As usual, I viewed the San Diego Comic-Con’s 2016 edition as an opportunity to get a barometer on the next year in high-profile genre films and television shows, along with pop culture in general. Besides attending the convention in person, I waded through Twitter, online panel recaps, and videos of the various panels to pull together what I found to be the highlights.
Marvel Studios on the Big Screen: Marvel had their typically strong presentation to cap the day (and for many, the convention) on Saturday evening. Marvel began whetting fans appetites early on Saturday with a reveal of the Hulk’s armor on the exhibit hall floor. This armor and later sneak footage provided confirmation that “Thor: Ragnarok” would feature the Hulk somehow in an adaptation of the “Planet Hulk” gladiatorial storyline from Marvel comics.
Also of quick note, “Doctor Strange” fans had to wait for this year’s convention to get some love with the upcoming film only a few months away from release when they viewed a new version of the trailer. They also finally saw Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the cast on stage.
Fans learned more details regarding the characters in the “Black Panther” film with much of the cast appearing on the panel despite the film not actually beginning production until January 2017. An interesting twist involved Michael B. Jordan being confirmed as playing the film’s villain. Writer-director Ryan Coogler commented on the surreal experience of being on the panel given that he vividly recalled attending Comic-Con in 2009 as a fan and sitting in the cavernous Hall H where he was now a presenter.
The trailer for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” seemed to deliver just the right tone that fans and pundits were hoping for with this reboot since it featured a high school setting. The villainous Vulture was confirmed as being the film’s antagonist and all indications continued to point to Michael Keaton playing that character. Backed by an orchestra version of the catchy old “Spider-Man” cartoon theme, the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” trailer played exclusively to the fans in Hall H, as did most of the other Marvel footage.
That “Spider-Man” footage was perhaps only given a run for its money by the details that were revealed regarding “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.” James Gunn held court over the full cast in game show host-like loose fashion and the biggest news item out of the panel seemed to be the reveal of Kurt Russell as Star Lord’s father. Interestingly, Russell would play a human-like incarnation of the longtime Marvel cosmic character Ego (the living planet) and that notion provided a fun twist.
Finally, after months of speculation, Brie Larson was announced as Captain Marvel. The reaction seemed to be positive and Larson, while on the young side at 26 years old, will age into the role as she appears in the next “Avengers” film and then in a spin-off character film in 2019.
Marvel Small-Screen/Television: What was billed as a panel for Netflix’s September release of the “Luke Cage” series, was really a major panel that covered all of the upcoming Marvel series on Netflix. News of a renewal for “Daredevil” in the form of season three was a no-brainer. The Netflix/Marvel superhero team-up show “The Defenders” had a teaser trailer that amounted to being a logo preview. “Iron Fist” actually had footage provided that was impressive but understandably brief. Over on ABC’s “Agents of Shield,” there was a surprise revelation that Ghost Rider would be joining the show, a reveal that had been teased earlier in the convention by the presence of an odd hot rod car. Finally, fans got a chance to see a tease for the new X-Men-related spin-off show “Legion” that will be airing on the FX network but its tie-ins to the X-Men films seemed limited to non-existent thus far.
Warner Bros: In the rubble of the widespread panning of “Batman v. Superman” by both critics and fans, Warner Bros. continued to salvage something of their future film slate plans. At this point, could they have anywhere else to go but up? In contrast to Marvel keeping preview footage exclusive to Hall H, Warner Bros. quickly provided a pile of trailers from their presentations for fans to view online.
This selection of new footage included an unexpected and somewhat comedic trailer was shown for “Justice League” and a final trailer was shown for “Suicide Squad,” continuing that movie’s strong run of trailers. The “Wonder Woman” trailer did get some gushing love from Internet pundits and fans.
Besides having the DC films to promote, Warner Bros. also had the new “Fantastic Beasts” franchise on the convention slate. Wands were handed out to the audience and the new trailer seemed to play fine enough for the J.K. Rowling fans.
The “Kong: Skull Island” trailer showed the film somewhat-surprisingly set in the early-1970s and it had an almost “Apocalypse Now” vibe due to the focus on military helicopters of the era running into trouble from Kong. The film will probably be fine but I was shocked that its budget was rumored to be around $190m and I did not realize that John Goodman was largely anchoring the film with Samuel L. Jackson. That seemed on odd pairing as the faces for such a high-budget enterprise.
