San Diego Comic-Con 2022 Analysis

As usual, I viewed the San Diego Comic-Con’s 2022 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. Although I did not attend the convention in person this year, I waded through Twitter, online panel recaps, and videos of the various panels to pull together what I found to be the highlights.

Table of Contents

Winners

In-Peron Attendees

And… we’re back!  2020’s virtual convention was a nice online treat amid the cabin fever of the first few months of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Unfortunately, the 2021 convention’s all-virtual line-up largely ran out of steam as the novelty of what were essentially Zoom recordings of presentations of interviews wore off.  2022 marked a return to in-person convention-going in San Diego and it largely felt like a return to the 2019 norms but with the obvious new reality of COVID-19 still not fully out of our lives (even if much of the country and world has decided to otherwise move on).  In order to enter the convention hall, attendees needed to either show proof of vaccination or present a recent negative COVID-19 test.

1980s Cartoons

A lower profile panel about 1980s cartoon series staff contrasted with the higher-profile “X-Men ’97” project as a sequel to the 1990s “X-Men” animated series.  The common thread?  Eric Lewald was on both panels, representing “Galaxy High” and “Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers” on the 1980s panel.  There was also representation from folks who had worked on “The Smurfs, The Real Ghostbusters,” “She-Ra,” “Super Mario Brothers,” and “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.  I’d love to see more panels in the future pulling in talent from that era, many of which are now nearing retirement age.

Fleischer Cartoons

The Max Fleischer studios were pretty legendary in the 1930s/1940s as a rival to Disney.  Fans have likely seen their work in cheap public domain releases of cartoons featuring Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Popeye, and even Superman (via a deal that Fleischer had to license the character to make some gorgeous short films for Paramount).  This panel featured Max’s granddaughter and a discussion of efforts by a group to make high-definition restoration/remasters of the Fleischer catalog.

For All Mankind

Ron Moore continued to build momentum on this alternate history space race series on Apple TV.  The first season, which focused on the “What If…?” scenario where Russia was the first country on the moon had garner lukewarm reviews.  The second season, set in 1983, had much better critical reviews and then the recent third season, which jumped the timeline of the show to the 1990s was another critical hit.  Moore used the convention panel to announce season 4.

Godzilla

Godzilla’s 70th anniversary was still a couple of years away in 2024 but that didn’t stop merchandising from getting fans ready.  From a film/television standpoint, perhaps the biggest item of note was the announcement that AppleTV would be streaming the new series “Godzilla and the Titans” with stars Wyatt Russell and his father Kurt.

Independent Publishers

A couple of different books jumped out at me from the non-big two publishers, basically books that tickled my interests.  First was Dark Horse and Fantagor Press announcing plans to team on the re-release of the Richard Corben works “Den” (a 50th anniversary edition) and “Murky World.”  Non-comics fans might remember Den from the “Heavy Metal” (1981) animated film.  Next, Abrams ComicArts had a follow-up book to Chip Kidd’s interesting “Fantastic Four: Panel by Panel” with the next book in that series focusing on Spider-Man’s origin story from “Amazing Fantasy” #15.

Kevin Smith

Smith continued to have a hot hand, relatively speaking, with his career and visibility.  He had his annual panel in Hall H on Saturday night right after the Marvel Studios panel.  Smith showed the first five minutes of “Clerks 3” and that gained a favorable reaction.  Related to He-Man, Smith had previously announced a second season of “Masters of the Universe Revelations” on Netflix and he touched on the production work that was already underway during the “Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary” panel that he hosted in Hall H.  That same afternoon he also hosted the “Shatner on Shatner” panel.

Masters of the Universe

Kevin Smith had previously announced a second season of “Masters of the Universe: Revelations” on Netflix (aka ‘The Teela Show’ to some fans with concern that the second season would again be heavily character-focused but this time on the redemption of Evil-Lyn).  Smith hosted a 40th anniversary “MOTU” panel in Hall H, with the big name (and fan favorite) being Dolph Lundgren – star of the oddball 1987 “Masters of the Universe” film held up a giant He-Man sword and led the crowd in “By the power of Grayskull… I have the power!”  The panel discussion included talk about Dolph’s costume being so skimpy and having an unusually long night shoot on the film during cold overnight temperatures in Los Angeles.  William Shatner also appeared on the panel, with an undisclosed voice role announced on the “Revelations” show.  On the toy front, a product display showed the Eternia playset for the “Masters of the Universe” Origins line of figures that are scaled to the same size as the original 1980s figures.  The original version of that playset came out near the end of peak “MOTU” in the 1980s and commanded thousands of dollars on the used market.  It also has the downside of being brittle with age, a point that has only driven up the cost of unbroken/complete examples.

Night Owls (& Collective Action?!)

A stop in the lead-up to the convention was potential bar gathering cancellations, at least at one major venue, as fan attendees showed support for a strike by staff of the Hilton Bayfront (main hotel adjacent to the convention center… which actually hosts some programming) had staff go on strike the Wednesday at the start of the convention.  Apparently, management agreed to a new contract within hours to avoid disruption.  Paramount held a notable party at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Float bar and also set up a bar location to mimic the 10 Forward location from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  The annual Entertainment Weekly party – also held at the Float bar – after Saturday’s big-name panels remained as ‘exclusive’ as ever.  Legion M – a crowd-funding production company with a dubious reputation – was in the Kevin Smith and William Shatner business.  With Shatner, in particular, they were pushing an untitled documentary about Shatner’s recent trip to space in a Blue Origin capsule.  Besides a Hall H panel with Kevin Smith, Shatner hosted a smaller (i.e., costly) rooftop event via Legion M.

