The D23 Expo Effect: Where does Star Wars and Marvel fit into SDCC 2013?

Will Disney's D23 Expo Interfere with SDCC?Several events over the last week have heightened speculation that there will be a smaller footprint of Marvel and Star Wars at San Diego Comic-Con this year. Because of 2011, there will always be concern over the presence of Disney properties at SDCC during a D23 Expo year. Simple economics would seem to indicate that it is unwise of Disney to give something away free at a show other than their own; this is even more true when their own show is only three weeks later. So, we’ll be playing a guessing game from now until July, but here is what we do know now:

Marvel’s SDCC Presence Hasn’t Been the Same Since Purchased By Disney

After the acquisition of Marvel in 2011, it was noticeable that Disney held out much of their Avengers firepower in favor of showing them off at their D23 Expo. Although there was still a Captain America screening off-site and the Marvel booth held its usual spot at the heart of the SDCC exhbit hall, it was clear that the game had changed. The “Avengers Assemble” moment of 2010 in Hall H was moved a month later and a little over an hour up the coast to the Anaheim Convention Center where D23 opened its doors to a whole new world of fans. And anyone that took part in the infamous Item 47 hunt offsite last year knows it is a new world for Marvel at SDCC. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. did appear and talk Iron Man 3, but keep in mind last year was a non-D23 Expo year.

The Clone Wars was Cancelled and Detours was Shelved

Whether or not you were a fan of the animated Star Wars series, it is clear that it did have a large following and was a consistent contributor at SDCC. The show has had a panel at SDCC the last several years and was in many ways the heart of “Star Wars Saturday” for young fans. Until a few months ago, it seemed The Clone Wars was the only new Star Wars we were going to get in the future. Once the Disney deal closed, everything changed. Since that time, we have seen a slow turn of the page from “Prequel Era” to “Sequel Era” work with all talk on the future of the characters. In recent interviews with cast on leading Star Wars podcast Rebel Forces Radio, there seems to be a general feel that the focus of Disney is to go forward. On their March 12th show, host Jimmy Mac discussed with voice actor James Arnold Taylor the sense that Disney wants to move forward. In addition, there has been talk that Disney wants to keep fans hungry for the Episode VII in 2015 and put less non-movie content out between now and then. This thinking would seem to indicate there is a likelihood that Disney will be very careful with their use of the license and how much they share with us outside of the box office. Although Disney released a statement last week about the exploration of other Star Wars related TV projects, the only certainty was that The Clone Wars would no longer be on TV and Seth Green’s children’s Star Wars project, Detours, would be shelved for the foreseeable future.

Marvel Booth Sits Out WonderCon

Although there wasn’t much of an expectation for an official Star Wars presence at CCI’s sister show, WonderCon, fans did expect to see the typical Marvel booth alongside DC. While DC is a premier sponsor for the show and Superman is prominent on the front of the guide, Marvel is nowhere to be seen thus far. Although Marvel was not particularly active at last year’s show, the booth still handed out comics and Avengers movie posters, and had a number of formal signings hosted at their booth. This year? Nothing shows up on the exhibitor map. That being said, there may still be an Iron Man 3 panel since D23 Expo is long after the film will appear in theaters. But even if that it the case the removal of the booth, giveaways and formal signings is something to be noticed. Is Disney sending CCI a message? Or is this just merely coincidence?

In the end, we know that there will be a Star Wars and Marvel presence at SDCC somewhere, but the extent of their involvement is yet unknown. Ryan Penagos, Marvel’s Executive Editorial Director of its Digital Media Group and Marvel.com, has hinted about their plans for this year. We’ve also reached out to a Lucasfilm representative on their SDCC plans, but have not yet receive a response. Whether you love or hate Disney, we know that they are very good at making money. Is it in their best interest to starve SDCC fans of Star Wars and Marvel so that we buy tickets to the D23 Expo? In October, another leading Star Wars podcast, The ForceCast, interviewed former head of Fan Relations for LucasFilm, Steven Sansweet. One of Mr. Sansweet’s claims to fame is leading efforts to make Star Wars Celebrations the mega convention that it is today. In the interview, he noted that Disney had spoken with them about Celebration and expressed a desire to make D23 Expo something similar in terms of the fan experience. Would holding out Star Wars and Marvel give D23 Expo the leverage to make a huge move on the con scene and turn their show into something that rivals Star Wars Celebration? We will see.

What do you think? Will D23 Expo be the place to see Marvel and Star Wars this summer? Could D23 become a rival to SDCC in the future? Let us know your opinions.

About Shawn Marshall