San Diego Comic-Con is a white-hot furnace in which projects are made, or destroyed. Some emerge from the flames stronger, with invincible buzz levels, while others are melted down. Here's our list of the people and projects that gained buzz from Comic-Con, and the ones that lost some of their buzz.
Top image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
To compile this list, we argued endlessly amongst ourselves. We also went around the Comic-Con floor asking everybody we could get our hands on, and polled our fellow journalists at the Con. And finally, we asked on our Facebook page and on io9 itself what people were impressed by or disappointed by.
We did not include certain projects that already had maximum buzz going into Comic-Con — like, for example, Marvel movies, or Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Those projects maintained their awesome buzz levels. But to be a buzz winner, you'd need to have some room for improvement. So here's our list:
This BBC America series has been the sleeper hit of 2013, and Orphan Black ruled Comic-Con, plain and simple. The cast were treated like rock stars, Tatiana Maslany was the highlight of the "Women Who Kick Ass" panel, and they were on one of the covers of Entertainment Weekly's SDCC tie-in issue. Both their NerdHQ panel and their regular panel were huge hits, and we kept hearing people gush about this show wherever we went.
Chuck star Zachary Levi started this project as a small event a few years ago — but this year, it was all people could talk about. The intimate, fan-driven conversations for Orphan Black and Joss Whedon were generally agreed to be better than the official Comic-Con programming, and in a year when SDCC seemed more than ever to be about the studios, this was something just for the fans.
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' space comic made a huge splash at Comic-Con this year. In addition to taking home three Eisner Awards, Saga proved that an engaging comic can still hold its own at Comic-Con. We saw some great Saga cosplay, and the lines for Vaughn and Staples were as long as the lines for anyone else.
This show from the showrunner of Fringe boasts a terrific performance from star Karl Urban. But also, its pilot completely blew the heads off the fans who watched it — and everywhere we went, we heard people gushing about this cybernetic buddy cop drama with its completely bonkers action and easy chemistry between Urban and co-star Michael Ealy.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
This year's "Avengers cast lines up" moment belonged to the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past, with the combined casts of Bryan Singer's two X-films and Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class on stage together. Watching the two Magnetos joke around together on stage was an amazing treat, and the footage we saw was genuinely powerful. Oh, and we glimpsed the makings of Sentinels. A lot of people went from apathetic to out-of-control excited.
Agents of SHIELD
This showalready had massive amounts of anticipation before Comic-Con — but people seemed genuinely jazzed by the pilot. (Even if we had reservations about it.) Everywhere we went, we heard people talking about Clark Gregg's many funny moments in the episode, and how charming and dynamic the cast were in person. This show leapt to the top of many people's must-watch lists.
The other new show that we heard people raving about everywhere was another Fox debut — this TV show about Ichabod Crane waking up in the 21st century and having to contend with the Headless Horseman in a world of automatic weapons and flak jackets just totally won people over with its light, over-the-top tone. Stars Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie establish a relationship that's reminiscent of Elementary, which is a very good thing. This show felt anything but sleepy.
The World's End
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright had the unenviable task of launching Hall H on Friday morning, with a panel about their third and final genre-defying comedy film. And they completely blew everybody away, with amazing humor and stories about maiming themselves on the set. We heard lots of people talking about their newfound buzz for this movie about drinking oceans of beer. (Pun on the word "buzz" totally intended.)
Person of Interest
The NSA was this show's best PR agency — the government and Edward Snowden did an amazing job of making this supercomputer show feel newly relevant and terrifying, and I hope CBS is sending the NSA regular royalty checks. The fact that everything on this show is coming true — and the show is responding by becoming more science-fictional and delving further into artificial intelligence — made everybody giddy. And they had tens of thousands of room cards celebrating their prescience.
Speaking of sleeper hits... people had subdued expectations for director Terry Gilliam after his last few movies. But even though Gilliam himself didn't show up at the panel for his new movie, the glimpse of the movie's opening 10 minutes spoke for itself. Including naked Christoph Waltz, and some visuals that felt like Blade Runner meets Sesame Street. People were wondering if this was the successor to Twelve Monkeys and Brazil that we'd all been waiting for.
People were already pretty stoked for Harmon's return to Community after a year in exile. But when he emerged on stage in a DIY Iron Man suit, and basically blew up the panel with a stream of self-loathing profanity and weirdness — he put a cherry on top of our sundae, and reminded us why he's the greatest. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
Amazing Spider-Man 2
There was a lot of fatigue about sequels and remakes (see below) — but thanks to Andrew Garfield's stunt of getting on stage in character as Spider-Man, this movie managed to rise above the pack. And our first glimpse of Electro in action was pretty sweet as well.
Honestly, this con belonged to Cosmos. There were other things being shown off at Comic-Con, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson's upcoming stint as our new Carl Sagan just totally won people over. There was tons of Cosmos stuff everywhere, and the new trailer was boss. And in the middle of so much canned hype, some sincere wonder about the vastness of the universe was just irresistible.