Miracleman

Fans had waited years for Neil Gaiman to resume his work on “Miracleman” at Marvel, fulfilling the promise that fans had been waiting for since Marvel Comics acquired the property back in 2013.  While the Alan Moore-written issues had been reprinted in multiple formats in recent years, the generation of Gaiman-penned new material was an annual tease.  Marvel finally solicited the next story arc from Gaiman though, so the train seems to be rolling down the tracks.

Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe

Where to even start, right?

At a glance it seemed like the Marvel Studios panel at Comic-Con would be Kevin Feige going through the motions of promoting some movies and television shows that were about to release.  Keep in mind that Disney has its own D23 convention in August and then a November investor call that has usually contained significant Marvel news.  Feige did feature the upcoming “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” film with a powerful trailer that was set to the Bob Marley song “No Woman No Cry” and promised that the film will have a heavy focus on addressing the 2020 real-life death of former Black Panther Chadwick Boseman.  There was also confirmation that paid off seemingly years of fan speculation that Namor will appear in the film.  Similarly, the “and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” had a heavy emotional angle as the likely finale of this trilogy of James Gunn films.  Kevin Smith later reported getting to see that film’s cast watch the trailer together from backstage and indicated that they all seemed very emotional.  Phase 4 of the MCU will apparently end with the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and then “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” will kick off Phase 5.

Somewhat brilliantly, Feige then went on to title/date tease a number of previously-unannounced Phase 5 projects.  There weren’t a lot of details offered – presumably being saved for future presentations – but just giving titles/dates created a giant buzz.  Not bad.  So, after the third “Ant-Man” film in February 2023, fans will get the Samuel L. Jackson-starring Disney+ television series “Secret Invasion” in Spring 2023 and that series will feed into the “Captain Marvel” sequel “The Marvels” in July 2023.  Intermixed in there will be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in May 2023.  The “Hawkeye” and (“Daredevil?”) spin-off “Echo,” featuring the daughter of the Kingpin, will hit as a series on Disney+ in summer of 2023, before Loki will be back for season two on Disney+, also in summer 2023.  The Iron Man spin-off “Ironheart” Disney+ series was announced for Fall 2023.  That series will focus on a Black teen from Chicago who seemingly builds her own version of an Iron Man suit.  The “Blade” film starring Mahershala Ali was apparently still on track to release in November 2023.  The “Wandavision” spinoff “Agatha: Coven of Chaos” will appear on Disney+ as a series in Winter 2023.  Perhaps the most significant Disney+ series news was the return of Daredevil in the 18 episodes (!) “Daredevil: Born Again,” which will presumably adapt Frank Miller’s story arc from his 1980s return to the character after his initial run that introduced Elektra.  Films for 2024 included “Captain America 4” in May 2024 with Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, seemingly continuing the “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Disney+ series’ storyline.  The villain team-up movie “Thunderbolts” will appear in July 2024.

The biggest talker of the Marvel Studio panel though was undoubtedly the surprise announcement of three films for Phase 6.  First will be the November 2024 introduction of the “Fantastic Four” into the MCU.  Then the “Avengers: Kang Dynasty” in May 2025 will seemingly feature the climax of the Kang storyline that started in the first season of the Loki “Disney+” series.  Finally, Phase 6 will conclude with “Avengers: Secret Wars” in November 2025.  That title hinted at some variation of the early 1980s “Secret Wars” mega-team-up comics or maybe its mid-2010s re-imagination by writer Jonathan Hickman.

Again, the genius of much of the above was that Marvel offered no details other than titles and release dates for most of the items… predictably, fans went wild online speculation about potential details to come.

Marvel Television Animation

Arguably the biggest talkers ahead for Marvel’s animated series was the 2024 release of “Spider-Man: Freshman Year,” a series focusing on Peter Parker’s high school years that already had a “Sophomore Year” sequel announced.  The equally high profile “X-Men 97” animated series continuation still didn’t have a release date.” coming in early 2023.  “What If…?” had apparently already been renewed for season 3.  “Marvel Zombies” also a 2024 talker.  Shows about to hit with actual release dates were “I am Groot” coming in August with a second season in development and season 2 of “What If…?”

Off-Site Attractions

Paramount had a ‘tavern experience’ set up to promote characters in “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” (2023).  The tavern served a green Dragon-themed drink that was apparently non-alcoholic but still managed to score high marks from attendees.  Elsewhere, an oddly immersive off-site for the Apple+ show “Severance” was also a notable attention-grabber.

Panel Lines

Procedures for wrist-banding were similar in the past for Hall H.  Thursday lines into Hall H were light and it was seemingly easy to walk in after the initial run at the start of the convention day.  Of course, the day that everyone cared about the most was Saturday, with the Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios panels.  For that day, it didn’t seem uncommon to expect a 21-hour campout, which sounded on par with expectations in recent years.

Predator Franchise

The upcoming Hulu-streaming “Prey” film (i.e., “Predator 5: Prey”) premiered in San Diego on Friday, July 21, just two weeks before the film’s arrival on Hulu.  Attendees of the premiere screening gave the film praise on social media but obviously such reactions at premiere events were never very reliable.  After the film, there was a Q&A with director Dan Trachtenberg, producer Jhane Myers, and star Amber Midthunder.