On a last-but-not-least note, the trailer for the upcoming “Lego Batman” film looked hilarious, providing a sharp parody of the character and his world.
Luc Besson: Besson’s next film, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” made believers out of many skeptical journals and attendees. Twenty years after “The Fifth Element,” Besson showed off seven minutes of footage from the film that had pundits raving about the intricate world building on display.
Star Trek Fans: The 50th anniversary of “Star Trek” led to a number of interesting panels and events at the convention. The “Star Trek Beyond” premiere took place at Comic-Con and reports recounted an emotional scene in the wake of the death of the Chekov actor Anton Yelchin. Also, the new Trek television/web series in production was revealed to be named “Star Trek: Discovery” with a ship that looked like the vintage that was used around the time of the early “Star Trek” movies.
I celebrated the milestone with the full-capacity Star Trek writers panel that was headlined by legendary showrunner Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica and Outlander) and Shane Black’s collaborator Fred Dekker. Also on the panel were other Trek writers Naren Shankar, Michael Sussman, and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. The event was moderated by Mark A. Altman, who had a new oral history of “Star Trek” to promote. Much of the time on the panel was spent discussing the careers of the writers, including Moore’s highly unlikely rise from random fan with a spec script to showrunning superstar.
Rob Liefeld: The creator of Deadpool had spent 25 years talking about being close to various movie deals but the breakthrough success of the film “Deadpool” finally associated his name with a film hit. The Hollywood Reporter ran a story the day before the convention began that Liefeld had been signed by the WME agency in what was seen as a move toward Liefeld ramping up his potential Hollywood projects. Unlike all of the talk in the past, this time Liefeld seemed poised to make some real moves.
“Aliens” Fans: James Cameron and the major players from the “Aliens” were on hand to celebrate that film’s 30th Anniversary. Besides Cameron, the panel included co-producer Gale Ann Hurd and stars Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Paul Reiser (Burke), and Carrie Henn (Newt). That was quite a collection and very much about fan appreciation with examples such as Paxton saying his trademark line “Game over man” at one point. Henn also worked in “Affirmative” as a gag questions answer, herself proving to be an interesting story since she had left acting to become a 4th grade school teacher. Oddly enough, the panel also included a wedding proposal between some fans in the audience via an unconventional use of the Q&A microphone – a hijacking that one had to hope would not become a trend.
Sausage Party: The raunchy Seth Rogan-led animated comedy from Sony Pictures scored a positive reaction from the press after having a sneak preview screening and it gained publicity online with an explicit trailer. The film was apparently better than most would assume and that positive buzz should help its release in later August.
“Shrek” Fans: The unlikely super-franchise continued to endure as a fifth Shrek film was announced for February of 2019 just as the convention was kicking off. Shrek’s home studio Dreamworks Animation had recently been acquired by longtime partner Universal and the likely moneymaking announcement was not a surprise.
Lesser Panels in General: The ability for attendees to jump easily between in-progress panels had all but disappeared in recent years as fan fanaticism led to crowded rooms for even low-profile panels and day-long camping for the marquee panels. This year proved different, as I was able to easily jump between numerous smaller panels. I am not yet ready to call it a reversing trend, but it does raise the important question of what has changed and the need to monitor this ‘panel traffic’ situation in the future.
Better line Management may have been one explanation. I attended “Garfield” creator Jim Davis’s first Comic-Con appearance but almost got shut out of the panel due to the giant number of people coming early for a “Beauty and the Beast” film panel that was following Davis’s time slot. The people managing the room did something unusual in that they let the Jim Davis fans jump the line to get inside the session.
Garfield Fans: Garfield and his creator, Jim Davis, might not be en vogue in some quarters but the fat cat still had plenty of fans and seeing Davis in-person provided a certain nostalgic flashback to my grade school years. Per Davis, Garfield’s appeal has long been in making people feel a little better about themselves in a world that fills them with guilt over behavior like overeating. Garfield has always been unapologetic in how he leads his life and people like that little bit of identifiable stress relief or laugh that they get from reading his antics. As mentioned above, Davis made his first convention visit and fans at the panel and at a later signing were visibly appreciative. David himself seemed to be energized by the experience and I doubt this will be his last time in San Diego. One interesting nugget involved Davis and a film producer revealing that there would be an all-CGI Garfield film released in roughly 4 years with PIXAR-like animation that would re-launch the film franchise in a faithful fashion.
