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How many more existential crises can San Diego Comic-Con take? This year, a disturbing chunk of major studios is pulling out of the convention as a jittery Hollywood grapples with the reality that a sizable portion of the industry is on strike due to outrageous labor conditions. In the past, there was the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps the most obvious debilitating event, which put the comic-book con on pause for two consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. Long before lockdowns and social distancing, though, studios had begun to signal their ambivalence to the four days of star-studded panels and fans cosplaying under the summer sun. In 2019, multiple major companies opted out of Comic-Con: Universal, which was promoting Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw at the time, said “no” to the proceedings held in the convention’s gaping Hall H, along with Sony and its Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros. and its DC Extended Universe, and Lionsgate’s Rambo: Last Blood. That year, industry insiders simply cited the lack of content available to present as the reason studios had skipped, though some believed Hollywood was changing its mind about the marketing value and ROI of the fair. Comic-Con 2022 might have been the exception that proved the rule — everyone from Marvel to Amazon (for its Lord of the Rings fare) to Warner Bros. (for its latest Dragon show and DCEU flicks) turned up in San Diego for a glimmer of normalcy.
Now, in the first fully “post-COVID” year that is 2023, the usual major players in Hall H could be avoiding the convention for a different reason: Marvel, Netflix, Sony, HBO, and Universal will skip SDCC as the writers’ strike enters its third month and the actors’ strike could be authorized after a delay. “It’s a parlor game right now,” a Hollywood corporate strategist told Vulture over the phone. “With Disney announcing that Marvel’s not going, everyone’s had trepidation about committing to Comic-Con publicly.” They added that the looming SAG strike is indeed a factor in the studios’ cautiousness: “If SAG were to go on strike, then all those plans would have to go out the window because, theoretically, the actors couldn’t be available to promote product. So it seems like it’s a bit of a waiting game, but my general sense is that Comic-Con this year is gonna be a little flat. It’s just not feeling like a frenzy this year.”
Overall, Comic-Con may have to do some soul-searching going forward as studios and midsize production companies alike rethink their marketing priorities and pivot away from Hall H. “It’s becoming much more of a niche event, where you have audience reach but it’s not an all-consuming cultural moment anymore,” the strategist said. “We’re still catching up from the pandemic. We’re not flush with product like we used to be, so a lot of studios don’t have enough to warrant the expedition to Comic-Con either.”
Based on the current climate, it wouldn’t be strange if studios decided to pull out at the last minute. “I think the salad days of the early 2010s are gone,” the source said. “Content’s still gonna come; whether it’s for the big screen or whatever, we still need the content. So it’s more about how the marketing will change, and Comic-Con may not be as big a factor as it once was post-pandemic.”
So what can we expect from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con? “With regard to the strike and its possible effects on Comic-Con, we tend to refrain from speculation or forecasting,” David Glanzer, SDCC spokesperson, explained in a statement. “I will say our hope is for a speedy resolution that will prove beneficial to all parties and allow everyone to continue the work they love. Until then, we continue to diligently work on our summer event in the hopes of making it as fun, educational, and celebratory as in years past.” Here’s everything we know, below.
The studio is expected to have some kind of presence at this year’s festival. Gizmodo reports that Paramount may hold a panel for its upcoming animated romp Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Its other projects include A Quiet Place: Day One, Transformers One, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Gladiator 2, though it doesn’t seem likely the studio will roll out the carpet for these.
A true Comic-Con experience is a LARP of Jurassic Park’s famous toilet scene. Universal Products & Experiences and Amblin Entertainment are set to celebrate the beloved film’s 30th anniversary with a free, timed-entry event that places fans right in the middle of the chaos, EW reports.
Gen V, a spinoff of Amazon Prime Video’s blockbuster superhero satire The Boys, is set to premiere this fall. The company reportedly plans to have some kind of presence at SDCC for the show, along with something for The Wheel of Time’s second season, according to Variety.
Last year, the streamer formerly known as HBO Max launched an all-out war on its library titles and took down loads of content including a good amount of animated series. The ones that didn’t get axed may make an appearance at Comic-Con, per Variety. Current Max animation titles include Velma, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake, DC’s Creature Commandos, Ten Year Old Tom, and Young Love.
DC announced its full slate on June 29, a random diet of animated series, comics, and webtoons, per The Direct. No live-action DC Studios events were announced. A new episode of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go! will be screened, together with the first episode of Superpowered: The DC Story, a new Max original.
Someone’s moving in the opposite direction of the studios: The toy company that makes collectibles of fan-favorite characters will double its booth presence, per Gizmodo.