Primal & Genndy

The animated program “Primal” on Adult Swim had been a sneaky critical (5 Emmys) and audience favorite from Genndy Tartakovsky.  This human-and-dinosaur team-up adventure story was returning for a second season.

Star Trek

“Star Trek” had a big panel in Hall H, featuring check-ins with the television series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”  The big talker though was related to the upcoming third (and final) season of “Star Trek: Picard.”  There was a teaser trailer that mostly just showed some of the “The Next Generation” cast members in the quasi-full reunion that is coming.  Patrick Stewart seemed to say a formal good-bye to San Diego Comic-Con after many appearances over the years but that might or might not be premature.  Yes, he’s now somehow 82 years old but Stewart avoided closing the door on the question of a movie sequel to this supposed final season (and the potential for future promotion for that at the convention)

Videogames

I once had the idea in my head that videogames might push comic books further into a corner at the convention but the opposite has been reality.  If anything, videogame booths have been pushed to one side of the convention and, while their footprint remains steady, they haven’t really gobbled up addition real estate in recent years.  My interests in videogames skews in a decidedly retro direction.  The retro-focused “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Shredder’s Revenge” caught my attention, as did the compilation of vintage games “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  The Cowabunga Collection.”  On a videogame history front, the Tim Lapetino book “Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon” looked impressive.

Walking Dead Fans

As I’m not a regular follower of the “Walking Dead” franchise, I was surprised to learn that the final season of the ‘main’ television series was really just part of the overall picture.  AMC had what appeared to be roughly a half dozen (or more) spin-off series set to either continue or make their way further through development.  The return, in one such spin-off series, of fan favorite Norman Reedus was amongst the notable news talking points.

Wrestling News

What an odd weekend for wrestling fans in San Diego.  News broke on Friday that Vince McMahon was ‘retiring’ from his position leading WWE after decades in the business amid mounting sex-related payouts and generally bad antics behind the scenes.  At the same time, the convention was getting high-profile attention with key talent from WWE rival AEW. Stars CM Punk, Jade Cargill, Darby Allin, Orange Cassidy, and Bryan Danielson all appeared on a panel with moderation by AEW commentator Excalibur.  Oddly enough, the most-significant ‘name’ representing WWE was recent AEW defector Cody Rhodes at a WWE/Mattel panel.

X-Men Animated

The 1992 “X-Men: The Animated Series” marked its 30th anniversary at a dedicated panel and continued to prove to be a fan favorite.  Not only was that series’ anniversary celebrated but the continuation series from Disney+, “X-Men ’97” featuring most of the living voice cast members, was given a spotlight in the Marvel Television panel.  This upcoming series seemed to be highly anticipated by fans.

Losers

Comic-Con Planning

The new scheduling app that was being used sucked and made it much more labor-intensive for me to review the panel listings.

Crypto/NFT Nonsense

Heading into the show, Bleeding Cool reported that the convention organizers had rejected proposals for a number of NFT-focused panels.  That said, there was no restriction on show floor dealing of NFTs nor were convention panelists prevented from still plugging NFT-related offerings in the middle of otherwise unrelated panels.  This included Heavy Metal’s panel and (from their press release) “a brand-new Web3 and blockchain-based publishing arm of the company, which will allow fans to digitally.”  Even Todd McFarlane got into the action by reminding fans of his venture (announced back in late 2021 with DJ Steve Aoki.

Disney Fans

Another year of D23 biting Comic-Con fans, with (outside of Marvel Studios) a limited Disney presence.

Doctor Who

Compared to past years, there was not much of a “Doctor Who” presence, despite the upcoming new series (season) in early 2020.  2023 may end up being a different story though as “Doctor Who” will have a 60th anniversary special in Fall of that year.

Dungeons & Dragons

After initially indicating now panel presence at the convention, Paramount flip-flopped and ended up bringing down “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” for a preview ahead of its March 23, 2022 release.  The film stars Chris Pine and “Bridgerton” guy Rege-Jean Page but the panel oddly ended up being stolen by Hugh Grant.  The trailer that debuted seemed to be polarizing with some longtime fans criticizing the light tone while others praised that approach as a differentiator in the (oddly enough) otherwise crowded fantasy genre.

Jeff Smith

The biggest “Bone” news of the year occurred back in April and it was negative:  Netflix was the latest studio over the past decade+ to have pulled the plug on an animated adaptation of Smith’s masterpiece.  Smith’s spotlight panel in San Diego received little to no press from news sites or even on social media, with seemingly no new release announcements (Smith had supposedly sworn off future adaptation options for “Bone” but we’ll see…).  He was a panelist on a library book banning panel though that did get him some press attention.

Nic Cage (& National Treasure Fans?)

As fans of the man know, we’re in the midst of a multi-year/multi-film Nic Cage renaissance.  With this momentum in mind, Disney decided to revive the “National Treasure” franchise.  One minor detail though:  They made it a Disney+ series and forgot to include Nic Cage.  Instead, the series appeared to be aimed at a teen-ish (younger?) crowd by featuring a 22-year-old DREAMer and her social media savvy friends.

Preview Night

In recent ‘peak’ years of the convention, the Wednesday evening preview night had started to pick up overflow programming for television or movies and this year it had little to nothing offered.