Lion’s Gate: Despite not having anymore “Hunger Games” films to promote or major stars to parade for the crowds, Lion’s Gate did get a mostly-positive media boost with the revelation that they had been making a “Blair Witch Project” sequel/reboot in plain sight under the title “The Woods.” This title switcheroo came in a year when “10 Cloverfield Lane” did something similar to help its promotion.
“Batman: The Killing Joke” Animated Film: This should have been a celebration with the premiere of the R-Rated animated adaptation of Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.” Instead, the situation turned weird amid news ahead of the premiere that the film included an odd prequel featuring a less-than-empowered Batgirl having a tryst with the character’s longtime father figure, Batman. A panel for the film included the voice cast members and key creatives Bruce Timm and Brian Azzarello. The fallout of the controversy got even more complicated when a reporter from Bleeding Cool questioned/semi-heckled the lead creative staffers of Timm and Azzarello. Azzarello then made the questionable decision of calling the (male) reporter a ‘p*ssy.’ That reaction then led to a flood of angry editorial posts from various online news sources.
The irony in all of this news was that “The Killing Joke” opened to good reviews for the actual adapted portion of the material.
CBS: Their uncharacteristically-long 3-hour panel in Ballroom 20 was simply too much of a not compelling thing with the spotlight on the introductions of new, unproven shows like “American Gothic” and the debatable reboot of “MacGyver.” Also oddly shoehorned into the panel were shows that most would not typically associate with Comic-Con such as the “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds.” I stumbled into the ballroom after being shocked at there being no line outside and then finding out why after I went inside. The cavernous room was only perhaps a third full with that attendance level likely ebb and flowing.
Star Wars Fans: The prior week’s Star Wars Celebration event robbed Comic-Con of any big news regarding Star Wars. What little news there was to offer included a reiteration of the re-launched tie-in books filling in the gaps between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.”
Fox Fans: With the exception of the X-Men-related “Legion” trailer, fans of Fox were not happy to learn that there would be no big X-Men-related splash like last year. Missed was an opportunity for Fox to sneak something to fans regarding “Deadpool 2” or other “X-Men”-related films that might be on their radar.
Over on the television side, Fox had a new series for “The Exorcist” to promote and their resulting plan was controversial since it involved fans faking exorcisms throughout downtown San Diego in a manner that initially confused some bystanders into thinking that an actor was having a seizure. “24” and “Prison Break” both had re-launch related panels in the not-desirable late-Sunday timeslot. The news and previews was probably exciting to the die-hard fans of those shows but it was hard not to feel like both properties were too long in the tooth at this point.
Warner Bros: Warner Bros. might have mostly been winners but some fans still cried foul at the trailer for Guy Richie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and its attempt to update a fantastic version of the King Arthur story. Simply put, the jokey tone seemed way off. This movie had once started out as the initial movie in a Knights of the Round Table ‘mega franchise’ but the title was since changed to reflect a less grandiose initial focus.
Oliver Stone and “Snowden”: We knew that something was going to go wrong here when Open Road films brought Stone to the convention, right? Rather than there being much talk out of this panel regarding Stone’s upcoming film about Edward Snowden, the buzz instead focused on Stone making a tone-deaf remark about the videogame “Pokemon Go” being ‘surveillance capitalism.’
Game of Thrones Fans: Those who camped outside of Hall H for what was largely a fan celebration panel had to have been wondering if they had spent their time wisely. The cast members who attended did not really include any of the primary cast other than Sophie Turner. There was much love and appreciation for the actor behind Hodor and surprise that the actor playing Varys sported a full head of hair when not filming but not much for hints regarding the upcoming seventh season.
Disney: Another year and another snub of Comic-Con by Disney, save for their inclusion of Marvel’s properties.
