As the sun rose over San Diego for the final day of Comic-Con, we soldered on our homemade Imperator Furiosa arms and mentally steeled ourselves for the shattering fan-gasm that is sure to be the (flips through program) annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel? Hoo boy. Let's get to it.
Comic-Con, as you know by now, is a game of winners and losers. Friday brought us a transcendent Star Wars concert; Saturday was highlighted by Channing Tatum shooting a superhero selfie at the Marvel panel. Sunday has a reputation for bringing on the dregs of the convention, but this year it was also where a lot of hotly anticipated TV shows made their debut, from consistent fan favorites like the CW's Supernatural to newcomers like FX's Scream Queens.
Let's see what we can do with these humble Sunday offerings and tabulate our final round of winners and losers.
LOSS: It's barely been five years since Tim Kring's overstuffed Heroes limped off the air. In the time since, the show's creators apparently watched a lot of X-Men movies and wondered why they couldn't make a primetime TV show out of them. The result is Heroes Reborn, which imagines a world in which "evos" (mutants) are hunted by "the government" (the government) and must band together to stop the murdering.
The trailer that NBC screened in Hall H suggested most of Heroes' worst tendencies are still intact: introducing a bewildering array of new characters every few seconds; padding out the run time with gobs of empty foreboding; and remaining totally loyal to its overwrought yet thuddingly dull mythology. Heroes Reborn was weirdly ubiquitous at Comic-Con this year — ads ran on the sides of shuttles around town, and a giant activation in the Gaslamp Quarter drew more than 1,000 fans to trudge through a 2-minute interactive movie. Meanwhile, the show is now available as — yes! — an app. But the thrill is gone, and it ain't coming back. These heroes don't look reborn, they look regurgitated.
WIN: The secret energy source of Comic-Con for the past decade may well be The CW's The Vampire Diaries, which always seems to generate an outsize amount of enthusiasm here relative to its modest ratings. On the brink of its seventh season, the show was finally promoted from smaller ballrooms to Hall H, where star Ian Somerhalder dropped a bombshell: the "sexy, volatile, fun, dangerous" Damon we "fell in love with in season one" is returning in season seven. Fully processing the implications of this return to form likely require watching the first six seasons, which we haven't gotten around to yet. But if there's one thing this day needed, it was the volatile sexiness that the Phineas and Ferb panel utterly failed to deliver.
And now, we look back and determine the win and loss that defined Comic Con 2015:
Every year San Diego insists that Comic-Con hasn't outgrown its host city. And every year Comic-Con proves it wrong: despite the incremental improvements it makes to line management and bathroom maintenance, the growing mainstream popularity of genre fiction overwhelms it at every turn. An expansion plan now underway feels like too little, too late, and it's a shame. Fans deserve better than 17-hour line waits amongst mice and cockroaches. They deserve larger venues, added hotel capacity, and street vendors selling food and beverages to make all that line-waiting a little more bearable. In other words, fans deserve Los Angeles, and while we can understand why its current host would be sad to let the Con go, San Diego has an increasingly hard time making the case that the city still deserves it.
Biggest Win: Runner Up
WIN: A big shoutout to every single person who cosplayed at Comic-Con this year. In two years of attendance I've still never seen a bad cosplay here, and many are jaw-droppingly good. In a place where so much of the enthusiasm feels manufactured, it's the handmade costumes that tether fandom to reality. To the Raiden with blinking neon electric arms; to the Batgirl in a wheelchair; to the note-perfect Admiral Ackbar standing outside the show floor yelling, "It's a trap!"; to everyone who walked in — you are the beating heart of this festival and the source of all that is good about it.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens may be the year's most anticipated movie, and with Comic-Con being a haven for Star Wars fans, the show was J.J. Abrams' to lose. But rather than phone it in, Abrams and co. went overboard on fan service. The actors who play Luke, Leia, and Han Solo reunited on stage, and a charming behind-the-scenes video stoked fans' anticipation. By the time a legion of Stormtroopers led more than 6,000 people to a nearby venue to hear the San Diego Symphony play music from Star Wars, the winner of Comic-Con 2015 was as clear as the fireworks over San Diego.
In a year where Comic-Con treated fans more like cattle than ever before, it fell to Star Wars to make something enormous feel intimate and personal once again. Here's hoping that feeling remains when the The Force Awakens hits theaters in December.