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Six Takeaways From Comic-Con 2018

The costumed hordes have finally left San Diego’s convention center at the close of another Comic-Con. This year’s edition was light on Marvel and “Game of Thrones,” but it still supplied some memorable moments: Jamie Lee Curtis comforting a sobbing fan who said “Halloween” saved his life, for instance, went viral. Despite the reduction in star power, the Con did provide some worthy insight into the latest trends in geek culture, judging by the response from all those fanboys and fangirls to the projects previewed in San Diego. Here are six takeaways from five days spent in and around Hall H.

Marvel, HBO leave a void
As it continues to promote its D23 Expo and Star Wars Celebration events, Disney had a light presence at Comic-Con, lacking any panels promoting Marvel’s “Avengers” sequels and spinoffs. “Iron Fist” and “Cloak & Dagger,” two upcoming Marvel television series, did host panels, but with no other movies or new live-action TV seasons scheduled to premiere before 2019, the company mostly skipped the gathering. The same was true for HBO, which brought neither of its big franchises, “Game of Thrones” or “Westworld.” The former’s final season won’t premiere until next year, while the latter’s second season finished in June. In their absence, Comic-Con 2018 was thin on blockbusters — and potential blockbusters — a void that simply wasn’t filled by any of the projects screened.

‘Fantastic Beasts’ has a Johnny Depp problem
Warner Bros. chose not to hide the scandal-plagued star during its Hall H panel, but it might have been better to discourage him from making the trek to Southern California. Depp skipped the Q&A portion of the “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” plug session, but he appeared as a coda, rambling on about muggles while decked out in costume as the titular evil wizard. Social-media reaction was brutal, particularly because Amber Heard, Depp’s ex-wife, who has accused the actor of abusing her, appeared in a panel for “Aquaman” roughly an hour later. This potential PR disaster will only be exacerbated when the film debuts in November.

Female, LGBTQ representation matters
A sizzle reel welcoming Jodie Whittaker highlighted positive fan reaction to her casting as the first female Doctor in “Doctor Who,” a theme echoed in the room; Ryan Reynolds said he wanted to explore his character’s pansexuality in “Deadpool”; trans actress Nicole Maines was introduced as the newest cast member of “Supergirl,” where she’ll play TV’s first transgender superhero. Despite recent misogynistic or bigoted reactions to inclusion efforts in genre universes, diversity was a selling point in San Diego — one that studios touted and crowds embraced.

Sony has MCU envy
Can Spider-Man’s sprawling array of heroes and villains populate a new cinematic universe? That’s the challenge facing Sony Pictures, which has long fantasized about producing its own in-house equivalent to what Kevin Feige has pulled off at Marvel (Spider-Man is a Marvel character too, but it’s licensed to Sony). “Venom,” which features the hulking Spidey villain, will be its first stab at constructing that kind of interconnected franchise. It will be followed up by “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” an animated adventure featuring Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), an interracial web spinner. Fans at Comic-Con ate up the footage that Sony debuted, but these characters could prove too obscure for the wider public.

Showrunners are stars too
TV continues to drive the volume of big-ticket programming at Comic-Con. This year Hall H featured nine panels specific to live-action film — and 11 television-focused offerings. In that atmosphere, showrunners demonstrated more clout than ever in San Diego, rivaling that of movie directors. Vince Gilligan was the mayor of Hall H on July 19, holding court on back-to-back panels for “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad.” Amazon’s showrunners panel featured a murderer’s row of exec-producer talent, including Carlton Cuse and Comic-Con icon Neil Gaiman, who’s working on an adaptation of “Good Omens.”

It’s not Zack Snyder’s DC anymore
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” were slammed by critics for being overly dark and depressing. It was an aesthetic that Snyder, who previously helmed “Watchmen,” helped develop, and it seemed to turn off all but the most die-hard fanboys and fangirls. No longer. Upcoming DC films such as “Aquaman,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” and “Shazam!” are leaning into humor. Footage shown to the Hall H faithful was sprinkled with playful asides and one-liners and had an optimistic tone that was far removed from Batman’s brooding.

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