Legendary Pictures: It was the first time in years that Legendary Pictures did not make a big splash at Comic-Con. They did have a hand in “Skull Island” with Warner Bros. but they did not do anything of note with their new primary partner Universal.
Dreamworks Animation Theatrical: The “Shrek” sequel news overshadowed an otherwise poor showing for Dreamworks Animation. Their animated musical take on the “Trolls” doll toy with Justin Timberlake seemed to underwhelm as the convention’s first major panel. The panel scored little to no buzz online despite Timberlake appearing in person and even singing a song live for the crowd. Alec Baldwin made a surprise appearance to support his film “The Boss Baby” but that sneak also ended up receiving little buzz in the aftermath of the panel.
Oddities & Miscellanea
Security: The San Diego police stationed snipers on the roof of the Hilton Bayfront in a position that overlooked the line outside of Hall H, that location having been identified as a likely hotspot for terror troubles if they did occur. RF ID badges for entry into the main convention center added another layer of security to help prevent entry ticket counterfeiting.
Kevin Smith: Plastered like a walking billboard, Smith wore his usual hockey jersey but this time with a bright Internet Movie Database (IMDB) patch on the front. He acted as a host for IMDB’s coverage of the convention, hence the NASCAR-like plastering. Smith also hosted AMC’s “Preacher” panel on Friday evening and then had his usual Saturday evening spotlight. The major item coming soon from him is the “Tusk” spin-off film “Yoga Hosers” that stars Smith’s daughter and the daughter of Johnny Depp. Thus far, early word has not been overly great and Smith has tried to lower expectations in interviews.
Such backpedaling might make it sound like Smith was a loser this year but he had plenty of momentum going for him. His annual spotlight panel followed the Marvel Studios panel and this time he had the good fortune of not having most of room clear out like with last year’s “Star Wars” concert that preceded his 2015 panel. Most significant ahead for him, he had ties to further television direction for the DC television universe as well as a “Mallrats” sequel television series supposedly moving ahead, along with a “Buckaroo Banzai” deal afoot with Amazon. If anything, it seemed like a mostly good time to be Kevin Smith.
DC Animated Films: Not to be overlooked in the “Killing Joke” news was the announcement of three new films from the usually successful animation unit: Adaptations of “Justice League Dark” and “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract,” along with the Bruce Timm original film “Batman and Harley Quinn.”
Paul Dini: While Dini’s longtime collaborators with DC Animated Films were struggling, he had a spotlight panel in which he emotionally discussed the raw nature of his new autobiographical work “Dark Night: A True Batman Story.” In that work, Dini recounted his struggles with depression and a traumatic mugging.
Stan Lee: After recent appearances in Europe and on the east coast of the United States having been billed as Stan’s ‘final conventions’ in those regions, it was great to again see him in San Diego. Will Lee slow down any further at age 93? The answer remained hard to predict but for at least another year in San Diego, he had multiple multi-hour autograph sessions alongside a couple of panels and numerous interview appearances. Stan was 30 minutes late to his main spotlight panel due to apparently forgetting that it was scheduled to occur but that oversight seemed to be more of a problem attributable to the assistant at his side. Stan was witty and rapid-fire in the Q&A session that eventually took place with fans.
Off-Site Attractions: The number of fan attractions throughout downtown San Diego continued to grow. Amazon.com had a large television-related tent near Petco Park. “South Park” was featured next to it in an impressive recreation of the town from the show. Fox had a display in the park south of the Hilton Bayfront and “Game of Thrones” had a building installation next to the Omni hotel. The usual signage abounded on various buildings to promote television shows or movies. Neil deGrasse Tyson presented to a downtown theatre and Kevin Smith hit a comedy club for multiple hours to record episodes for two of his ongoing podcasts.
Zombie Walkers: The ‘Zombie Walk’ costumed walked through downtown San Diego returned after having been canceled in 2015 due to a 2014 car-related incident that left fans injured.
Misc. Television: “Ash vs. Evil Dead” continued to have a notable presence via marketing by Starz. Starz also pushed hard to get the word out regarding their upcoming adaption of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and Gaiman made a couple of somewhat unexpected panel appearances that proved again that he was the definition of a pop culture rock star. AMC’s new “Preacher” series gained some positive buzz from a trailer and a Friday evening panel. “Sherlock” had a Sunday morning panel led by Steven Moffat that took the place of the usual “Doctor Who” time slot and that teased the upcoming fourth season of the mystery series that would be arriving in 2017.