The footage we saw at Comic-Con was just mind-blowing. No one seemed too pumped up about this film beforehand, and Legendary Pictures was just coming off the failure of a similar film, Pacific Rim. But the panel was amazing, and meanwhile the offsite Godzilla experience was knee-knockingly awesome. The attention to detail was insane, and it was the most thoughtful thing we've ever seen at Comic-Con.
This was the first Comic-Con without Twilight in years — and guess what? It was still mobbed with awesome women. In the line for the Hall H ladies' room, we heard one woman who'd camped out since 8 PM the previous evening say, "It's a girls' weekend. We ditch our husbands and kids and come to Comic-Con." Hailee Steinfeld from Ender's Game and Tara from True Blood both rocked amazing nail art. We saw countless TARDIS dresses. The Women Who Kick Ass panel was a major highlight. And female creators were everywhere, making their presence felt. Image by Kevin Winter/Getty.
Man of Steel 2
We really agonized about whether to include this one — because there are a lot of doubts about whether introducing a new Batman in the Superman sequel will actually work. But you can't deny Zack Snyder's announcement made a big splash. People may be uncertain about how it'll turn out, but there's lots of excitement for now.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
This was the number one thing we saw people shaking their heads over. The sequel to the beloved animated classic had a primo spot in Hall H, and landed like a soggy meatball. The panel opened with a lame sketch (although Kristen Schaal was pretty hilarious in it). The animation in the scenes we saw weren't as good as the animation in the first movie, which is sad. We do love all the food puns, though.
300: Rise of an Empire
This sequel to Zack Snyder's beloved Greek war movie showed a decent amount of footage and tried to explain how it's both a prequel and sequel. And they spent tons of money on shwag bags and pervasive imagery — but nobody seemed jazzed. The footage looked over the top but not thrilling, and the lack of Gerard Butler shouting "THIS IS SPARTA" was keenly felt.
And then there was this Aaron Eckhart vehicle, in which he's a 200-year-old Frankenstein monster fighting demons and dealing with friendly gargoyles. The panel was kind of subdued, with Eckhart offering to take his shirt off and then retracting the offer. And the footage looked like a flood of cheesy CG effects, with nothing grounding any of it. This film was one of the ones we heard people grousing about the most.
Of all the TV pilots we saw at Comic-Con, this was one of the least appreciated. This story of 100 nubile teens dropped onto a post-apocalyptic Earth felt rushed and silly in the pilot, and all of the teen archetypes felt too broadly sketched. At one point during the pilot screening, one of the show's main characters appears to be dead — and cheers spontaneously broke out at the thought of her death. Not a good sign, although shows often improve on their pilots.
Jeff Bridges came to Comic-Con during the weekend when his film R.I.P.D. was one of the year's biggest flops, with a budget estimated at $180 million and almost no ticket sales whatsoever. And Seventh Son, his movie about a witch-hunter training an apprentice, seemed like more of the same. The footage looked cute, but oddly reminiscent of Nic Cage's Season of the Witch. Nobody seemed particularly fired up about this one.
This show celebrated its 20th anniversary at Comic-Con, and this was an opportunity to get people pumped up about a possible third X-Files movie. Instead, as commenter Batlife says, "I was disappointed in the X-Files anniversary panel - I thought there would be an awesome reel, more energy, something. It seemed like an afterthought panel unequal to the amount of fan love anticipating it."
And here's one more TV pilot that didn't quite win people over — Josh Holloway from Lost, starring in a Chuck-esque show about a guy with a computer in his head. This pilot was one of the worst things we saw this week. It's just dull, and the leads lack chemistry. The pilot does have one spectacularly written moment, but from everyone we talked to, this show is on very few people's "to watch" lists (unless they're fans of Holloway).
Sequels and Remakes
Every year, the studios pack Hall H with sequels, reboots and remakes — and in general this year, we felt a general "franchise fatigue" among people in Hall H. Obviously, people are psyched for the huge superhero franchise movies, but we got the impression that studios have to really up the ante on these movies to attract big buzz at the convention. Movies like Riddick, Kick-Ass 2 and RoboCop all brought perfectly good trailers and footage — but aside from the general feeling that RoboCop looks pretty interesting (if nowhere near the original), nobody seemed too excited about any of it. We came away feeling as though Vin Diesel might be on-point with Riddick — if you're working a franchise, create a small, cheap movie designed for the established core audience.
The Mortal Instruments
And finally, there's the movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare's books, which clearly wants to be the next Twilight or Harry Potter. And it just didn't work for the Hall H crowds — this panel probably would have gone over better in a smaller room packed with fans of the books. The footage looked fine, but nothing mind-blowing — and the panel probably hurt for a lack of Lena Headey. It just wasn't the right approach for the massive Hall H audience.