiverses and cosmic conflicts. On top of that, Marvel finished by hinting at what is beyond Phase 4, with the Fantastic 4, the X-Men, and Mahershala Ali starring as the title character in Blade. Marvel is still going, and if history is any indicator of the future, they are probably going to be successful.
If only the same could be said for their main competitor.
DC is still trying. Good for them.
DC Films didn’t show up this year, despite having upcoming movies they could have talked about, namely Joker, Wonder Woman 1984 and the terribly named Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn. Instead, most of the news that came out was from DC Universe, their online streaming service, and The CW. The CW has built a lot of its identity recently off the backs of comic books. Even if you don’t like superhero stuff, Riverdale is still based off of Archie comics. The core of their programming is the CWverse, an interconnected universe of shows that all started in 2012 with Arrow. Well now Arrow is ending and honestly, speaking just for me here, most of the remaining shows didn’t impress me much at Comic-Con. Black Lightning still shines as the best of them, but the rest of the shows seem to be coasting and rehashing plots we’ve all seen before. Batwoman kicked out a very underwhelming and frankly boring trailer for Comic-Con, and no one else really impressed.
Honestly, the surprising news came from the online streaming front for DC. DC Universe has been under a lot of pressure recently since it was announced that WarnerMedia was launching their own streaming service. That move, along with canceling Swamp Thing less than a week after it premiered, didn’t inspire much confidence in the service. They decided to use Comic Con to reassure people that they were still relevant. They renewed multiple shows including the cult favorite Doom Patrol and the fantastic animated series Young Justice, but the big surprise was the trailer for Harley Quinn. This animated series aimed at a more mature audience seemed like a quick cash grab while Harley Quinn remains popular, but the trailer spotlighted the show’s sense of humor, visual style, and phenomenal cast in a way that gave me hope for the project. The cast alone is an incredible “who’s who” of the alternative comedy world, and with the level of talent there, and a fun trailer, the show might just become the hit that DC Universe needs right now.
Hey, do you know who else could really use a hit right now?
HBO really wants their next Game of Thrones. Like really badly.
Did you know Game Of Thrones is over? HBO sure does and they really want to find their next big hit. They made a big push for Westworld with its newest trailer, and they also heavily promoted two new shows coming out: Watchmen and His Dark Materials. It’s too early to tell which of the shows might take HBO’s Iron Throne, but we did learn a few things. His Dark Materials sure has that Game Of Thrones feel. The trailer showed lots of shots over snowy landscapes (even mentioned the North a few times) and with it being based on a popular book series, it’s the most obvious choice for HBO’s replacement series. It has a hell of a cast too, with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, and James McAvoy to name only a few. The concept seems interesting and it could pull in people looking for another fantasy hit with a unique flair.
Watchmen is another beast altogether. Set in an America after the events of Watchmen (the movie or the book, not the TV show, that would just be complicated and recursive), it explores a world in which masked vigilantes have declared open war on police, who have hidden behind their own masks. This probably won’t have as wide an appeal as His Dark Materials, simply because it relies on you having knowledge of the source material. For those who have read Watchmen, or those who saw the movie, you might appreciate getting to live a little more in that world. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, you might find it too hard to get invested in. I fall into the category of people who have read and watched Watchmen and are cautious about whether or not you can even make a sequel to it without missing the point it was trying to make. Though I will say, I was incredibly surprised by the return of Dr. Manhattan at the end of the trailer.
But we’ve talked enough about comics. Let’s look at something else.
Horror had a big presence. See? It’s not all comic book stuff.
You might not think that horror would find a home at SDCC, but it had a big year. Two more Halloween movies were announced. Guillermo del Toro headed up a panel getting people excited for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark that talked about the practical effects that brought the movie’s monsters to life. In the past, the movie It earned points for creative marketing at Comic Con with actors scattered around the convention center, silently standing there in yellow raincoats holding balloons. It’s no surprise, then, that they decided to return to SDCC for the sequel. It Chapter Two released a new trailer and had a panel with the actors playing the adult Losers Club, as well as the director of the film. The trailer promises an equally terrifying experience.
On the streaming side, there was Creepshow. Based on a 1982 anthology film from the minds of George Romero and Stephen King, the Shudder original series will tell twelve horror stories across six episodes. The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero is one of the big names behind it and judging by the trailer, it will certainly live up to the Creepshow name.
And speaking of horror . . .
What can you say about Cats? The trailer dropped on the first day of SDCC. I know a lot of people love the Broadway show, but I think I speak for everyone when I say “What is this trailer?” This might have the best cast of any movie I will never watch. The trailer doesn’t just dip into the uncanny valley, it builds a nice little cottage there and starts an organic subsistence garden. This movie could be filled with the best performances ever seen and no one will because everyone in the theater will have to avert their eyes from the half cat/half Idris Elba hybrid on screen. If I wanted to watch a bunch of people dancing around as naked cat creatures, I would just go to San Diego Comic-Con instead of reading about it online.
Well, I hope that has helped you have a better understanding of the biggest pop culture moments from this year’s celebration of geekdom. You now have some talking points if you are forced to hold a conversation with someone in a Justice League T-shirt holding an Aquaman action figure. No, not Jason Momoa, the Superfriends one. And if you run out of stuff to say, just say that the movie was way better than the original source material. That will get them talking nonstop and you can just slip away while they are distracted. Trust me. All my conversations end with me ranting alone about the Green Lantern movie.