Web Content Still Finding Its Place At Comic-Con

Comic-Con is a great gorgeous whale of pop culture, one that may have finally outgrown the San Diego tank in its effort to bring together every single possible form of entertainment out there. And if you approach the event as a microcosm of media today, then the way web content has squeezed itself into this five days of panels, exhibits, events and parties is mirrored accordingly.

Following on last year’s successful panel, The Guild this year took over the Indigo Ballroom at the neighboring Hilton, which was filled to capacity at over 1,600.

Wide-angle POV on 'The Guild' panel. Photo by Lan Bui.

Not all of those 1,600+ people were there specifically for The Guild — because of Comic-Con’s high capacity, fans who want to attend a specific panel will often spend the entire day camping out in the same room to make sure they can get in. In the case of this Saturday, The Guild was immediately followed by the panel for NBC’s Community, so it’s impossible to tell how much of the room consisted of loyal Joel McHale fans biding their time.

However, I will say that the two girls sitting next to me were definitely Guild fans (I could tell because they sang along with Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? when it played before the panel). It’s also a huge credit to The Guild‘s popularity that Comic-Con felt it worthy of commanding such a space.

And The Guild owned that stage, entertained the fans with not only an early look at the third episode of the season, but also the fourth season’s heir apparent to Date My Avatar, a Bollywood-infused music video featuring plenty of dancing, a old-timey kung fu sequence and an elephant. Game On will premiere on YouTube later this week, according to Tubefilter.

Walking the convention floor meant discovering traces of web video in various places. Comic-Con superstars The Guild had its own booth in the middle of the floor, but the bigger sites in the space, like Sony’s (s SNE) Crackle and Comedy Central/Viacom’s (s VIA) Atom.com, shared booth space with their corporate brothers.

Crackle didn’t premiere any big projects, but Atom did early previews and panels for the Season 3 launch of Legend of Neil as well as upcoming horror short The House That Drips Blood on Alex on Saturday night.

Also on the floor, I spent some time talking to Geoff Ramsey and Gustavo Sorola from old-school machinima web series Red Vs. Blue, who had a corner booth in an area of the hall otherwise devoted to web comic properties like Penny Arcade.

This was their seventh year at Comic-Con (and their first with a panel that was apparently packed), and while sales were down for them, they said that they’ve built up a fanbase from the convention over the years — there are regulars who buy the latest season of RvB on DVD every convention.

Photo courtesy of Tom Konkle.

Zombie horror series Universal Dead shared booth space with Twin Suns Productions and also held signings with its cast. 3-D comedy series Safety Geeks SVI also had booth space in the autographs section of the exhibit hall, on the second level of the convention center. “There’s such a buzz about 3D right now that people were drawn over to see what Safety Geeks was about. The response was great and we certainly picked up new viewers as a consequence,” Safety Geeks star Dave Beeler said via email.

Other independent series didn’t even get inside the convention center, however. That was the motivation behind the organization of Celebrate the Web 2, which as previously reported provided an opportunity for independent series to be showcased for potential newcomers to the medium.

300 people attended the off-site event Saturday afternoon, with 250 watching the live-stream, and the discussion during the first half (I was unable to stay for the second half) proved spirited. That was mostly thanks to After Judgment creator Michael Davies proclaiming that there was “nothing religious” about his clearly Rapture-inspired series, followed up by complaints that no one was making any money making web content.

Kelly Parks, who created the zombie horror series Universal Dead, stated that his motivation for making a web series was strictly to “get noticed by a film company,” a goal he and his team achieved; Universal Dead is set to become a 3-D feature film, currently targeted for late 2011. But cinematographer Lan Bui, representing another zombie post-apocalyptic project (the pilot Pride Pryce), commented that this approach wasn’t necessarily good for web content in general. “The web is definitely a great place for discovery, but if we just do one-off hit after one-off hit, we won’t build anything in this space,” he said.

The highlight of the event, though, was the trailers for upcoming web series, including Blake Calhoun’s extremely intriguing sci-fi series Continuum.


So let’s review: The Guild pwned, the corporate-owned entities stuck close to their parent companies, and the other indies struggled to find their place, but demonstrated strong community spirit. Sounds about right to me. But I look forward to next year, and seeing how the continuing evolution/revolution of web content is reflected in Comic-Con’s programming.

Photo above courtesy of Flickr user Lan Bui.

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