Comics Legends in Artist’s Alley: A trend continued with prominent comics figures from the 1970s and 1980s having tables in Artist’s Alley. Of particular interest to me (as was the case last year) were Marv Wolfman, Michael Golden, Geof Darrow, Mike Mignola, and Art Adams. This year, I also noticed tables for Whilce Portacio, Len Wein, and Peter David. I actually attended a spotlight panel that featured David and he shared several stories of the extreme generosity of Stephen King, whom David had been working for on a “Dark Tower” adaptation during the time of a stroke three years ago.
Giant Robot Combiners: Everyone likes a giant robot, right? The popular Netflix animated reboot series “Voltron: Legendary Defender” was announced as getting a second season on Netflix, with the success of the first season having given the property its highest visibility in years. Fans of the 1990s “Power Rangers” series were rewarded with a look at some of the costume gear from the upcoming film reboot.
Godzilla: While we have seen a big-budget Hollywood reboot of Godzilla taking off, the 29th Godzilla film from Japan’s Toho was announced as getting an American release.
IDW Artist Editions: This giant-size book line from IDW has exploded in breadth of options over the years, hard to believe given the premium price north of $125 per volume. Fans of late-1980s and early 1990s comics found a hit with the recently released classic covers collection from that era. Arguably, the biggest announcement of new material was a Jack Kirby “Fantastic Four” artist edition, but the issues to be featured in that collection were not the major key ones that fans might initial expect. On a down note for IDW, this appeared to be the first time in five consecutive years that this line did not win an Eisner Award. You can’t win them all though, right?
The IDW/Hasbro Revolution Event: Paramount had previously announced their working on a ‘mega franchise’ with the Hasbro properties Transformers, G.I. Joe, Action Man, Rom, Micronauts, and M.A.S.K. IDW seemed to have gotten a jump start to show skeptical fans how that might work starting in September with an event comic series that would introduced this new combined universe amid a re-launch of the core titles. M.A.S.K. featured a revamp with a race change for the team’s leader and a focus on making the series more like “The Fast and the Furious.”
Digital Comics: There were not any major announcements like last year’s Netflix-like changes to Comixology. Google’s Play Books app has continued to improve though, as a new release was announced that would contain increased comic book reading features.
Celebrity Sightings: Fans looking to take a break and roll the dice on celebrity watching need look no further than the hallway outside of the exits to the various Room 6 permutations. The celebrities that could be spotted there were usually lesser in nature but still ‘names,’ like William Shatner or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Autograph hunters – and folks selling autographs on eBay – seemed to have figured out the convenience of this location as well. I ended up spending time sitting by a platoon of them as they organized their files of photos or posters to have signed.
Videogames: The mobile videogame phenomenon of the moment was clearly “Pokemon Go.” The people playing the game were broader in demographics than many might have expected. For example, a young, female booth attendant for the Lego Batman film was seated next to me on a trolley ride and she had her phone out to play the game. Twenty or thirty years ago, it was difficult to imagine such a sight. For the number of people playing the augmented reality game at the same time, things seemed to go smooth, notwithstanding safety concerns like people walking in the path of the San Diego trolley.
In terms of large-scale games, “Metal Gear” mastermind and general rockstar-type Hideo Kojima continued a tour of sorts that had started at E3 in a publicity push for his future game “Death Stranding.” The promotional materials being released for that game continued to perplex fans though.
Connectivity: The convention officially had no free Wi-Fi for the first time in many years but my own experimenting showed that I could connect a laptop or tablet to some sort of free WIFI from AT&T. Curiously, smartphones were not able to find or connect to that network though. That said, smartphone data reception was markedly better than in prior years, something that was essential for those making transactions with credit cards on the exhibit hall floor.
Actual Comics News: An era of sorts ended with DC’s editorial staff explaining their no longer publishing letters in comics. This came about due to a decline in letter page submissions and an increased issue publishing frequency had led to the retirement and seeming extinction of this multi-decade means of fan communication.
