San Diego Comic-Con 2020 has ended, and things were a bit different this time around. Obviously, that was because of forces beyond anyone’s control—namely a global pandemic. But there were still things that could’ve gone better. There were a few highs, some notable lows, and a lot of uncertainty about what the rest of fan conventions in 2020 will look like.
This year’s SDCC, which brought the comic convention to YouTube instead of Hall H, had a few things that worked and a lot of things that didn’t. Star Trek got us excited about the upcoming Lower Decks animated series and Keanu Reeves was an absolute delight during his panels, but the overall structure of the digital-only con left a lot to be desired. Be sure to watch the video above for the io9 staff’s thoughts on what succeeded and failed at this year’s event. We’ve also provided a few examples below.
Here are io9's winners and losers of SDCC 2020.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
Star Trek’s panel may have set a surprising tone of things to come at Comic-Con this year—a sudden drop of an entire panel that didn’t really have much in the way of flashy announcements—but one welcome sight was to see Lower Decks, Mike McMahan’s upcoming animated series, get to stand tall and debut a scene from its first episode. And it was great!
We got a teaser trailer for the show recently, but even then, people were still unsure quite what to expect out of the series. Who was it for? Is it straight comedy or will there still be Trek storytelling? We got the answer that it’s basically “a little from column a, a little from column b,” and if we can get that same knowingly self-referential humor for 20-odd minutes a week, we’re in for a fun time.
The New Mutants
Though Marvel Studious proper wasn’t present at this year’s SDCC, the cast of The New Mutants brought some of that Marvel energy to the con with yet another glimpse of the mutant movie that can’t seem to claw its way into theaters. It was good to see that Josh Boone really does seem to be leaning into a horror narrative while also incorporating some of The New Mutants’ more ridiculous comics hallmarks, like Magik’s teleporting into Limbo and wielding her Soulsword. The studio’s confident that The New Mutants will make it into theaters by late August, and while that’s a lovely thought, it remains to be seen if that’s going to be possible.
Keanu Reeves has had a consistently interesting career since the 1980s, and not only that, he’s proven again and again to be a ridiculously nice, genuine human being. He appeared on two entertaining SDCC panels this year—a focus on the much-anticipated Bill & Ted Face the Music, due in September, and a look back at cult movie Constantine on its 15th anniversary—but really, the whole con could have used a whole lot more of that effortlessly cool Keanu energy.
The horror-centric streamer played to its strengths, and its niche, by hosting a pair of informative, entertaining, and thoughtfully curated panels. “Horror Is Queer” brought together showrunners Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Don Mancini (Chucky), actor Lachlan Watson (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), and others to talk about how LGBTQ voices have always been important, and are now more prominent than ever, in the horror genre. “Scary Good TV with Horror’s Top Showrunners” also featured Mancini, along with Nick Antosca (Channel Zero), Meredith Averill (Locke & Key), Greg Nicotero (Creepshow), and Jami O’Brien (NOS4A2), discussing their individual shows as well as the challenges that come with crafting the kind of dread that’s able to sustain an entire TV season.
Zack Snyder, Despite Not Being Part of the Con?
Somehow, we’re still talking about Justice League in 2020, thanks to the official news that Zack Snyder will indeed get to finish and release his own fabled cut of the film on HBO Max next year. Neither Warner Bros. as a studio or the movie itself had an official presence at SDCC, but Snyder took part in the fan-run “Justice Con” happening concurrently to give us a little look at what to expect, as well as some of the director’s own thoughts about finally being able to make this happen.
Sure, the footage itself was a mere glimpse of what we can expect next month at Warner’s DC FanDome event, but Snyder still brought an energy to his discussion that was distinctly lacking at SDCC itself, whether he was enthusing about Superman’s black suit or IMAX cinema aspect ratios. Whether you’re loving or loathing the idea of another version of Justice League, it was nice to get a jolt of energy from his enthusiasm.
It’s to be expected that SDCC would have a few technical hiccups—especially since organizers only had a few months to prepare—but the number of goofs and errors ended up impacting the remote con experience. There was the fact that a few panels were temporarily taken down by copyright bots on first few days, including Star Trek and Cartoon Network. But beyond that, the Comic-Con International website was clunky and hard to navigate, making it difficult to find panel links—which were unceremoniously dumped on YouTube instead of shared as “Premieres,” which meant fans could just scrub through for a trailer or new footage, and then peace out.
A small concern, but the lack of custom thumbnails on the Comic-Con International YouTube videos also looked pretty unprofessional. Instead of creating custom thumbnails for each video, or having panelists submit their own, Comic-Con let it default to whatever picture YouTube’s algorithm went with. This resulted in unflattering photos for so many panels (and panelists) and made the whole page look like a disorganized mess.
Lack of support for artists and vendors
One of the best things about SDCC is all the amazing stuff you can buy. Original art, custom toys, all sorts of weird stuff. And the vendors and artists who make that stuff depend on conventions happening for their livelihoods—so it would have been nice to see some kind of support for the vendors and artists who planned on going to SDCC but couldn’t.
Maybe that meant making a master list with links. Maybe it was a big social media push or online hub. We don’t know. What we do know is that we’re pretty sure it didn’t happen. And, if it did, we didn’t see it, so that’s not a good thing. Where was the virtual artist alley? A place independent artists could go and get SDCC fans to see their work? Everyone was just forced to fend for themselves this year. SDCC is a big deal for the big vendors but it’s an even bigger
deal for the smaller ones, and those smaller ones were left in the dark.
Overall fan experience
It’s sad to say but considering SDCC is the biggest pop culture fan event of the year, the fans were left wanting. It’s especially disappointing considering more fans than ever before were able to “attend” the convention this year, as travel to San Diego typically isn’t accessible for everyone. But since the panels were pre-recorded we lost out on the usual convention energy and spontaneity, and there definitely wasn’t any chance for interactivity. (While we all groan when someone gets up to a mic and says “This is more a comment than a question,” it’s still something that screams “Comic-Con.”) Besides that, the biggest studios decided to skip out this year which meant all the usual big trailers fans eagerly expect from SDCC were also missing—which meant in turn that there wasn’t much of a “must-see” feeling to the event.
How will all this affect the con industry moving forward? We’ll have some more thoughts on that later today.
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