Robotech

I could cut and pasted past updates as it was Groundhog Day all over again.  I’m always amused by the “Robotech” panel as I feel like it gets little to no coverage by the usual Comic-Con press and there’s not a giant number of attendees in the room but it must exist in a certain anime vacuum of fandom madness.  The presenters announce a ridiculous amount of merchandise annually at this panel and, given how few people I know ever talk about it, I wonder who is buying it all but I think that the anime guys that are into it must just buy EVERYTHING.  To be clear here, this is next-level ‘WTF’ merch of all price ranges.  For example, they just showed off some high-end model of a jet cockpit that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker with twin 2.2” video screens inside the cockpit.  It sold out during pre-sale.  The same company announced a 3-foot-tall large ship statue for $3,000.  So why pick on “Robotech” and call them losers?  Well, it boiled down to yet another vague update on Sony Pictures inching along with plans to make a franchise out of the property but no clear momentum or setting of dates/announcements.  There were claims that Sony viewed “Robotech” as a jewel of a franchise and didn’t want to screw it up but the development has been unending.

Russo Brothers

Marvel Studios fan favorite directors the Russo Brothers (directors of “Avengers: Endgame” amongst other well-regarded Marvel films) continued to promote their work for Netflix, with the big-budget action thriller “The Gray Man” getting a giant promotional push from Netflix amid okay but not-exceptional reviews.  Perhaps the biggest talker related to the brothers was the announcement by Marvel of an “Avengers: Secret Wars” film for 2025.  The Russo Brothers have publicly mentioned in the past wanting to work on a “Secret Wars” adaptation but Marvel’s Kevin Feige was oddly coy about the brothers not necessarily being signed up for the films.

Star Wars

The recent “Star Wars Celebration” convention in Anaheim served as the big convention push by Disney this year, so San Diego continued to play second fiddle with “Star Wars.”  That said, the large costume display booth on the convention floor was back (as usual).  One media-related matter that caught my eye was the new documentary series “Icons Unearthed: Star Wars,” which featured what was apparently Marcia Lucas’s first on-air interview covering the original trilogy (and beyond).

Sony Pictures

Sony could have given an early look at the “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” animated ‘Spider-Verse’ sequel film that comes out in June 2023 but elected to have no panel at the convention.  None of their live-action Spider-Man films had much in the way of mention.

Warner Bros.

Amid ongoing chatter around the impact of the Warner Bros Discovery merger to the DC universe, the entire Warner Bros. panel at Hall H was Captain Marvel/Shazam-centric… with the focus being on the release of “Black Adam” in October and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” in December.  Reflecting on that point, it was a strange time for a Captain Marvel fan like myself to be on the precipice of ‘peak Shazam’ exposure and neither film looking particularly good to me.  Credit Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for giving fans in Hall H a big show in his first visit back to Comic-Con in many years.  He flew around above the stage in his Black Adam costume to promote that film.  Although fans had heavily speculated that Henry Cavill would appear on the panel in some fashion to represent Superman, that appearance never materialized.  It was not clear if later news that Cavill had contracted COVID-19 was related.

Unclear, Ask Later

Alien Franchise

Despite Disney having no less than two upcoming projects for former Fox property, this franchise was non-existent at the convention.  First up was word back in March of a new Ridley Scott-produced (directed by Fede Alvarez) Alien movie coming to Hulu, similar to the “Prey” film for the “Predator” franchise.  Second was a television series with an Earth-based location that dated back to a December 2020 announcement.  It was supposed to start filming last March but that never happened and rumors suggested a production start in 2023.

Batman

Yeah, there was the “Spawn”/”Batman” comic book announcement but that felt more like a Todd McFarlane “Spawn” event than a “Batman” one.  If anything, I’d argue that one story of the convention was just how low-profile Batman was across various forms of media.  Had there not been ongoing turmoil with the “Flashpoint” movie’s lead actor, it’s not inconceivable that Michael Keaton might have appeared on a panel for that film at the convention but that never happened.  Batman had a hot run of creators and storyline in comics over the past many years but this year seemed like more of a low-profile vacation for the caped crusader.

Chris Claremont

Legendary “X-Men” writer Chris Claremont had a few projects in progress after what has otherwise been an oddly quiet many-years exclusive contract with Marvel.  First up, he had a “Gambit” series that took place around the time of the character’s introduction with co-creator Jim Lee.  Claremont also had news of a return to his “X-Treme X-Men” title, a series that I never checked out but that had several years’ worth of issues produced.  Oddly though, a series devoid of Wolverine.

Comics Shrinkage

After years of talk about ‘comics shrinkage’ the trend since the start of the pandemic actually has been in the other direction.  I know, I’m as surprised as anyone.  Despite drama during the past two years involving a splintering of the distributor system to comic book shops with Diamond Distributors losing their distribution monopoly as Marvel aligning with Penguin Random House and DC using Lunar Distribution, sales seemed to be booming during the pandemic era.  Would those sales hold out or were we only seeing artificial stimulation based on collector speculation and publisher variant cover gimmicks?  Time would tell.

Cobra Kai

Season 5 of “Cobra Kai” hits on September 9th but there wasn’t a dedicated “Cobra Kai” panel.  Blame Netflix spending cutbacks?  Fans could have still seen star William Zabka in a Funko Pop promotional panel (?!) in Hall H.

