The internet has been all a-twitter about Marvel abandoning San Diego Comic Con this year with hysteria quickly mounting as to whether this is a) the end of SDCC and/or b) the end of super-hero movies. Articles such as this (thank you, LA Times) and this (thank you, Entertainment Weekly) have culminated in this sad attempt at creating news. To clarify: SDCC hosts 130,000 over four days; passes sold out in February; it is not even a little surprising that 1% of ticket-holders have had something they couldn’t predict come up six months after purchasing their pass.
So why the negativity? Well, a perfect storm of events have meant that everyone is indulging in a little bit of schadenfreude. The most prominent is that yes, Marvel are not going to be present at Hall H this year. However, if you were in Hall H in 2010 and weren’t hauled out after stabbing/getting stabbed in the eye in a nerd fight you’ll remember this:
If you look closely (and excuse the crappy quality – I got a little over-excited to be in the presence of both Iron Man and Thor at the same time) you’ll see that, oh, it’s the entire Avengers cast. Which begs the question, how exactly would Marvel have topped that this year? Well, they couldn’t, bar doing it again, which would have been pointless. Marvel will still have a massive presence in the exhibition hall and will certainly be doing something Captain America-related (the latest on the grapevine is that they’ll be premiering it at the Con and pimping out Chris Evans, who will also be in town) so the claim that Marvel are somehow ‘over’ SDCC or no longer trust SDCC audiences is an exaggeration to say the least.
The other element to this is the long shadow cast by Disney since it acquired Marvel in 2009. Ever since the news broke, naysayers have been waiting for Disney to trip up with the franchise and, with Disney’s own expo D23 taking place this year, some are predicting that the Mouse are saving the good Marvel stuff for their own event. Whilst no doubt Marvel will have a presence at D23, the liklihood of Disney skipping SDCC, with its legions of comic book nerds and salivating press, in favour of their own event, is slim at best: it just wouldn’t make sense.
The final point is that every year the press love to promulgate the idea that SDCC audiences are somehow in polar opposition to the rest of the world, taking pleasure in evidencing the movies that did well at SDCC but tanked outside the Comic Con bubble. This article from the New York Times is a perfect example. But look at the movies they reference: Sucker Punch and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, neither of which were received that favorably at the Con last year. Yes, we patiently sat through Zac Snyder and a bunch of giggling girls, and even clapped politely, but even at the time the reception to the footage was warm at best. As for Scott Pilgrim, it barely made a ripple. To be fair, fans in Hall H will often respond to directors and actors enthusiastically, partly because we’re just excited to be in their presence and partly because hell, it’s just polite, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect what we think of the movie.
Ultimately, super-hero movies have been riding a wave of popularity over the last decade that have propelled the genre and, with it, SDCC, to new and dizzying heights of popularity. All waves inevitably crash, which no-one is denying. As Mark Millar himself (Kick Ass; Superman Red Son) has commented, super-hero movies will probably go out of fashion after “several high profile financial failures – it’s inevitable that someone will put a lot of money into a shit one that doesn’t work” (full interview here). But, with the buzz that SDCC continues to generate, to be predicting either SDCC’s demise, or the death of the super-hero movie in general, is at this stage still absurd, laughable, even…comic.