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San Diego Comic-Con 2017 - Preview Night
With Chris Lopez on July 20, 2017

This is the first in a series of diaries from San Diego Comic-Con 2017 by our critic Chris Lopez. - Editor

In 1969, in efforts to develop the fan-creator dynamic within popular culture arts forms, industry creators and producers worked out a deal with the staff of the Grand Hotel in San Diego, CA, to host a small, weekend-long convention. Little did anyone know that this meager assembly of 300 people in hotel basement back in 1969 would develop into a five day international phenomenon with an attendance of +135,000 a year!

Along with the original autograph signings and announcements of forthcoming titles, San Diego Comic-Con International’s program schedule includes historical retrospectives, comic-book art workshops, seminars on the latest film adaptation, and other various events dedicated to all aspects of comics and the rapidly growing culture of popular art. Whether you’re camping out all day to get into the sacred H hall or you want to hear your favorite film composers talk about what it’s like scoring a Superman or Wonder Woman film, there’s something for every comic-con pilgrim.

While Comic-Con officially begins the Thursday of event week, a few panels and screenings are held for the eager fandomites the day before. Among these the most popular is preview night, where new trailers and pilot episodes for upcoming television productions, live action and animated, are released.

This year WB Television dominated Ballroom 20 at the San Diego convention center with trailers for the highly anticipated CW Black Lighting and Syfy Krypton and pilot episodes for Teen Titans Go! and Deception.

Black Lighting/Jefferson Pierce was one of D.C.’s  first African American superhero characters and the first African-American character in D.C. to receive their own solo issue. Most of the trailer screened at preview night used visuals that we have already seen in the first Black Lighting trailer released earlier this summer. Distinguishing this trailer from the first is the voice over narration mixed in with a few poignant lines of dialogue. If the first trailer establishes who Black Lighting was, this trailer reveals to us who the titular character will be in terms of the show’s plot line and in terms of present day culture.

After retiring from superhero vigilantism, Pierce returns to his neglected family and commits to his professional life as a secondary school administrator. According to the narration, Pierce believed that wholeness for the community and justice for the weak could be found within the system, but Pierce is painfully reminded that justice can’t come from a systemically corrupt system, “where oppressors rule.” Like Marvel Entertainment’s Luke Cage, Black Lighting will be another (much needed) comic book adaptation that explores the nexus of race, culture, and justice in a way that poignantly mirrors our reality.

After the Black Lighting trailer faded to black, a wide angle shot of a solar system fades in, zooming in on one planet. During this sequence, a deep voice thunders, “Kal El, my grandson, I know you will fight for your world as we did ours.” With that voice-over alone, the entire ballroom irrupted with cheer and applause. The crowds quickly simmered down though once they discovered there was more footage left! The Syfy/WB Television team-up, Krypton, will take audiences to a time before the titular planet’s destruction and the earth-ventures of our favorite Kryptonians. As Kal El’s grandfather explains, the story will not be about how the house of El died, but how they lived well by fighting against tyranny. The trailer mostly consisted of exhilarating action sequences and shots of the exotic Kryptonian technology that made Man of Steel so fun. This will be a great show for Superman fans who have to wait for Kal El’s next cinematic installment.

The Teen Titans Go! screening wasn’t too memorable. The animated series has enjoyed so many seasons and reiterations on Cartoon Network that it had little novelty to bring to the night. If anything, the pilot episode reminded me how malleable and oddly niche comic book adaptations can be. Instead of fighting against systemic injustice or battling inner demons, these super teens fight against fits of feeling “bleh” when board and have intergalactic space adventures with 80s rock bands like B.E.R. and fight against evil dragons who wish to corrupt good music and culture. 

I’m not sure whose idea it was to juxtapose a meta, superhero cartoon episode with a live-action mystery-drama, but it worked. Deception is the television series White Collar mixed with the Now You See Me franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much, but show will tell the story of how a world class illusionist, Cameron Black (played by Jack Cutmore-Scott) finds himself assisting the FBI to catch crime lords who are working with magicians for hire. The episode had its cheesy moments, but overall it looks like it will be a fun show with brain teasing plot twists and crime heists that resemble the intricacies of a BBC Sherlock Holmes episode.

And things are just getting started! With seminars, screenings, and fascinating exhibitor booths throughout the week, San Diego Comic-Con 2017 will certainly be one to remember. Look out for the next daily update coming tomorrow!

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