Comic-Con 2014 is expected to add $178 million to the San Diego economy. Hollywood has much more than that on the line. Every major studio is here in some form. So is every major comic book publisher and game developer. For all of them, Comic-Con is an annual rite of passage in which publicists hawk new products and projects. If fans get on board, riches could follow.
Of course, the biggest reveals are always reserved for Saturday when Time Warner's (TWX) DC Entertainment and Walt Disney's (DIS 0.56%) Marvel Studios take the stage at Comic-Con's famed 8,000-seat Hall H. What should investors be watching for today? We asked three of our top media and pop culture analysts to weigh in.
Leo Sun: What will Marvel do with the outcasts?
I'd like to know what Disney and Marvel's long-term plans are for its recently reclaimed characters. Specifically, Daredevil, Blade, Ghost Rider, and Punisher.
We know that Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones are headed to Netflix in shows that will be connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm not a fan of the idea. First off, putting these characters on TV restricts them to the "B team" -- much like the DC characters on CW -- making it hard to transfer them to big-budget movies. Second, Disney is missing out on box office profits by restricting Daredevil -- a character that grossed $179 million on a budget of $78 million in Fox's 2003 film -- to a cable show.
I've also been a fan of the idea of second team of "darker" heroes -- like Hawkeye, Black Widow, Daredevil, Blade, and the Punisher -- to complement the main Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Most of these characters have crossed paths before in the comics, in major story arcs. Blade is also historically connected to SHIELD, and is a highly marketable character. The first three Blade films grossed $415 million on a combined budget of $164 million.
I believe that this new group would be a nice launching point for new solo films. Now that Marvel has teased its "Phase 3" schedule ahead of Comic-Con 2014, I'd like to see some clearer plans for bringing these well-known characters back into the film universe. For me, as both a fan and an investor, that would be more exciting than hearing an update about Ant-Man or Dr. Strange.
Steve Symington: Can Marvel Studios finally begin to drive genuine enthusiasm for Ant-Man?
We already know Ant-Man is set to play a big role in launching Marvel's slate of Phase 3 films in July 2015. And if investors weren't already worried enough that Ant-Man could suffer from a lack of interest from the broader movie-going public, those concerns intensified in late May after Marvel cited creative differences for the surprising departure of the film's longtime co-writer and director, Edgar Wright.
Now, however, with a retooled script from Anchorman's Adam McKay and a new director in Peyton Reed (Bring It On and Yes Man), Marvel has the perfect opportunity with Comic-Con 2014 to showcase to fans and investors alike what Ant-Man has to offer. Sure enough, Marvel has already confirmed Ant-Man's cast and crew will be present at the convention, and I know I'm not alone in hoping they'll treat attendees to something more significant than the test footage we saw at Comic-Con in 2012.
In the end, in the very likely event people like what they see, it'll go a long way toward appeasing skeptics who've argued Marvel's Phase 3 needs a stronger cinematic property to kick things off.
Tim Beyers: Will DC's competing universes exasperate fans?
At the recent Television Critics Association press tour, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns ruled out any sort of connection between the TV universe that comprises Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, and Constantine and forthcoming movies, including 2016's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Isn't that a risk? At some point, as the universes grow, DC will have to make decisions about which characters and stories are off-limits to the TV shows, and vice versa. Either that, or unleash a mashup in the style of "Crisis on Infinite Earths," after the 1985-86 comic book maxi-series of the same name. Over 12 issues, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez blew apart, and then reassembled, a DC universe that had become so unwieldy that fans could hardly discern which character belonged where.
Then again, maybe that's the point. Maybe DC wants the sort of mega crossover event that Marvel kicked off with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and continued with Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. (Hail, Hydra!) Either way, at Comic-Con 2014 I'd like to better understand Warner's intentions with TV and movies since so much is riding on the success of DC Entertainment franchises.