San Diego Comic-Con 2019: the good, the bad and the ambiguous

24 JULY 2019

Comic-Con is done. Now it's time to settle in and analyze what we saw and did and learned. What shows and movies are we anticipating? What bombshell announcements rocketed in our worlds? What panels made us wish we had just slept in?


Marvel. Just in time to give you a new comic book world to read in the last month of summer, Marvel announced The Eternals - and splashed serious star power all over the Hall H stage. Salma Hayek! Benedict Cumberbach! Angelina Jolie! Chris Hemsworth! I think people were less jazzed about Natalie Portman as the female Thor but we can just focus on the rest - like Shang-Chi and Mahershala Ali as Blade.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Not listed simply because it was my #1 panel goal. Fans of the beloved book art have hoped the look of the movie creatures would be true - and this panel proved that del Toro and Andre Ovredal completely landed the jump. 

Terminator: Dark Fate. This seemed to convert a lot of disinterested people into ardent pre-fans. Linda Hamilton looked absolutely commanding and the movie seems like a good ride from start to finish.

Dark Crystal. I heard words like "magic" and "imaginative" from attendees who normally don't use words like that. I think this shot up to the Top 5 Must-See List for a lot of people.

Star Trek. I'm including the panels, the offsite, the Captain Picard wineglasses, everything. But the description "a new Star Trek show made by people who love the old Star Trek shows" is especially hard to resist.

ScareDiego. I never thought there'd be a Wednesday night offering that could satisfy more than Preview Night but I believe ScareDiego fits that bill. Sorry to have missed it; I heard only glowing reports. 

The Walking Dead movie. TWD has earned its share of scoffs in recent years, but panel attendees were begrudgingly entertained by the panel - and then excited by the news of a movie (and yes, Rick is in it.) 


Comics as a whole. This isn't a lament on how SDCC is no longer about comic books. I've known that for years! The dusty, bagged-and-boarded old comic book in my heart now lives in Emerald City Comicon and it's happy there. Still. There just wasn't good hunting this year - not in the Exhibit Hall, not in the programming. I raided Fantagraphics and a few other spots but it speaks volumes that my shipping bill this year was half what it normally is. That said, an exhibitor told me exuberantly that their booth had done very well. Exact words: "Comics are back! Everyone thinks so." Apparently his and other people's sales have been rising the last 2 years.

Lines. I know lines are always bad. But this year was worse than usual. People were forced to line up in odd areas or on uneven terrain, or snaked around together so closely that all lines merged as soon as movement started. Staffers lost control of their lines. Actual signings were canceled because of boisterous behavior. Too many lines were combined to create one confused and ungovernable mass of humanity. Are there line or crowd control consultancies that can provide CCI with some fresh strategies? Because there has got to be a way better than this.

HBO.  Probably not their fault that certain showrunners bailed on the Game of Thrones panel, but it still created a tense and unsatisfying final SDCC appearance. The Watchmen "in world experience" in the Gaslamp also fell flat - why did they even bother? With Silicon Valley returning for its final season in October, that would have been a worthwhile appearance - their panel a few years ago was the hardest I've ever laughed at SDCC. We did get a pretty Westworld trailer, but on the whole, HBO made a poor showing this year.

The Witcher. It's on Netflix so I'm sure we'll all give it a roll, but nothing I heard sounded too appetizing. In fact - I'll be brutal - I mostly heard laughter. Maybe it was just the SDCC presentation? Sometimes it just doesn't land right.

SDCC50. Oh, did this happen? I must have missed it. After build up for the last few years, we got a few "days of yore" panels, a special hashtag and a few offerings at the not-yet-open museum. It was all very subdued. Not that I expected Jack Kirby's ghost to jump out of a cake, but it seems like the festivities could have been turned up a notch. That said - I did think it was nice that CCI honored John Rogers.


Offsites.  I didn't go to a single one, not even the Tech Hall of Innovation, because I was that busy. So I'm reporting on mere hearsay... But that hearsay wasn't positive. People seemed to think Amazon was visually impressive but not overwhelming. Brooklyn Nine Nine seemed to win fans over, maybe because expectations were low? Pennyworth struck the same note as "that wasn't bad - but it wasn't phenomenal" - and then we had the real winner, Star Trek, which inspired multiple attendees to show me pictures on their phone.

Snowpiercer. People I spoke with seemed evenly split on whether it was blah or interesting. There seemed to be a "it will never be as good as the movie" sentiment before the Con - but the panel promised a better budget, better sets and seemed to convince at least half the audience to tune in. And it's nice to see Jennifer Connelly in action.

His Dark Materials. More mixed reports that were extremely divided. "Boring and "contrived" were said but also "good replacement for Game of Thrones." People I trust mostly shrugged over it, but YMMV. I'm willing to give it a shot. I think it just comes down to the different tastes of who saw the panel.

Veronica Mars. I thought this would be a heartwarming panel welcomed by all; I was wrong. Some of the ambivalence seems related to the show itself, but Hulu's decision to drop it during SDCC - which meant fans didn't have time to watch but got spoiled on social - was puzzling.

Batwoman and Pennyworth. Batwoman seemed to get a gentleman's C; nice to look at, nothing profound. And people were disappointed Ruby Rose wasn't at her promised panels. Pennyworth earned higher grades in general, though I also heard some skepticism.

So that was SDCC. After we fought and won the registration battle, suffered through the hotel sale, speculated for months on what wonders awaited us - we got the above.

I did hear a lot of disappointment over the lack of fanfare and the absence of certain studios. But most of the feedback I heard was about etiquette and bad behavior, and also what people repeatedly called "disorganization." Shuttle issues, mismanagement, erroneous information, events canceled without notifying people in line. Many people said it felt like a new team was at the helm. I actually didn't encounter much of that, likely due to my preference for smaller panels and staying right next door at the Marriott - but I heard it again and again from attendees, exhibitors and staffers. And it came from people who are experienced Con-goers and know what a typical level of efficiency looks like. 

I had a good Con. Sometimes it seems like the roll of the dice. I think it's key to manage your expectations, set reasonable goals and anticipate what will and won't work for you. And to go in hard when you really want something, like the people who dedicated their all to seeing that Marvel panel. But sometimes luck just has its way with you, good or bad.

I hope you had a magnificent Comic-Con and that I'll see you next year.


  1. My verdict is... it was an okay Con. Nothing special. Next year I'm going to avoid the big halls and perhaps not be so ambitious/overconfident with my time. The frustration isn't worth it. It may be that the 10+hour waits are a younger person's game. I have better things to do with my time.

    1. I think a lot of people feel that way. I know I avoid the big rooms for that reason - and I find smaller panels more appealing anyhow.