By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
Comic-Con 2017 kicks off Wednesday night riding a powerful surge of momentum and facing growing competition along the pop culture landscape.
The momentum comes from the announcement just two weeks ago that organizers made agreements with the city and major hotels to keep Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center for another three years, through 2021.
That will take Comic-Con past its 50th anniversary here in San Diego and gives organizers, and fans, a sense of stability after years of rumors of Comic-Con moving to Anaheim or Las Vegas.
But as Comic-Con has exploded in popularity, pop culture has gone mainstream, giving fans plenty of options to pursue their passions. One web site — GeekCityGuides.com — listed more than 200 pop culture conventions in the past year, including cons on anime, video games, board games, miniature war gaming and steampunk.
And just last week, Disney completed its D23 Expo in Anaheim, a celebration of all things Disney that managed to make headlines with the first detailed look at the “Star Wars” themed land expected to open in 2019 in Disneyland. The “Star Wars” franchise used to have a major presence at Comic-Con, but not as much since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012.
Still, Comic-Con remains the largest, most influential pop culture convention in the world and as it pushes toward 50, it’s not slowing down
More than 130,000 fans, and media from around the world, will once again turn San Diego into the entertainment media capital of the world this week. Here’s a preview of what’s in store:
Television: “Game of Thrones” fans couldn’t ask for better timing. The hugely popular fantasy show began its new season on HBO Sunday night and the stars of the show take center stage just five days later in the cavernous Hall H.
An emotional time could be in store for anyone attending the Friday panel of “The Walking Dead,” the hit zombie survival drama that last week had to shut down filming of its current season after stuntman John Bernecker died in an on-set accident. It’s unknown how his death will be acknowledged during the panel, but cast members have always talked about the close-knit relationships of those working on the show.
Also expect a lot of buzz from Netflix hit, “Stranger Things,” which debuted last year and has burst onto the pop culture scene. Its new season begins in October and its gets the Comic-Con star treatment by being featured in a Hall H panel on Saturday.
Movies: Comic-Con has long been the launch pad for movie studios to get word out about their upcoming blockbusters and this year looks to be no different.
Marvel studios, fresh off the success of this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Spiderman,” and “Logan” films has not announced what it will show off in Hall H. But expect cast and clips from the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including “Black Panther,” “Thor:Ragnarok” and “The Avengers: Infinity War.”
20th Century Fox is also scheduled to appear in Hall H, and it could show off some of its diverse list of upcoming movies including, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and the “Deadpool” sequel.
Meanwhile, Warner Brothers will highlight its long-awaited “Blade Runner” sequel and the DC universe, which has gotten new life due to the success of “Wonder Woman.” She will be one of the characters in the upcoming “Justice League” and the studio is also promising an early look at the stand-alone debut of another League member, “Aquaman.”
And Warner Brothers will also offer a presentation on “Ready Player One,” based on a popular young adult science fiction novel, and directed by Steven Spielberg, who will be making only his second Con appearance.
Gaming: Video games have increasingly taken on a more visible role at Comic-Con, with companies offering playable demos of new and upcoming games. This year is no different, including a reveal of a new zombie mode for the popular “Call of Duty” series.
But new this year is Game Creator Connection, an opportunity for people who want to get into the video game business to gain valuable advice and mentoring from gaming veterans. It includes a Game Pitch Review, where participants will have three minutes to pitch an idea about a video game.
Comics: It used to be that comics ruled the day at the Con, but it has taken a back seat to movies and television shows. That was made clear by the recent announcement by Mile High Comics, one of the nation’s largest retailers, that it would stop participating as a vendor at Comic-Con because the event had grown beyond its origins as a gathering of comic book fans.
Still, the Con will have its share of comic book retailers and panels and the Con’s theme this year is a tribute to legendary artist, writer and editor Jack Kirby. Kirby co-created such classic characters as “The Fantastic Four,” the “X-Men” and the “Hulk” and is one of the most influential figures at the Con. Fittingly, Kirby graces the cover of this year’s Con souvenir book and more than a dozen panels related to his works and career are scheduled for the Con this year.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.
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