CS Soapbox: Was [email protected] a Bust?
Was this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, reinvented as [email protected] due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a bust? [email protected] attempted to make up for the lack of an in-person experience with an Online Exhibit Hall and virtual panels. However, the pitfalls of this (along with the absence of some of the biggest titles/names in entertainment) may have proven too arduous for the annual event to overcome. Although we’re all spending a lot of time online, [email protected] for the most part was still largely without its fans.
This was perhaps the biggest problem faced by last weekend’s virtual event (July 22-26). San Diego Comic-Con isn’t just about the announcements and photo ops, it’s about the cosplay and the comradery—an amalgamation of source materiel obsessives. Without that Comic-Con is at risk of being just another YouTube video. None of this year’s panels had any kind of fan interaction. Panels for shows like The Walking Dead were pre-recorded and the comment sections turned off. How can a fan event—with the sole purpose of bringing creatives and fans together—succeed without its key demographic (us)?
According to social media analytics via Listen First, tweets mentioning Comic-Con were down an average of 95% since 2019 (93,681 versus 1,719,000). Of the 10 TV event panels tweets were down 95%, and of the 5 movie panels tweets were down 99%. This makes sense, as nothing matches the enthusiasm of fans roaming Hall H with their phones. That said, the virtual panels on YouTube averaged 15,000 views—which is much better than panels in Hall H usually do on the service. However, [email protected] is a virtual experience so it should do better.
The fact that Marvel Studios (minus the trailer for Disney+’s documentary, Marvel’s 616), Lucasfilm, and DC Films (the event’s biggest annual draws) making any major virtual appearances/announcements hurt [email protected] The biggest panels were those concerning The Walking Dead (most YouTube views), Star Trek Universe, The New Mutants, Bill & Ted Face the Music, and a Constantine reunion (because well, Keanu Reeves). The biggest content on the movie side of things was arguably the latest New Mutants trailer and the announcement that George Carlin will be appearing in Bill & Ted Face the Music when it releases on video on demand and in select theaters September 1.
On the TV side of things, The Walking Dead universe will be returning in October with the long-awaited season 10 finale of its flagship series, a Fear The Walking Dead premiere, and a brand new series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Amazon’s panel for The Boys brought with it a new clip and the news that the series has already been renewed for a third season. Aside from a looming rumor about a potential Disney+ series starring Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian (Solo: A Star Wars Story), the biggest entertainment buzz from last weekend may have come from another event entirely.
On Saturday, fans hosted an independent convention called JusticeCon, covering Zack Snyder’s upcoming cut of Justice League. During the event—which ran concurrently with [email protected]—the director spent around an hour interacting with the fans who made #ReleaseTheSnydercut possible. That said, the panel, during which Snyder premiered a new clip featuring a black-suited Superman, logged over 260,000 views on YouTube in less than 48 hours. JusticeCon owes its success to its focus on fan interaction. Its spiked engagement certainly bodes well for DC Fandome in late August where Snyder promises more announcements/content regarding his Justice League.
It’s worth noting that [email protected] happened pretty quickly. Its organizers scrounging up everything and anything they could to make Comic-Con 2020 an acceptable virtual experience. While it’s easy to be cynical about virtual events and a lack of fan interaction when we crave a traditional experience, virtual reunions, surprise announcements and unconfirmed rumors still have their place online. And, since there’s really no paradigm for that (nor should there ever be), [email protected] did the best it could. Events like JusticeCon, where the reigns are essentially handed over to the demographic, will most likely set the standard for virtual conventions moving forward.