CW DC Heroes

The CW network was up for sale amid the recent Warner Bros. Discovery merger and their presence at the convention was oddly low-key compared to past years when they were a fixture with their DC-related television series.  The Archie take-off “Riverdale” did get a panel in Hall H though, ahead of its sixth and final season.

DC Animated

DC/Warner Bros’ often-well-regarded animated film series had a new entry with “Green Lantern: Beware My Power” featuring the John Stewart character.

DC Comics

Amid various layoffs over the past three years at DC’s parent Warner Bros, it was perhaps not a surprise that DC still felt like it was just trying to find stable footing.  Like Marvel, there was little in the way of buzzy events or event creators.  One suspected that the tide might turn in 2023 but what that looks like or specific predictions were not clear for me.  The buzz that was created by DC was somewhat odd.  The “Dark Crisis” event that was already underway was re-branded as “Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths” and claimed to be (another?) sequel to the 1985 “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”  The biggest mic-drop moment was when Todd McFarlane crashed the end of the main DC comics panel to announced a “Spawn/Batman” special comic for December 2022 that would be drawn by Greg Capullo – this felt like more so big Todd McFarlane news than actual DC news though.

Digital Comics

We’re many years now into the notion of digital comic books and, while that distribution channel didn’t change the world, it supposedly maintained around 12% of the comics market.  While digital comics lacked collect-ability (unless you believe the NFT sales pitch), it did serve a need for convenience and long-tail breadth.  It’s amazing that most comic books, particularly old and valuable/scarce ones, are largely at our fingertips to at least read at a remarkably low cost.  Some new comics digital ventures seemed to be finding an audience, with the past year of Substack’s venturing into comic books coming to mind.  That venture was believed to be running low on additional splashy cash offers to get ‘name’ creators on board the platform but the initial creators who signed up in 2021 were likely to continue to retain an audience in that space.  Unlike high-profile/big-spending traditional comic book publishing ventures of the past, the Substack approach as a self-publishing platform meant that it was unlikely to completely implode anytime soon.

Frank Miller

Miller remained an honored guest of the convention despite recent outcries on social media over his lack of apology for his “Holy Terror!” work from a decade ago.  This time at the convention, Miller had a joint panel with 1980s-era collaborator Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist on “Elektra: Assassin.”  The panel content seemed to mostly focus on Miller’s new publishing imprint Frank Miller Presents, which will feature a new “Sin City” western story, amongst other titles.  There was also a Frank Miller documentary apparently making rounds on the film festival circuit.

Game of Thrones Fans

The final “Game of Thrones” panel came in 2019 after the lukewarm (that’s saying it kindly) reaction to the finale of that series.  Three years later, HBO was kicking off a new prequel series set to debut in August entitled “House of the Dragon” and focusing on the House Targaryen’s antics 200 years before the events in “Game of Thrones.”  “Doctor Who” (and “The Crown”) favorite Matt Smith was one of the show’s new leads.  With little in the way of substance yet, fans online were reduced to speculating on the potentially negative impacts of comments by the showrunners that this series would feature less sex and nudity than “Games of Thrones.”  For the record, three years later we still have no new books from George R. R. Martin, a point that he did at least acknowledge, stating that he was still working on his sixth “A Song of Fire and Ice” book, “The Winds of Winter.”

Gremlins Franchise

The HBO Max animated prequel series “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai” – taking place in the 1920s and focusing on Mogwai lore – looked okay in the trailer but I’m not sure how much demand there was for the product?  Original “Gremlins” film star Zach Galligan was a surprise guest on the panel as it was confirmed that he would have some sort of a voice acting role (presumably in no relation to his 1980s-era live-action character).

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves was back again and he kept pushing the “BRZRKR: The Immortal Saga Continues” title that he launched in comics form back in 2020.  Two years later, there continued to be chatter around a Netflix-funded film adaptation and companion anime series.  It remained to be seen if Netflix would actually ever bring this project to the light of day.  Reeves pushed the project as still being in development though, with a script being written at the moment.  References were made to “The Fountain” (2006) and “Tree of Life” (2011) but Netflix had to be hoping that “BRZRKR” would have more favorable commercial results than either of those two films.  In terms of actual slam-dunk Keanu projects though?  Lionsgate dropped a minute-long teaser for “John Wick 4” featuring Keanu facing off against Donnie Yen and the result looked impressive.

Legendary Entertainment

Legendary still had its toe in notable entertainment waters with the continued push of the “Godzilla”-related “Monsterverse” franchise.  I had been tempted to entirely drop a check-in with Legendary from this year’s recap but the marginal “Godzilla” news made me keep them on board for another year.  This might be their last note of relevance though and it marked now five years since Legendary founder (and key front man) Thomas Tull had left the company.  Tull was quite a story in his time – having amassed his initial wealth through a laundromat business that he later used to fund consolidation of mom-and-pop tax preparation businesses.  He then lived the fanboy dream by using his investor power to get Warner Bros. to reboot the “Batman” franchise with Christopher Nolan.  Legendary was arguably entering a cooling period when Tull cashed out to a Chinese buyer in 2016, very good timing on the exit.  A quick glance showed that Tull had largely left the L.A. scene and had spent the past several years living with his family in Pittsburgh, having assumed a minority stake in the Steelers NFL team.

