If you’re in town for San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest buzzwords is “activation.” That’s studio-speak for the attractions outside of Comic-Con that I mentioned yesterday in my last dispatch. But first, some context: The San Diego Convention Center is essentially across the street from both Petco Park and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. And there’s so much happening inside the convention center that some fans miss the action outside.
Beautiful, isn’t it? As someone who used to live in San Diego, I can say that it wasn’t always that nice. But even before the ballpark was there, work was underway to revitalize the Gaslamp. And for over a decade, studios have used the surrounding Gaslamp neighborhood to expand the reach of Comic-Con itself. With the activations, fans don’t need a badge to have a Comic-Con experience.
Blast from the past
The very first activation I ever went to at Comic-Con was the recreation of Flynn’s Arcade for Disney’s Tron: Legacy. The original Tron happens to be a personal favorite of mine, but I would have gone for the retro arcade alone. It was a working arcade with both classic games and working versions of the Tron-inspired video games from the movie itself. But it was also so much more.
After about 10 minutes to play the games, Journey’s Separate Ways was played as the walls shifted to reveal a passage to Flynn’s laboratory, the game grid, the End of Line Club, and other locations from the movie. They were such convincing recreations from the film that they gave me a weird sense of déjà vu when I finally saw Tron: Legacy. It felt like I had actually been to those places. Now that’s the power of a successful activation.
This year’s big activation is the Dungeons & Dragons tavern, which I have not been able to get into yet. I’m working on it. In the meantime, here are some of the most memorable sights awaiting fans in the Gaslamp Quarter.
That is a real sandcastle that was created to promote The Sandmanan Audible original series from Amazon. It’s not exactly the same as Netflix’s adaptation of Sandmanalthough both are based on the same DC comic book series written by Neil Gaiman. What I can’t demonstrate for you here is that at certain intervals, audio from the Audible adaptation is played to further set the mood.
That is a recreation of one of the key locations from HBO’s House of the Dragon. I haven’t been inside yet, so I am not sure what to expect from that one. But note the dragon claw marks on the side of the wall.
Behold the glory of Mecha Cookie Monster! He is your new god.
Not pictured, but nearby, is a Bob’s Burger‘s activation which actually gives away free burgers during the day. The lines are probably long for that one. And beyond the ballpark, Nintendo has its own Switch-themed activation for younger fans.
One ring to rule them all…
Let’s move on to some of the biggest news and trailers for the day. Amazon Prime Video’s latest trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power captured more of the grandeur of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth than previous glances at the series. Hopefully, the show itself will live up to all of this when it premieres on September 2.
Still walking, still dead
The Walking Dead may not be the cultural phenomenon it once was, but it still has plenty of fans at Comic-Con. And they were among the first to see the trailer for the final episodes of the series. This trailer sets up the show’s remaining survivors for what promises to be a bloody showdown with the Commonwealth. But perhaps most alarmingly, it suggests that there are walkers who can now perform more human actions like opening doors. That’s terrifying.
AMC won’t resume airing The Walking Dead until October 2. In the meantime, fans will get the chance to watch a new six-episode anthology series, Tales of the Walking Deadwhich will premiere on August 16. This series will bring in Terry Crews, Parker Posey, Olivia Munn, Danny Ramirez, Jillian Bell, Poppy Liu, Jessie T. Usher, Daniella Pineda, and Anthony Edwards, as well as Samantha Morton reprising her role as Alpha.
Remember that Rick Grimes trilogy of Walking Dead theatrical films that we were supposed to get when Andrew Lincoln left the show? Well, that’s not happening anymore. However, Lincoln and his former co-star, Danai Gurira, dropped by the Walking Dead panel to announce a six-episode Rick and Michonne miniseries that will reunite the former lovers and conclude their storyline. Both Lincoln and Gurira will executive produce the miniseries.
The Marvel of animation
On Saturday, all eyes will be on Marvel Studios’ Hall H presentation about the future of the MCU’s live-action shows and movies. But on Friday, Ballroom 20 was the place to be for a look at Marvel Studios’ animation slate.
By far the most anticipated animated series on the horizon is X-Men ’97the animated revival of X-Men: The Animated Series. Unfortunately, the animation for that show is not very far along and we’ll have to wait until fall 2023 to see it on Disney+. Most of the surviving vocal cast are reprising their roles, and the new status quo has Magneto leading the X-Men. A second season is also in the works.
There was also some bad news about Spidey’s new animated show: Spider-Man: Freshman Year. Although Marvel promised it would arrive in 2023 when it was announced last year, the new release window is 2024. That seems like a long time. The show was initially described as the missing year of Spider-Man in the MCU before he appeared in Captain America: Civil War. But the early look at the character designs, including Doctor Strange, Doctor Octopus, and Daredevil, suggest that it is now separate.
It was also announced that the MCU’s Daredevil, Charlie Cox, will reprise his role on the show. And while Freshman Year is two years away, Marvel Studios is already committing to a second season called Spider-Man: Sophomore Year.
Marvel’s What If…? is skipping 2022, but the second season will arrive early next year and a third season was confirmed at the con. The Marvel Zombies animated series was revealed to be TV-MA, a first for Marvel Animation. That show doesn’t have a release window yet.
The only full trailer from the convention that was released online was for I Am Groota series of five-animated shorts starring the Guardians of the Galaxy’s cutest member. Bradly Cooper will reprise his role as Rocket in at least one of the shorts when it premieres on August 10.
Saturday is the going to be the biggest one of the con. This is the day when Marvel and DC are running their big Hall H panels. If there are announcements to be made, this is where they will come.