With Comic-Con only a few short days away the news and announcements will be coming fast and hard almost non-stop. Thankfully a few proper media outlets are gearing up to make sure that all of that news can be filtered down and organized into an easily digestible format for everyone to absorb and get excited about. IGN is one of those outlets.
A couple of days ago we had published a list of IGN’s events, both on and off site, but I wanted to talk to the actual people behind the site who help keep fans everywhere informed. I recently had the opportunity to speak with members of IGN’s editorial staff about three of the main genres that will dominate the San Diego Bay this week; comics, movies, and television.
From the comics side we have Joey Esposito. Long time readers might recall an interview we had with him last year and I am happy that he came back for yet another round. Joining him are Jim Vejvoda, the Executive Editor of IGN Movies at IGN Entertainment, and Eric Goldman, the Executive Editor of IGN TV. With the level of expertise and insight these gentlemen have in their respective fields we spoke about predictions and projects that we would like to hear about at the show itself.
WNA: There seem to be more television that is not genre specific being promoted at the convention, such as Breaking Bad and Shameless. Do you have anything to say to the purists out there complaining that Comic-Con seems to be moving further away from its namesake?
EG: It’s a really weird line with what shows feel appropriate or not. I love Shameless, but it’s a very weird fit, that’s for sure. But Breaking Bad has more obvious “geek appeal.” It’s not a genre show, but it is a crime-oriented series with very cool, dark storylines and characters. We’ve seen some shows come to Comic-Con and then not return (I notice NCIS: LA isn’t back this year!), so it’s not like the TV studios don’t sometimes decide something wasn’t working at Comic-Con. But as to those truly complaining, I would say that most of these shows — some brand new ones or first timers at Comic-Con aside — have proven they can draw a crowd at Comic-Con. And I’d also note that it’s not like there is any diminishment in the more obviously on-point genre shows going, not to mention any drop in the comic book specific panels there have always been. That last point is important: While I can understand being upset that the big Hollywood stuff gets more attention and also causes bigger crowds, Comic-Con has never stopped also having a ton of comic book material and you could easily fill your entire day just attending comic book-oriented panels.
WNA: Are there any screenings, pilot or otherwise, that you are looking forward to?
EG: This is difficult for me to answer, since I’ve seen all the pilots they are screening at Comic-Con. I guess I am excited to see how the Comic-Con audience responds to some of the ones I really liked or want to see what the SDCC audience thinks of, such as Arrow, The Following and Revolution.
WNA: What upcoming projects do you wish were having a panel at Comic-Con this year?
EG: Last Resort. I’m kind of baffled it’s not going. No, it’s not exactly genre, but it’s an intense action-oriented series from a cool co-creator (Shawn Ryan) with a ton of geek appeal, including cast members from projects that are popular with the Comic-Con crowd. It’s on ABC, which means it’s pretty off brand for the network, so you’d think they’d want the Comic-Con audience to see it and help spread the word. Especially since, having seen the pilot, I can say it’s great and would have some excellent word of mouth if they did screen it at Comic-Con.
WNA: With Firefly getting a panel, are there any other fan favorite shows that are no longer in production that you would like to see represented at next year’s Comic-Con?
EG: Twin Peaks. Any chance to have a Twin Peaks reunion is appreciated and that show’s cult audience has only grown through the years.
When Nerds Attack: The lack of a presence from The Dark Knight Rises at Comic-Con seems odd considering it will be released later on in July and Warner Brothers’ Batman heavy off-site display. Do you think we might get a surprise or two promoting the film or is it too late?
Jim Vejvoda: Never say never, but I highly doubt it. Christopher Nolan doesn’t really do the convention thing unless it’s for a more traditional venue such as CinemaCon, which is an annual industry event for exhibitors. I think the Man of Steel presentation at the Warner Bros. panel is as good as it gets for Nolan fans at SDCC this year.
WNA: What do you feel will be this year’s sleeper film at Comic-Con?