Lord of the Rings

At least the music sounds like it will be good?   Bear McCreary led an orchestra at the opening of the panel that sounded ‘authentic’ and McCreary had gotten both inspiration (as well as an actual theme song) from Peter Jackson’s longtime Tolkien movie score composer Howard Shore.  The plot was teased a bit with a concrete point about the series focusing on the fall of Numenor (i.e., the fall of the ‘kingdom of men’).  If the series wasn’t a hit, it wouldn’t be for lack of spending due to the show itself having a reportedly massive budget and the marketing at the convention being almost over-the-top in totally blanketing San Diego.

Halloween (and Universal Studios)

Blumhouse/Universal hadn’t bothered with a panel for the 2018 “Halloween” sequel and they didn’t bother again despite the conclusion of what ended up becoming a trilogy hitting in October of 2022.  Rather, fans had to settle for an online first-look trailer drop that hit on the Tuesday before the convention opened.

HBO

While “House of the Dragon” got a big push ahead of its August premiere, “Westworld” was in the middle of season 4 when the convention kicked off and it didn’t get a push like it had gotten for Season 2 back in 2019 at the convention.  For “Westworld” fans though, I guess that the fact that the new Season 4 was a return to form for longtime fans – not a bad consolation prize.

Heavy Metal

The “Heavy Metal” magazine empire (?) showed a not-bad sizzle reel amid announcing that they were pushing a slate of live-action and animated productions.  This was promised to mean both film and television projects, with the reel giving particular spotlight to the Taarna character that non-magazine readers might recall from the 1981 “Heavy Metal” animated film.  Other IPs were also teased, as the reel intermixed teases with quotes from famous film directors that lauded the magazine’s legacy.

J. Michael Straczynski

The man was back in action with another spotlight panel.  That said, it was difficult finding any notable details about the panel.  Straczynski had a couple of novels to promote though, with “Together We Will Go” from 2021 being a dark comedy (?)/drama about a bus picking up passengers en route to suicide plans.  A new novel entitled “The Glass Box” was on the way in October 2023.  The “Babylon 5” reboot still seemed to be a thing, despite complications with the CW network amid the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger.

Marvel Comics

The Sub-Mariner was getting a big push amid assumption that the character would figure prominently into “Black Panther 2.”  Marvel’s big upcoming event comic/crossover was entitled “Judgment Day” and would apparently feature the X-Men vs. The Eternals vs. Avengers.  It remained to be seen exactly why Marvel was continuing to push The Eternals after the failure of the film adaptation of that property.

Paper Girls

Writer Brian K. Vaughan had gotten my attention over the years but he’s had issues getting his work to stick long-term on television, notably with “Y: The Last Man” never taking off after it finally hit screens.  His new series “Paper Girls” debuted on Amazon Prime soon after the convention and its time-travel with teenagers plot garnered positive reviews.

Paramount

They came into the convention with the unexpected hot hand amongst remaining major studios.  Not that long ago, pundits wondered if Paramount would exit the theatrical film business but the success of long-on-the-shelf “Top Gun 2: Maverick,” along with lower profile hits silenced such chatter.  Paramount had initially been thought to be a no-show but did come in strong late with their “Dungeons & Dragons” film panel (covered elsewhere in this recap).

Ray Bradbury (and ‘Uncle Forry?!’)

I had assumed that a panel focusing on Ray Bradbury and his connection with the controversial Forry Ackerman might have led to some sort of fan protest or at least a notable fan call-out moment.  The justification for such push-back being specific to fan accusations regarding Ackerman’s behavior in recent years after his death.  In reality there seemed to be little to no coverage of the panel.

Rob Liefeld

The mischief prince of comics had three high-profile talking points of fan interest.  First, was his hit podcast “Robservations” in which Rob recently hit episode 205 ahead of ending his ‘season’ for a few weeks break.  The podcast allowed Rob to celebrate Image Comics, specifically its 30th anniversary while presenting the history of any number of notable comics events, sometimes to the debate of some pundits.  Rob also had “Deadpool 3” in the works, although no direct involvement in that film as Disney looked to integrate Deadpool formally into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  What did Rob have control over?  His early Image creation “Prophet” was getting pushed with a remastered 30th anniversary reprint of the character’s first appearance and continued news of a film in the works starring Jake Gyllenhaal.  In terms of comics work, Liefeld announced the sequel to his 2017 Deadpool graphic novel, with “Deadpool: Badder Blood” hitting next year.  The new story would feature a character called Shatterstorm that was seemingly a beautiful blonde take on Liefeld’s old character Shatterstar.

Rocketeer

The Dave Stevens “The Rocketeer” character got a push from the convention on its 40th anniversary, with a panel and a special article in the convention program book.  There was also a push for the documentary “Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection.”  Despite a new film within the general storyline of the character being announced for Disney+ over the past couple of years there were not any new updates on that Tuskegee Airman-focused project.

Sandman (+ Netflix)

After years as a high-flying stock, Netflix bullishness came crashing down to earth in spring of 2022.  Netflix had been free-spending in the past and they became a more ‘practical’ company in 2022, cutting a number of projects and laying off some staff.  One of the high-profile projects that fans had been waiting for decades to see on screen was finally hitting on August 5 with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” series debut.  Amid the past couple of years of somewhat controversial casting news and production announcements, fan reaction to exclusive clips – including one featuring Death – was positive.

