Besides death and the release date for the next Batman film, it’s the most important event in a geek’s life. As a young pop culture obsessive the very concept seemed unbelievable. A place where comic books and film and television and cosplay and video games and collectibles collide? No way. No freakin’ way. It’s real and it’s way out of this world. Last year I crossed the number one item off my bucket list and attended San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). From its humble beginning in 1970 where it began as a convention for fans of comic books and other niche areas, Comic Con has grown into a beast. It’s attended by over a 100,000 people each year – some 130,000 hit the floor in 2011 – and takes over an entire city for one week.
It has also become the arguably the single most important launching platform for major film studios. Unlike Cannes or any of the other prestigious film festivals, Comic Con is the best opportunity for studios to put their product in front of the actual audience. No distributors, no marketers or producers: the audience. Essentially this is why it’s so important because the studios know momentum from SDCC can equal box office success. Hall H is the largest and most notorious of the convention rooms (back in 2010 a man was so irate waiting in line that he got into an argument with someone dressed up as Harry Potter and stabbed him in the eye with a pencil). That’s the place where the biggest of the big go.
For the past six years it’s the place Twihards can be seen camping for an entire week before the convention begins just so they can guarantee themselves a seat in the hall for the relevant Twilight panel. Thousands of Marvel loyalists were sent into a frenzy there in 2010 when the entire Avengers cast walked out on stage, and look at the business that flick did some two years on. Last year it was the place that Snow White and the Hunstman surprised everyone with its amazing test footage and Andrew Garfield providing one of the sweetest moments at The Amazing Spider Man panel where he unmasked.
Needless to say both of those films opened huge and surpassed earlier box-office predictions. Yet Comic Con can also serve as warning as to what isn’t going to work. Despite Nic Cage giving immensely zany and quirky interviews throughout the duration of the event, the pitch and strained enthusiasm of the Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance panel had everyone smiling tight smiles. The writing was on the wall. The same applies for Total Recall which went to great expense to showcase props from the film throughout the streets of San Diego and to have uniformed troopers ‘arresting’ people during the Con.For all the showmanship, no one really seemed to care.
There has been a lot of criticism amongst SDCC purists who argue that the film studios’ descent on the Con has taken away from its comic book roots. I disagree. Artists alley is still there and each table is packed 10 people deep as fans try to chat to their favourite artist/author/inker. The inclusion of the film medium – which now probably shares an equal amount of attention with television at the Con – has brought the event into the mainstream.
Geek culture and the geek dollar is now a very powerful thing and something Hollywood is keen to get on side (look at the plethora of comic book movies in production). But San Diego Comic Con isn’t just about giving props to the films that can afford to be there. In 2011 it’s where Attack The Block gained real traction, with journalists discarding other high profile interviews to chat with the likes of John Boyega and Joe Cornish after the riotous late night screening. Low budget horror/comedy Knights Of Badassdom was probably one of the darlings of last year. Few people had heard of it going into the convention and many openly wondered if anyone was going to turn up to the Hall H panel. Thousands not only filled the hall but went positively ape shit for Joe lynch who bounded on stage like a Trekkie who had accidentally stumbled back stage.The stellar cast of Ryan Kwanten, Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau and Steve Zahn also probably helped.
With Pacific Rim, The Hobbit and even possibly Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla taking to the San Diego Comic Con stages this week it’s fair to say we can expect no shortage of exciting tid-bits and mouth-watering updates. Lets just not get too depressed at the fact we’re not there. Sigh.