S.H.I.E.L.D., pirates, and Sleepy Hollow: Comic-Con expands as proving ground for new shows
ABC, Justin Lubin, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Nine years ago, the inaugural episode of "Lost" captured Comic-Con attendees' imaginations when it first premiered at the fan-driven extravaganza, and the surreal series about plane crash survivors went on to become a cultural phenomenon. This year, more than 10 new shows are angling to land similar success when they touch down in San Diego this week.
Such new live-action series as "The Avengers" spin-off "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," android buddy cop drama "Almost Human" and supernatural saga "Sleepy Hollow," which stars British actor Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, will be hyped with Comic-Con presentations. The mission? Attract cult followings akin to "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones."
"Going to Comic-Con has always been really, really, really high up on my list of things I've wanted to achieve in my career," said Mison. "The first of them is going to Comic-Con. The other is becoming an action figure. The third is walking through a crypt holding a flaming torch. I think 'Sleepy Hollow' is going to help me achieve all those goals, really."
Mison plays an out-of-time version of Crane who wakes up in the present day and is drawn into a mythological conspiracy involving the Headless Horseman. "Star Trek" screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the Fox show's executive producers, are hopeful Comic-Con attendees will respond favorably to their twist on the "Sleepy Hollow" tale.
"Taking a classic story and making it modern is what drew us to it," said Orci. "We also recognize that's what makes it original and not like all the other 'Sleepy Hollows' that you've seen. Trying to be original sometimes comes at a price. It's risky. You can only hope the audience wants to have fun with you and not clobber you for stepping outside of the box."
Starz's "Black Sails" isn't scheduled to dock until next year, but the network is screening the first episode of the mature pirate drama for fans — make that potential fans — near the San Diego Convention Center. "Black Sails" creators Robert Levine and Jon Steinberg, who previously worked on "Jericho" and "Human Target," think Comic-Con is the best way to build buzz.
"Everybody's attention is focused on Comic-Con, in terms of what they should be excited about over the horizon, not just genre stuff but everything," said Steinberg. "There's something exciting about bringing pirates there, especially because there's a space in the marketplace that's not being filled right now. It's a way for us to introduce the show on a big stage."
Unleashing a new show at Comic-Con doesn't always ensure fan fervor. For every "Revolution" or "Grimm" that debuts at the celebration of pop culture, there's a "No Ordinary Family" or "The Cape." (Both those superhero series met their demise after one season.) Ultimately, it's up to the more than 130,000 attendees to decide if new shows are super — or just suck.
"I think the hits are always the ones that feel right for Comic-Con and harken back to the roots of Comic-Con," said Marla Provencio, marketing vice president for ABC, which is launching "S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" at the convention. "When you try to deviate and show something that's a little broader is when you're off the mark."
Not every show debuting at Comic-Con features superheroes, robots or vampires. For the first time, James Spader is attending Comic-Con. The unfiltered actor will appear on a panel for NBC's new crime thriller "The Blacklist," following a screening of the pilot in which Spader plays a rouge mastermind who mysteriously agrees to start working with the FBI.
"Spader has a huge following and is a very interesting guy," said executive producer Jon Bokenkamp. "I'm hoping this is an opportunity for us to interact with and create some fans. It's a show with a big mythology, so to be able to discuss the show with an audience about where it's going and what excites us about it will be a unique and valuable experience."
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