Spawn & Todd McFarlane

Todd McFarlane opened the 30th anniversary of Spawn panel with a ramble about how dumb it was that the first pandemic shortage was in ‘@$$ wiping products’ (i.e., toilet paper) and then gave a rundown of alternative ways to ‘clean your @$$.’  So, you could say that it was an odd start.  McFarlane also repeated a few stories that fans might have heard over the past couple of years.  Also, somewhat on repeat was mention of now having six television shows in development, which Todd admitted don’t matter until they were bought and hit screens.  The biggest news of the panel for “Spawn” fans was only vaguely teased at the end and didn’t pay off until the next day when Todd crashed the DC panel to announce a new “Spawn/Batman” crossover comic.

Stan Lee

2019 was the first San Diego convention since the passing of Stan Lee and I had assumed that I would be dropping him as a talking point.  Well, hold up, as it would have been Stan’s 100th birthday and a panel happened.  The panel wasn’t a complete fawning look back at Stan though, as it covered both the roots of his popularity but also his controversies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

A few Turtles-related news items caught my eye.  First was the videogame “Shredder’s Revenge” – a take on the style of the classic “TMNT” arcade games.  Next was the plan for the comprehensive collection of Turtles videogames from the past: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection.”  From a comics standpoint, the turtles had been making waves over the past couple of years with the hit “The Last Ronin” series that involved co-creator Kevin Eastman.  A new prequel to that recently-concluded series was announced.

The ‘New’ Zombies (& Interview with the Vampire?)

Our annual hunt for the thing that would replace zombies was again inconclusive.  Vampires had a shot of making a comeback with the new AMC television series “Interview with the Vampire” surprising people.  Casual fans might recall the 1994 Tom Cruise movie that adapted Anne Rice’s first novel in this 13-book series but never progressed into a full franchise.  Perhaps AMC will get a chance to make it past the first book?

Oddities & Miscellanea

1970s Comics Creators

Mark Evanier did not host a “That 70s Panel” iteration this year and, frankly, it was a rough past few months for 1970s-era comics superstars.  The deaths of both Neal Adam and George Perez were notable in that both were giants of that ‘bronze’ era of comics.  Both creators had shout-outs and remembrances during the convention.

Artists Editions

Hot off the “EC Covers Artist’s Edition” win of an Eisner award for Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books, edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW), Dunbier had the Artist Edition spotlight panel.  In the past, Dunbier was often pretty loose in announcing or hinting at books that sometimes never made it to production.  Perhaps as a reaction to past fan disappointment, he only offered limited news this year with the only real ‘new’ hardcover announcement being a Jack Kirby’s “The Eternals” ‘Artisan Edition’ (meaning that it would not have complete stories but rather somewhat random pages).

Blade Runner

As with several other films from the legendary summer of 1982, “Blade Runner” also celebrated its birthday with a convention panel.  The two guests on the panel were key to ongoing “Blade Runner fandom” – one was Paul Sammon (author of the book “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner” and the other was Charles de Lauzirika (who produced the “The Final Cut” home video release of “Blade Runner” around 15 years ago).

Conan the Barbarian

Panels covering a number of notable films from the remarkable summer of 1982 included “Conan the Barbarian.”  Not only was it the 40th anniversary of the 1982 John Milius/Arnold Schwarzenegger film’s but it was also the 90th anniversary of the character.  The panelists who talked about the 1982 film were William Stout, a production artist on the film, and Paul M. Sammon, who had authored the book “Conan the Phenomenon.”  Conan was a complicated character to keep track of in recent years, as it had slipped into the public domain in some countries, with a European publisher exploiting that loophole with comic books featuring the character making their way back to the United States.  In just the last few months, Marvel Comics ended up giving up the license that it had gotten back from Dark Horse a few years ago (while retaining reprint rights for their past work featuring the character) and it was announced that Titan Comics would take over the creation of new comic book material in 2023.  On the live-action entertainment front, Netflix continued to have a television series in development but there was little in the way of updates on that front.

EC Fan-addicts

The annual EC Fan-Addicts panel featured panelists from ‘A trio of noted EC Comics historians’ who were regulars on the EC Fan-Addicts Facebook group and also authors or contributors to various EC-related reprints.  The panel did not get much online coverage but presumably highlighted what has continued to be a boom time for EC-related reprints with collections regularly coming from both Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics.  The panelist and other EC fans showed photos from around the convention floor and dealers had a surprising amount of EC issues available as well as some original art.

Eisner Awards

Barry Windsor-Smith was perhaps an unexpected name to see pop up as winner in multiple categories – Best Graphic Album, Best Lettering, and Best Writer-Artist for his 2021 graphic novel “Monsters” (a decades in the making re-work of a “Hulk” graphic novel project).  BWS wasn’t in attendance and, somewhat oddly, accepted the award by proxy with Fantagraphics editor Gary Groth announcing BWS’s retirement (for now?).  Of note were all of the Hall of Fame inductees.  Mark Gruenwald’s induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame was already established in advance.  Out of 17 nominees, Howard Chaykin, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama, manga great Moto Hagio, and “Daredevil: Born Again” and “Batman: Year One” artist David Mazzucchelli, along with Grant Morrison, were all inducted.  Notably, former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was again snubbed by his voting peers.

John Carpenter

No, the man himself was not in San Diego.  Oddly enough, Carpenter’s wife Sandy King continued to have momentum with their Storm King Comics line.  They had their own booth and panel.  Regarding actual new John Carpenter work, he was again on the scoring duties (amid his late career focus on music) with the upcoming “Halloween Ends” film.  Carpenter had been asked about resuming touring in a recent interview with Full Moon’s Charles Band and seemed to downplay the idea but not entirely close the door.