Comic-Con stopped hosting Golden Age creator panels years ago and has even struggled to pull together folks from the 1960s Silver Age as the people who might still be alive from those eras are in their later years. Thus, it was a surprise to see lesser-known but insightful creator Allen Bellman make the trip from Florida at age 92 after having left the comics industry over 50 years ago. Bellman told amusing stories of his time at Marvel in the 1940s and he related some of the antics of the time. One amusing story involved Bellman suspecting that his girlfriend in the office was cheating on him with another artist and his demanding that Stan Lee fire the woman, but Stan replied that he’d rather let Bellman quit.
Remix Toys & Comics: The notion of mashed-up properties in collectibles was far from a new concept but this year was the first time that my friends and I felt like it was truly inescapable. Such ideas were popular in years past inside comic book stories but the convention featured a slew of new combinations, such as Batman encountering the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Some toy products were licensed while others attempted to fit under parody laws. Debate raged amongst friends about these types of products, with some enjoying them and some feeling that their derivative nature signaled a warning sign in regards to the decline of diverse interests amongst fans.
On an only slightly related tangent, I found some of the convention toy exclusives to at least be marginally interesting with a highlight being the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” figure sets that paid tribute to the 1989 arcade game. The toys featured odd details such as a slight pixelation on the paint schemes.
Hall H: Many major studios dropped out from using the convention as a promotional platform amid complaints of exclusive footage leaking online in the past. Many have speculated the high costs behind running a star-filled panel in Hall H were also a significant factor in such decisions though. While Warner Bros. and Marvel both had major panels on Saturday in the largest hall, Hall H did not have the endless major film run as in prior years.
As such, Hall H was somewhat re-branded as a fan gathering area with examples being the “Aliens” anniversary panel and a spotlight on low-profile horror films. Was this move a misfire? Maybe, since the smaller Ballroom 20 ended up getting used in over capacity examples such as the Marvel/Netflix television panel and that panel would have presumably been able to fill up the larger Hall H. Just the same, the convention organizers needed to experiment and try to come up with alternatives while Hollywood turned somewhat chilly toward the convention.
Cosplay: While anecdotal with no real hard data to back me up, the numbers of fans wearing costumes to the convention seemed to have regressed when compared to recent years. Costume wearing was undeniably still a big deal and big business for some YouTube celebrities but it was another trend that had appeared to reach a plateau.
Late Night Programming: The availability of panels stretching until 10:00pm and media viewing marathons stretching even further into the night brought a certain schedule creep that has been a trend now for years. The Troma Pictures team was back again with just such a program at 9:00pm on Saturday. That was their usual time slot in the past but other programming was actually in competition with them at that late hour, one example being the 31st anniversary reunion for the “M.A.S.K.” cartoon series. Such a celebratory panel would typically have been scheduled sometime during the normal daytime programming hours, especially given the recent attempts by Hasbro, Paramount, and IDW to re-launch that property. Special late screenings of popular old movies continued late into the night.
Dealer Sales & Observations: General observations showed solid crowds and buying happening in the dealer areas of the exhibit hall. That said, Mile High Comics owner and mega-booth operator Chuck Rozanski issued his annual sales report in which he claimed to be attending the show this year at a slight loss. Rozanski blamed the proliferation of off-site attractions as causing less foot traffic inside the exhibit hall. Rozanski also railed against price gouging by local hotels and restaurants.
The ‘New’ Zombies: If something was lurking to steal the monster-of-the-moment crown from zombies, I was not seeing it.
There has been debate in the past around the notion of Comic-Con someday moving into a state of decline. While such a state might not have been explicitly observed, it was hard not to see this year as illustrating a plateau of sorts. Such a proclamation is not meant to be bad or to claim to be a harbinger of decline but for those hoping for some obvious new leap or change by the convention, it was not happening.
Comic-Con surely gained new first-time visitors and it was a fresh experience for them while some longtime visitors skipped the convention by choice or they simply did not get a chance to attend this year amid the still-intense environment for tickets. Crowded sidewalks and exhibit areas? The camping out in long lines outside of Hall H? Celebrities handing out food or doing stunt appearances with fans? The same as usual and old hat. Rather, the news and announcements were much of the same and the norm with few bombshells but some surprises could still be found and even a controversy or two.