The crowds at San Diego Comic-Con are claustrophobic, sweaty, and contagiously happy. This year’s convention was no exception. The throngs of caped fans and sword girded cosplayers swarmed the humid convention center and Gaslamp district. Although the high humidity (higher even than DC) added a sweltering overlay, smiles were abundant, and fans from young to old braved the blazing sun in full body robot, ghost-buster, and Xena Warrior Princess outfits. More than any other event, Comic-Con encourages and coddles costumed visitors – and the diversity of represented characters gives the spectacle a joyous, wild feeling.
Inside the convention center there were countless announcements and activations that were met with excited glee. The most notable of these was the surprise announcement of the reboot of the beloved Star Wars: The Clone Wars franchise, which left fans of the original show emotional and stunned. DC premiered the Shazam trailer, and everyone agreed that a little levity will do that grim multiverse some good. Deadpool showed up with a random dance party featuring the creepy Chuck E Cheese animatronic band. Trailers for all kinds of super hero movies and new video games premiered to excited throngs. But what was also interesting was the buzz around was who was missing this year. Although they showed up in smaller ways, HBO, Disney, and Marvel chose to not create giant activations this year. This vacuum of some of the most powerful creators of pop culture changed the atmosphere – and to many attendees, brought the Con back closer to its comic book/genre roots.
Most of the major areas outside of the convention hall were dominated by streaming properties. Amazon and Hulu held giant and prime adjacent real estate – Amazon with their large-scale Jack Ryan VR obstacle course, and Hulu taking over an entire park to create a branded playground to sit and find shade, neighbored by their scary Castle Rock bed and breakfast Stephen King experience. The most sought-after experience outside of the hall had to be The Good Place, which seemed to have a constant multi-hour line of people waiting to experience their own death, then an afterlife in The Good Place, and inevitably being kicked out back to The Bad Place (reality). And don’t underestimate the power of a cool street team. The SyFy band walked around the pedestrian-only streets playing Star Trek and Star Wars classics, creating a wonderful audio atmosphere wherever they went.
Somewhat off the beaten path was Purge City, a fun take on Party City if the United States legalized mass murder one day a year. At “The Experience” at Petco Park, fans could go through a Ghostbusters obstacle course or hug the Hulk as therapy for the tragic ending of Infinity Wars. Facebook also activated around their new Watch series, Sacred Lies, inviting fans to experience an eerie Escape Room and Oculus VR Experience that lured you into a sinister cult.
Genre fans have a rough reputation at times, with especially loud and negative contingents that give geeks, nerds, and dweebs a bad name – but the Comic-Con vibe was inclusive and joyful. There are few places where you find yourself sandwiched between a sweaty Smurf and Scooby Doo, and everyone is smiling. What is more true than ever is that there is a genre, spaceship, warrior princess, zombie, ghost, cult, afterlife, and rainbow unicorn cloudscape culture for every type of fan. And when adults and kids alike are allowed to dress up and show off their anime spirit animal, fans are receptive and excited to interact with entertainment brands.
Check out some of the pictures here, and on Mindshare NA’s Instagram.