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San Diego Comic-Con unites fans, studios, pop culture in single bound

The 50th annual San Diego Comic-Con took place this weekend, with many attendees cosplaying as their favorite characters. Production studios such as Marvel Studios and NBC held panels throughout the event featuring announcements and previews. (Jordan Wilson/Daily Bruin)

By Jordan Wilson

July 21, 2019 10:00 pm

About 135,000 people descended on the San Diego Convention Center this weekend to celebrate the 50th annual Comic-Con.

San Diego Comic-Con celebrates a wide array of pop culture media over four days every July. Like many conventions, panels were hosted by industry professionals either in celebration or with an aim to educate fans about different aspects of media creation. Many attendees cosplayed as their favorite characters, often stopping to take pictures with other fans, while production studios, including the likes of Marvel Studios, The CW and NBC, announced and previewed new series and films.

NBC, a sponsor of the convention, brought three comedy shows to host their own panels this year. “The Good Place” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” held panels for the second year in a row, but newcomer “Superstore” held its panel Thursday in front of an audience of over 2,500 people. The cast, including stars America Ferrera and Ben Feldman, as well as show creator Justin Spitzer, discussed some of the challenges involved in creating the show.

Nico Santos, who plays the character Mateo Liwanag, said he broke down crying while filming a poignant scene at the end of the last season in which Mateo is apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, but also said that his presence on the panel was “a good sign.” Spitzer said while the show was never meant to be a “teaching” show, it became known for tackling social issues like cultural appropriation and undocumented immigration. In response to a fan question, Ferrera described the difficulty of taking on the role of director of an episode this past season.

“You think it’s your job (as a director) to make it work,” Ferrera said. “But it’s really your job not to screw it up.”

[RELATED: Box Office: Modest successes succeeded by ‘Avengers: Endgame’ smashing cinematic records]

As some studios take the opportunity to preview their new properties at Comic-Con, The CW presented its new drama series “Batwoman,” based on the popular comic book character whose alter ego Kate Kane is first cousin to the original caped crusader himself, Bruce Wayne, and is openly a lesbian.

The entire pilot was screened for attendees at the “Batwoman” panel Saturday, followed by a Q&A with series creator Caroline Dries and executive producer Sarah Schechter. When a fan asked about the possibilities of old or new villains being included in the show, Dries revealed that Burt Ward, who portrayed Batman’s sidekick Robin in the 1960s television show, will play a role in The CW’s superhero crossover event this upcoming season. The pilot showcased a high amount of action, with quite a deal of physical brawling for its protagonist.

“We keep the twists coming. The show is pretty fast-paced,” Dries said. “As we get to know her through Kate and as Kate is on this quest, that’s really where we’re going to be like, ‘Wow.'”

Other than panel rooms, much of the traffic at San Diego Comic-Con happens in the convention exhibit hall, where fans can purchase myriad merchandise ranging from Funko Pop! figurines to handmade statues. Many fans line up for hours in order to obtain exclusive merchandise like action figures and starship models from makers like Hasbro and Mattel.

[RELATED: Movie review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ lives up to hype, provides perfect conclusion to franchise]

The largest event space at the convention is Hall H, a room that played host to some of the weekend’s biggest studio announcements. Marvel Studios announced its new slate of films and television series to be released in the next two years, beginning with “Black Widow” on May 1, 2020. New properties such as “The Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” won’t be released until later in 2020 and early 2021, respectively.

A sizable crowd remained for Hall H’s final panel: a Q&A with film director Kevin Smith, who said he was just happy to have a crowd at all after many fans left when the Marvel panel ended. Smith will be releasing his new movie, “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” in October, and brought several clips to show attendees, including a clip of Smith portraying himself at an event called “Chronic Con,” modeled after Comic-Con itself. Smith went on to answer fans’ questions with long, extrapolatory stories including how he got so many celebrities to film cameos in his upcoming film.

“When we started the movie, we didn’t know if we would get people to come down and do cameos because we were shooting in Louisiana,” Smith said. “But since we were shooting during Mardi Gras, … everybody came because it’s a free trip to Mardi Gras.”

Other large panel rooms included Room 6A, which hosted a panel for the fourth and final season of the Amazon original series, “The Man in the High Castle.” The panel featured no fewer than five clips previewing the upcoming season, followed by fan questions. Many fans noted how the show feels particularly poignant given the current political climate. Executive producer David Scarpa said it was a coincidence that the show is as politically appropriate as it has become since it premiered a year before the most recent presidential election.

“Shows are usually ripped from the headlines, but … it seems as if the headlines are starting to follow along with the show,” Scarpa said. “We’ve embraced the extent with how it resonates with today.”

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