If you’re a geek, then attending San Diego Comic-Con is like going home. It’s the one place where knowledge of the Star Wars expanded universe is currency; where you can find solace with other Automan fans and where wearing your Spider-man costume is completely acceptable.
This is far more than a gathering of fans trading comics, queuing for autographs and buying merchandise as the convention has expanded over the years to include all areas of pop culture. Manga, film and television all figure prominently and for those in the industry it is a chance to showcase upcoming attractions to the most demanding and potentially critical audience.
Comic-Con began humbly in 1970 and featured just a handful of guests and an attendance of less than 200 people. It has grown in popularity throughout its run, but in the last 10 years has experienced a meteoric expansion. While 2001 saw an impressive attendance of 53,000 more than 130,000 are expected at this year’s event.
The growth reflects the increased importance of comic books within the film industry. With more comic book films there are more comic book fans. If the industry can impress them, then these fans can spread the word which brings a host of A-list attractions. Comic-Con is now a vital cog in the Hollywood machine.
A comic connection is no longer required – anything with the slightest genre appeal will be showcased here. If something is a hit at comic con with just a handful of fans then they can use their online influence to share their thoughts, posting reviews and insights onto blogs and geek websites, creating a viral marketing campaign through the thoughts of fans.
In 2008, the surprise TRON 2 test footage worked perfectly with fans going crazy for the extended trailer, eventually leading to the production of TRON: Legacy. While studios claim to want absolute secrecy, a pirated recording of the trailer was leaked onto youtube building up anticipation right across the net.
Getting good buzz doesn’t always mean the film is going to be a huge success. Following a panel and screenings in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World looked set to be a smash. Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel received glowing reviews from the geek masses. Sadly it tanked on general release. Turns out the film was adored by the cool, smart and comic savvy but couldn’t capture a mainstream audience.
The world premiere of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger is amongst the most anticipated events this year with the full line up of Avengers expected to be in attendance. The Marvel super-team proved to be the highlight of 2010′s convention as the cast were unveiled alongside the confirmation of Joss Whedon as director.
Other film highlights include screenings of Cowboys and Aliens as well as the Fright Night remake. There will be panels for The Amazing Spider-Man, Steven Spielberg’s Tin Tin and Twilight: Breaking Dawn featuring many of the key players from each.
On the television front there will a presences from zombie drama The Walking Dead; fantasy epic Game of Thrones; the cast of Chuck will be there to talk about the final season and there will be a screening of the new Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle, Ringer.
Despite the Hollywood takeover, there’s still plenty of comic action. While Marvel dominates in terms of movies, DC will have a heavy paper-based presence as they prepare to re-set their entire line up in September. There will be plenty of writers and artists to choose from including Grant Morrison, David Finch, Ed Benes, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
San Diego Comic Con runs from Thursday July 21 until Sunday July 24, 2011.