Marvel might skip Comic-Con. Is this the beginning of the end for the Geek Era in Hollywood?

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?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
Patton Oswalt thinks geek culture must die so that geek culture can live. Paradox!
Comic-Con 2010: 20 Movies/TV Shows To Geek Out About
Comic-Con 2010: 25 Star Portraits (EW Exclusive)!


Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • Andy

    I am severely dissapointed in the amount of unnecessary fluff at Comic-Con, do we really need Glee there? At some point comics and pop culture will go their seperate ways, so I hope that means attendance will be down.

    • Jackie

      Glee is there!? Really!?!? Excuse me while I go vomit.

    • Myma

      Glee, really? I can see why Big Bang Theory is there, because there is a scene in almost every episode at the comic book store. But Glee, really?

    • Elizabeth

      Yeah, I think if there was more focus on the “COMIC” part, this wouldn’t be happening.

      If TV shows need hyped, do something for the fans at the Up-Fronts in the Spring and quit hoarding in on this. Just a suggestion…

  • Reed Richards

    This is easy. Marvel’s films are bigger than Comicon. You don’t need SDCC to launch when you have Super Bowl commercials. Marvel will still have a presence to preach to the faithful, but they’re already huge.

  • Bedc01

    Good.. Bring back comic con to the way it was before.. Less Hollywood hype, more comic based artists

    • Brett

      Amen.

    • Evan

      You said it. Its called COMIC Con for a reason. Time for the comic industry and its fans to take it back from Hollywood and the “We’re only here to see the celebrities, the rest of you are still weird people” contingent.

    • pocket

      YES. YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

      And while they are at it.. TWIHARDS GTFO.

      • Honeysuckle

        Well maadcaima nuts, how about that.

    • Matt

      Couldn’t agree more. Here’s hoping.

    • ikagirl

      Yes, please bring back the real Comic Con, not this Hollywood hype machine.

  • trev

    Comic-Con tickets have been in high demand this year. Way to piss off the hundreds of thousands of fans this year.

    • Evan

      You mean the people only there to see the celebs for an hour, look at everyone else there to enjoy the whole experience with disdain and not spend any money on the dealer’s floor while having the media swarm every event in Hall H keeping actual fans out cause they need to get their camera shots/sound bites?

      Yeah, won’t miss ya!

      • Bedc01

        Preach on Brotha’

  • Flip

    You should make it clear you’re talking about Marvel FILMS, not the comic book publisher. Remember, this is COMIC-CON, not Movie-Con.

  • Robeson

    Marvel may finally have realized that having some of the more mentally unstable elements of society create “buzz” about a project isn’t always a good idea.

  • Michael

    These is good because maybe it will get Marvel to fix their movie’s

  • wierdalexj

    Who cares if Marvel Studio (or some of the other major movie studios) decide to skip? There is still plenty of programming to go around. Hell, Comic Con could go on for 2 weeks and have plenty of events and panels spaced out for everyone’s pleasure. The only reason it’s attendance is packed is because it only goes on for 4 1/2 days.

    There is so much more going on at Comic Con besides whatever big ‘tentpole’ movies that happen to be screened in Hall H. There are anime & film festivals, artist signings, how to sessions, gaming presentations, way more stuff than I can list here.

    You wanna know the (big)reason that Tron:Legacy and Sucker Punch failed at the box office (but that the studios won’t cop to)? The scripts weren’t very good to begin with. All the CGI in the world can’t fix bad writing and middling plot. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World but I’m guessing the reason it failed at the box office is because the comic itself connected with a very distinct audience and the marketers made the mistake of thinking that they could market it to everyone. Studios should stop blaming Comic-Con for movies’ failure to launch (and turn the mirror back on themselves). There are millions of movie goers who don’t attend comic conventions!

    Funny, how I don’t hear Marvel complaining/blaming Comic Con for ruining all the money they made off of the X-Men, Blade, Punisher, Fantastic Four, etc!

  • Bedc01

    A couple of years ago, I happened to be in the main floor at the comic con, and I was witness to some of the worst elements that have turned the con into a crappy experience. One was a producer of the tonight show telling some people to shut up because they were ruining a (lame) comedy bit that they were filming. The other one was people having to be pushed out of the way because that Kim Katrashan, or whatever her name is, needed to walk from one booth to a panel.. The whole thing was a joke… Look, there are 2 types of comic con attendees, those of us that like to meet comic artist, other geeks and the occasional B movie actor, and then there’s the star f@ckers, those that only care to see “celebrities” and nothing else, and trust me, we can do with out them

  • Hank

    Comic-con is good for movie buzz but don’t blame it if your bad movie bombs. As usual make better movies and people will find it.

  • Alex

    I’d rather go to Comicons about comics, personally.

  • Tal

    This is why Dragon*Con is miles better. Same high-calibre guests, far less of the H’wood BS. It’s geek-focused entertainment, not money-focused marketing.

  • Bob Peters

    Did Tron: Legacy really end up as a disappointment? The movie grossed over $400 million at the box office alone, with a budget of $170 million. That is a pretty healthy take if you ask me.

    • Angelo Barovier

      What? Fact-checking in this day and age? How preposterous!

  • Liz

    I want to see the True Blood panel!

  • Doug C.

    As EW might already know, some of the studios quoted in the NYT article as “possibly not going to Comic-Con” have already sent out invitations to journalists to their planned presentations (in the interest of not spoiling plans I won’t ‘out’ which studios I’m referring to). What’s more likely is that some studios don’t know exactly what they want to do yet and are choosing instead to be non-commital in order to generate a slight bit of buzz (i.e. “sweet: Marvel IS coming to CCI after all!” makes for nice publicity vs the already-assumed “Marvel announces they will indeed be at CCI to promote Avengers”)

    • Trevor

      I agree with the point made by Doug C. But in addition to that, I am not too worried about Marvel skipping Comic-Con either. As one of the comic geeks mentioned in this article, that identity comes with the knowledge that Marvel has been skipping conventions for years, notably because of their relationship to Wizard, the former magazine and now solely a convention based company itself.

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