Marvel ‘Grand Design’ Books

Ed Piskor kicked off the “Grand Design” concept with a focus on the X-Men and, specifically, re-framing Chris Claremont’s run on that title.  Fantastic Four, covered by Tom Scioloi, was the next project.  Then a Hulk project by Jim Rugg hit in 2022.  None of these creators were apparently at the convention – all three parts of the popular “Cartoonist Kayfabe” YouTube channel – and the Grand Design concept had no new announcements other than Rugg’s “Hulk” book coming out in a collected edition by the end of the year.

Protestors

There seemed to be confusion in recent years that the religious protestors seen outside of the San Diego Convention Center were affiliated with the notorious Westboro Baptist Church.  While members of that group did protest the convention way back in 2010, the more commonly-seen annual group on the scene was the Los Angeles-based ‘Official Street Preachers.’  That group was again out in force with their memorable signs.

Ron Cobb

Ron Cobb passed away in Fall of 2020, after an impressive career in which he did concept and design work for “Alien,” “Back to the Future,” “Conan the Barbarian,” and “Star Wars.”  An impressive-looking coffee table featuring Cobb’s work would be hitting shelves this fall.

Shatner on Shatner:  Kevin Smith interviews William Shatner

William Shatner stayed on stage with Kevin Smith after the “Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary” panel, a canny move on Smith’s part to give a certain continuity between the panels when he had Shatner come out early to announce a “Masters of the Universe Revelation” voice appearance.  This one-on-one panel was seemingly to push a future documentary release related to Shatner’s recent trip to space on board a SpaceX capsule.  The crowdsource production company Legion M was behind that project.  The panel content that grabbed headlines was some jabs by Shatner at both modern “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”  There were jokes by Smith about Shatner’s age – he’s 91 years old.  Finally, there was an awkward moment when a fan couldn’t be easily heard when asking a question through his convention-mandated mask and Shatner heckled the fan in an urging to get the fan to remove his mask.  Smith had to remind Shatner that doing so could result in the fan being kicked out of the convention.  Oddly enough, virtually no panelists at the convention wore masks.

Stranger Things

Unlike with “Stranger Things 3,” there was no ‘victory lap’ panel in the aftermath of the recent “Stranger Things 4” season.

Troma’s Birthday

A costumed ‘Toxie’ was on stage with Kaufman.  A man in the audience was taking photographs of the panel using a vintage Nintendo Game Boy camera.  It was basically what you would expect out of the Saturday evening Troma panel.

Cosplay

As I was not on site at the convention this year, I didn’t have a great sense for popularity levels of cosplay in general or characters in particular.  Suffice to say, Cosplay was still in effect and plentiful photos of notable costumes could be found online.  One particular viral video involved a proposal outside of the convention hall that featured two costumed fans (No, unfortunately, they weren’t ‘Furries’)

Dealer Sales & Observations

The Overstreet Access project was announced, seemingly the longtime Overstreet comic book price guide brand name being used to market a website/app competitor to existing services such as Key Collector.

Home Video Releases

There weren’t any splashy movie sets or television series sets announcements that jumped out at me but 4K physical releases continue to get plenty of support from the major studios, with a number of popular catalog titles already announced for release through the end of the year.  With the Sony PlayStation 5 expected to be on the market for several more years, it’s assumed that physical releases of media will continue to have a place through the end of the decade.

Hotel Prices

In-person attendees who had tickets from 2020 and 2021 rolled over into 2022.  The problem that then seemed to happen for those attendees was price gouging by hotels.  There were reports of hotel rooms going for 2-3x past prices, which would be a shocking sum if accurate.  In terms of hard data that fans collected regarding ‘official’ partner hotels, prices were up from $6 to $45 per night compared to 2019.  That’s not bad compared to the anecdotal claims, although those claims might have related to some of the non-partner hotels that were catering more to business customers.

Mystery Boxes

I dislike these random boxes of things and they’ve managed to survive the pandemic.  There is an old saying that cockroaches would be what survives a nuclear holocaust but I wouldn’t count out mystery boxes being alongside them.  Besides having a presence at the convention, I’d seen high-end versions of these ‘mystery box’ concepts marketed in recent months with people on YouTube reviewing the contents of spending upwards of $1000 on random (hopefully ultimately valuable) comic book combinations.

Television Domination

This was a trend in 2019 and it remained strong in 2021 as the diminished state of films at the convention reflected viewing trends in the ‘real world.’  To be clear, it isn’t so much that SDCC has lost influence as a place to present movies as television (particularly episodic shows on streaming platforms) continue to create a situation where many genre fans admit to feeling overwhelmed by the rich variety of choices now available to them.

Conclusions

One weird observation up front was how 2022 felt like 2019 redux in many respects, with projects being pushed back and resurfacing or familiar faces having three years’ worth of updates to share.

Echoing that point, this recap write-up was nearly twice the length of my 2019 recap, mostly because it felt like I had a lot of material to cover after the resumption of the convention and a three-calendar year gap.  While the properties and creators covered had perhaps more question marks than in past years, the convention itself remained healthy and vibrant.  We may be several years past films dominating the Hall H lineup but they had had a presence and television continued to do a fair amount of heavy lifting in helping the convention to remain relevant.

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