JV: There are a few possibilities for smaller, less talked about projects to make a splash there. I’d guess that Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and from the director of District 9, could stand to gain the most from being at SDCC. This will be the first time fans will get a good look at Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs. robots epic Pacific Rim so that could also get a huge boost in visibility. After Earth, a sci-fi movie starring Will Smith and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, won’t be in Hall H so I don’t think that will make any impact.
WNA: Are there any screenings that you are looking forward to?
JV: I’m going to try like hell to go get into this 3D screening of Dredd that’s happening there.
WNA: What upcoming projects do you wish were having a panel at Comic-Con this year?
JV: Universal is said to have made quite a splash at CinemaCon with their upcoming slate, yet they’re not bringing their sci-fi film 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, or their comic book movie R.I.P.D., starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, to SDCC. I was also hoping that Sony might finally bring a Bond film to Comic-Con with Skyfall, but that’s not happening. And, obviously, I’m especially bummed that there won’t be a Star Trek sequel panel from J.J. Abrams and Paramount.
WNA: There has been talk about movie studios scaling back their Comic-Con budgets after a few heavily promoted films did not perform as expected. Do you feel The Avengers’ domestic gross might have changed some opinions on Comic-Con marketing?
JV: No, because the success of The Avengers was such a unique event and so expertly marketed. The Avengers is also a pre-sold brand and a result of a long-term, multi-film plan on the part of Marvel. That movie’s success and hype was years in the making. Films such as Battleship, Scott Pilgrim, and Cowboys & Aliens all going hellbent at SDCC and then tanking at the box office would understandably make any studio wary of pouring more resources into SDCC. They’re wasting money selling movies to an audience that’s already committed to seeing these films opening weekend. It’s the undecideds and the non-fanboys they need to focus on.
Joey Esposito: Honestly, it’s been hit or miss. I think it’s clear now that it maybe wasn’t most well thought out initiative ever. There were incredible marketing successes, but from an editorial perspective I think they jumped the gun a bit and made a few concessions that they shouldn’t have. They didn’t commit fully to the “reboot” they promised, creating an unnecessary confusion for existing fans and maybe a little more continuity research for newbies than they intended. I think they were good intentioned but a bit unorganized with too much reverence for the past. Not a day goes by that I don’t long for the DCU of old, but I’d rather have one completely new universe as opposed to a mish-mash that’s trying to make everybody happy.
That said, I think they’re finally finding solid footing as things get in full swing and fans have begun to gravitate to the really great books – Batman, Animal Man, I, Vampire – and DC has started trying more inventive things. Books like National Comics and Dial H are letting them explore different territory, and bringing in new talent and fresh voices is becoming increasingly frequent and that’s what mainstream comics needs. I think we’ll keep seeing a lot of stuff being thrown at the wall, and hopefully as time progresses, we’ll reach a steady, solid ground.
WNA: DC’s Before Watchmen is a controversial project but has generated a lot of buzz and revenue so far. Do you think the industry might take a cue from this and revive popular projects that previously only had a limited story?
JE: I really can’t think of any other property on the level of Watchmen that could even come close to generating the kind of buzz/controversy of Before Watchmen. But in general, I think one very positive thing to come out of that whole project, regardless of one’s opinion on it, is that it’s brought the conversation about creator rights to the forefront, along with some other events that have occurred in the past year. It’s also scary to see some Internet discussion of fans treating comic creators like brainless meat sacks. It makes me sick. But having these issues out there and discussing them – even the ugly side of them – is the only way that fans will get educated on the ins and outs of being a creator, and the raw deal that has often come along with that.
While I’m mostly enjoying the Before Watchmen books and am comfortable with what DC is doing with the property, as a creator myself, I understand the other side of the coin as well. I don’t think it’s a formula that should be emulated, but again, I don’t think there’s any other property that could really hold a candle to Watchmen when it comes to being untouchable. Maybe Maus, I guess. God help us all.
