Just a year ago, there were fears that San Diego Comic-Con would never regain its relevancy after being shut down by the coronavirus. Would studios still see the value in spending millions for a convention presence in an era in which cons had migrated online? Those worries were assuaged over the weekend, with an event that showed Comic-Con was back — even if the crowds felt slightly smaller and COVID-19 masks outnumbered Spider-Man masks.
Talent and execs who brought projects to San Diego note there is still value in engaging with fans in person, not just behind screens.
In his first appearance in eight years, Dwayne Johnson electrified the crowd by soaring above the stage in costume as Black Adam Saturday as part of Warner Bros.’ panel. The DC star and his team were picked up at 4 a.m. that morning for an airport run so Johnson could arrive for rehearsal. “To get DJ in front of a crowd, that’s his bread and butter,” notes Black Adam Hiram Garcia of a panel that took weeks to plan.
Amazon spent big on Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which takes place thousands of years before Peter Jackson’s films. Says Sue Kroll of Kroll and Co., who oversees marketing for the series, which launches Sept. 2: “We know that we have to earn the right to have fans engage with us, and Comic-Con was our first real opportunity to show fans our dedication to not only authenticity but dramatic and emotional storytelling.”
Comic books, of course, were also in San Diego in a big way, with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane making a surprise appearance at the end of a DC-focused panel to announce a Spawn/Batman team-up book he’s working on with artist Greg Capullo. “For our audience, we only have to say four words. Batman. Spawn. Capullo. McFarlane. That’s going to be 90 percent of the sales there,” notes McFarlane of what was a mic-drop moment when he and his longtime collaborator walked out onstage to announce the project.