Why Comic-Con 2014 Needs to Embrace the Unexpected (Opinion)

There will be plenty of news from San Diego Comic-Con over the next month, but how much of it will be something that wasn't seen coming?
There will be plenty of news from San Diego Comic-Con over the next month, but how much of it will be something that wasn't seen coming?

The four day run — five, if you include Wednesday’s “Preview Night,” which is all-but-officially the first day of the show — of San Diego Comic-Con is filled with announcements both big and small, from massive movie franchises (Expect official announcements from both Marvel Studios and Warner Bros’ DC Entertainment division, along with new footage and “surprise” cast appearances) to independent comic books that nurture a small-but-intense fanbase. It’s a dizzying experience, if you’re there; a common joke amongst veterans is that the only way to keep up with everything at the show is to stay at home and let other people do it for you.

It’s so packed with announcements, in fact, that “Comic-Con announcements” have started to happen weeks ahead of the actual show itself. Whereas the weeks ahead of Comic-Con used to be a period of intense speculation over what would be announced at the show, that has shifted as comic book publishers now announce news weeks ahead of the actual convention in an attempt to escape the publicity black hole that is “Whatever Is Happening At Hall H” on any given day during the show (Both Boom! Studios and DC Entertainment started either teasing or outright announcing their news this week, and Marvel is expected to unveil its own announcements before the show begins as well). In some respects, Comic-Con has grown to encompass the entire month of July.

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With that in mind, what am I hoping to hear in terms of news over the next few weeks? That’s a difficult thing to answer. There are things that I would want to hear, but know that I won’t — for example, I’ve long wished that someone at DC would realize that young adult novelist Aimee Bender should be handed a Teen Titans-related comic book, given both her skill in dealing with teenagers, alienation and her love for the 1980s New Teen Titans series, but in that the publisher is days away from relaunching the franchise with a new Teen Titans No. 1 by Will Pfieffer and Kenneth Rocafort, that seems particularly unlikely (Similarly, I’d be over the moon if Marvel said that Dylan Meconis and Faith Erin Hicks could have an X-Men book of their own, but realism intrudes and reminds me that that’s hardly going to happen, sadly).

There are also things that are entirely within the realms of possibility that are on my personal wish list. Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One graphic novel, announced last year, receiving a specific release date would be one of those things (Gal Gadot’s rumored solo Wonder Woman movie would be another, especially if Warners goes with a female director for the project. Go on, Warners. Imagine the press!). More details about the follow-ups to Paul Pope’s Battling Boy would be nice, as well; there are, I believe, at least two in the works. While I’m at it, any news of new comic work by Kevin Huizenga, Al Ewing or Darwyn Cooke would be met with a lot of eagerness around these here parts, as well.

In many ways, what I hope to see at Comic-Con isn’t announcements per se, as much as it is shifts in perception and audience response; Oni Press has a number of wonderful projects announced and due for release over the next six months that I’d love to see get the attention they deserve (Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell’s Meteor Men, Paul Tobin and Ben Dewey’s I Am The Cat and Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood’s new Stumptown series being at the top of my personal list, for those curious to find out more), and the same is true of Dynamite Entertainment, where Flash Gordon, Doc Savage and the various Gold Key imprint books have been some of the best straight-forward adventure books on stands in recent months.

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I’d like to see publishers (and, to a lesser extent, movie studios, purely because I consider them to be less flexible given the time pressures of making films) to embrace the new and unexpected a little more; in a perfect world, San Diego Comic-Con would be like an extended version of this year’s Image Expo, where announcements were — for the most part — for projects that didn’t exist yet, for new ideas or new combinations of creators and with an eye to trying something else instead of another attempt at the Same Old Thing yet again. Given the status of the comic book format and industry —something relatively quick and cheap to produce, limited as much by imagination as budget and yet treated increasingly as an idea farm for other media to exploit — it feels almost irresponsible of the industry to not be more inventive and daring and willing to push things forward, even as re-mining familiar properties for new gold proves to be rewarding (Really, go check out Flash Gordon for evidence of that; few comics feel as fresh and exciting as that does, thanks to the team of Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner and Jordie Bellaire).

Ultimately, that’s what I want from Comic-Con this year, and every year: I want to be surprised. I want to find out about comics, movies, television shows or whatever that I couldn’t have seen coming, and ones that feel like they’re exciting in their unpredictability instead of comforting in their familiarity. There’s going to be a lot of news coming from Comic-Con over the next few weeks, but the stories that I’m most anticipating are the ones that I can’t anticipate, no matter how hard I try. That’s my challenge, Comic-Con: show me something new.