Back when Entourage was still good, the show spent an entire episode brilliantly dissecting the curiously bi-polar phenomenon of Comic-Con. Invented by the lovable lunatic fringe of comic book nerds as a swap meet for true fans, Comic-Con spent most of this past decade slowly transforming into a corporate staging area, overrun by media conglomerates hawking films, TV shows, and videogames with gradually more ill-defined ties to the world of comic books. The Entourage Comic-Con episode aired in mid-2005, but it hasn’t aged a day: Visitors to the San Diego Convention Center this July will be faced with fading C-list TV stars rocking the autograph booth, strippers dressed like Rob Liefeld superheroines, and attractive Hollywood movie stars who will pretend to know about comic books. Well, maybe not so much the last one: According to a report by the New York Times, some of the biggest studios in the land are currently considering skipping the Comic-Con cattle call. Most notably, according to the report, Marvel Studios might not be hosting any big presentations – especially significant, given that 2012’s Avengers film got the full Royal Wedding treatment at Comic-Con 2011. The Times report also notes the failure or relative disappointment of big-at-Comic-Con films like Sucker Punch, TRON: Legacy, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which brings up a pretty serious question: Are Hollywood and Comic-Con in the first stages of an acrimonious divorce?
Short answer: No. Final presentations for Comic-Con are usually only announced a couple weeks in advance, and even if there’s no major Avengers presentation, it wouldn’t be surprising if the studio staged a surprise presentation – even just a release of some sketches of the new Ruffalo-Hulk. (Marvel Studios did not immediately respond to EW’s request for a comment. And honestly, if you’re looking for a comment, then allow me to misquote one of the great last lines in movie history: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Comic-Con.”) And there are plenty of other geek-bait films that are already planning the full mega-treatment, not least of them next year’s Spider-Man reboot and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The Adventures of Tintin. Even putting aside the big franchises, Comic-Con power as pop-culture launchpad could never just disappear overnight – there will be inappropriately impressive booths for direct-to-DVD horror movies inside the convention center for a long, long time to come.
But the mere fact that major studios are even considering skipping Comic-Con could mark the beginning of a serious sea change. Look back at those three movies I mentioned above: TRON: Legacy, Sucker Punch, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World all feel like movies that could only have been made in the Comic-Con Decade, all of them big-budgeted films that seemed market-tested to appeal specifically to the in-the-know Comic-Con crowd. The films all had good internet buzz – the TRON: Legacy marketing campaign was literally years in the making – but they all wound up underperforming. We might be looking at a new era, in which studios adopt a Batman-esque advertising campaign of showing as little of their films as possible. Perhaps Comic-Con will actually, dare we say, become about comic books again.
Or maybe this year will just be a fluke. PopWatchers, do you think the Comic-Con wave has peaked in Hollywood? Or are you just happy that now you won’t have to decide between waiting in line for an Avengers panel, or a Spider-Man one?
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