WNA: Marvel NOW seems to be a line-wide relaunch of the Marvel Universe. What are the pros and cons that you could see so far?
JE: Well, first, I’m really bummed that so many outlets labeled it as a relaunch for the sole purpose of getting clicks. It’s not a reboot, it’s not a line-wide relaunch. It’s a publishing initiative in which there are some books being relaunched and a lot of new series being released. There’s no reset of continuity, and a lot of books are staying just as they are. When the outlet misrepresents a big piece of news like that (though Marvel could have been better in their phrasing too) it does nothing but create unnecessary confusion for fans. So I guess that’s a con!
But in general, I’m excited by what they are doing. Creative shake-ups are good, and everything that is getting shifted around is a natural story progression. Bendis leaving Avengers, Brubaker leaving Cap, Hickman leaving Fantastic Four and presumably Fraction leaving Iron Man are all organic things, so they are really just taking advantage of that situation and blowing it out huge. It’s something they do every so often, and I think it can only be a positive thing. As for renumbering and all that stuff, why do we even care anymore? Comics for me are about story, not a pristine uninterrupted run. Sure, it might get annoying to organize in your long box, but are we really so set in the collector mentality that we get mad over a renumbering even when the creative team is amazing? It’s just silly.
In any case, I’m pumped for Marvel NOW and can’t wait to see what else comes out of it.
WNA: IDW has been slowly reviving many of the über popular brands from the 80’s over the years with fresh takes and great story telling. Do you think this year will finally see them overtake Image in the “Big Three” category?
JE: I think to overtake Image in that category they’ll need to have a severe increase in great creator-owned work. Their licensed stuff is great and I’m continually impressed with how fantastic books like TMNT, Ghostbusters, and Doctor Who are, but Image’s successes come from the original material they are putting out. IDW has it here and there, but I think an increased focus on that – and marketing them as big as they do their licensed properties – will be the key. People are hungry for original ideas.
WNA: Creator Owned seems to be something the more popular creators are gravitating towards. Has the Kirkman manifesto from a few years ago finally taken hold?
JE: I hope so. Again, with all of the creator rights stuff happening and mainstream comics getting controlled more and more at the executive level, I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more creator-owned work both out of a desire for a creator to own his/her own work and from the fan that wants to read new, original stories. I think, hopefully, the days of just following a book out of habit or because it stars a certain character are dwindling. We’re seeing a shift now, people leaving exclusive contracts at the Big 2 to focus on their own work. People used to come up through the indies to make it through the “promised land” of Marvel and DC. More and more we’re seeing names gain a following at the Big 2 and then branch off to do their own thing. I think a lot of creators are happy having a balance, but it’s also clear that there is more awareness, both on the creative and fan/retails side, of creator-owned comics than ever before.
WNA: Avengers vs X-Men: who do you pick?
JE: Avengers! They’ve got Spider-Man, and he’s the best.
WNA: The Walking Dead #100 is a very big deal for Image Comics, but what else are they putting out that casual readers should look for?
JE: Saga is one of my favorite books being put out anywhere. It’s glorious. Weird, but amazing. Image has been killing it this year, so keep eyes peeled for books like Debris, Fatale, Peter Panzerfaust, and the upcoming Sunset noir OGN from Top Cow’s Minotaur imprint. All great.
WNA: Disney XD is replacing Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with Avengers Assemble, Cartoon Network is swapping out Batman: The Brave and The Bold for another Batman series. Why do you think comic based cartoon aren’t sticking like they did in the 90’s?
JE: It’s hard to pin it on one reason, but I think a lot of it stems from the desire for synergy between all of the different incarnations. They want consistency between movies, tv, comics, games, etc. I think rebranding, just like it does in comics, offers a chance for new viewers, new merch, new tie-ins, and all of that kind of stuff. While us adults will most likely balk at new cartoons and things, kids are more likely to be accepting of it. They haven’t been jaded by the Internet and its desire to ruin everything yet. That was sarcasm. Mostly.