Spot.IM Contributor

Jul 25, 20183m read

With Marvel Absent, Comic-Con Explores Other Corners of the Superhero Genre

By Ben Szurek

Every year, a bevy of the nation’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy faithfuls flock to San Diego for a celebration of geekdom — past, present, and future. They meet at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), the 49th iteration of which ended last Sunday. Comic-Con is renowned for the ardor of its patrons — fans, often fully-costumed, who show up en masse to revel in the company of like-minded strangers and interact with the writers, actors, and directors behind the making of their favorite fictional worlds.  Those fictional worlds often belong to media franchises that are household names — movies or television shows that win icon status, either by landslide success or sheer longevity. In the past, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek have been at the heart of the convention.

“While their absence likely came as a disappointment to many convention-goers, it also makes sense.”

Since 2008, however, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been the center of the attention. The MCU launched in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr. Since then it has brought us movie manifestations of Marvel comic book characters from Captain America to Ant Man. Marvel Studios — purchased by Disney in 2009 — continued its streak of dominance in 2018, beginning in February with the release of the cultural phenomenon Black Panther, followed in April by the all-you-can-eat superhero buffet, Avengers: Infinity War. Both movies were heralded as groundbreaking films — Black Panther for its relevance to contemporary discussions of race (as well as geopolitics), and Infinity War for its sheer scope. They also dominated the box office, raking in a combined total of over $3 billion (over $1 billion from Black Panther, and over $2 billion from Infinity War).

Despite — or perhaps because of — their recent success, Marvel decided to skip Comic-Con this year. While their absence likely came as a disappointment to many convention-goers, it also makes sense. For fans, Comic-Con provides the opportunity to nerd out unabashedly and meet their heroes. Movie studios, on the other hand, take advantage of the convention to share sneak peeks of upcoming films and build them early followings. Given Marvel’s prolific and profoundly successful year, it would come as little surprise if the studio is less visible in the months to come, as their absence from Comic-Con would suggest. Besides, Marvel Studios will need plenty of time to prepare for the next — expected to be radically different — phase of Marvel movies.

“AquamanShazam, and Mr. Glass will provide plenty of superhero movie storylines to appease fans of the extraordinary in the year to come.”

Fortunately for Comic-Con patrons, the yearly festival showcased plenty of movie superhero content to look forward to, even without Marvel present (notably, HBO also skipped the show — much to the chagrin of Game of Thrones and Westworld fans). For starters, Warner Bros. released two exciting new trailers for upcoming films based on superheroes from the DC Universe — the MCU’s rival. The first of these is Aquaman, an intense-looking feature film focused on the oft-ridiculed King of Atlantis. Aquaman looks likely to model itself on Wonder Woman — a stand-out success in an otherwise underperforming DC cinematic universe. Similarly, the other upcoming DC film — Shazam — will share the light-hearted origin story of Billy Batson, a foster child who happens upon remarkable superpowers.

Outside of the DC Universe, fans of superhero movies can also get excited about Mr. Glass — the unexpected third installment of a darker take on the superhero genre. Mr. Glass promises to bring a riveting and frightening conclusion to M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy, which began 18-years ago, with the 2000 release of Unbreakable, and picked back up with Split in 2016.

While Marvel movie fans, even the comic book lay-people among them, will have to wait for their next sojourn into the MCU, Aquaman, Shazam, and Mr. Glass will provide plenty of superhero movie storylines to appease fans of the extraordinary in the year to come.

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