And so, it has arrived: after much anticipation – and plenty of discussion about what the service would ultimately provide – COMIC-CON HQ has launched out of the gate, determined to make a impact on the highly demanding San Diego Comic-Con community, leading up to this July’s Main Event.
The collaboration between Lionsgate and Comic-Con International aims to expand the SDCC experience beyond that balmy week in July and bleed their take on the enthusiasm and vibe of the convention over the remainder of the year – ‘seven days a week, 365 days a year’. A bold boast: that’s a lot of content required to sustain interest in today’s fast-paced, high-volume marketplace.
The site will, of course, get a massive boost in content when the show itself kicks off – a live broadcast at a soon-to-be-disclosed location, taking place over seven hours each day during the duration of Comic-Con; panel replays (Comic-Con International and Comic-Con HQ have confirmed that live streaming of panel content is a little way off at this point, if it will ever happen at all); on-site interviews and behind-the-scenes access… All of which guarantees the target audience will develops and grow in the coming weeks and months.
For now, though, subscribers that have signed up for the Free Beta Access Pass to the site have been given their first look into what Comic-Con HQ have planned, with the launch of the site on Saturday 7th May (Free Comic Book Day, incidentally – it was encouraging to see North American visitors to their local stores being treated to ads to the service on flyers, on the back of books and on grab bags, meaning that CCHQ are aiming to attract a truly mainstream audience, beyond those that make the pilgrimage to California each summer).
And, to clarify, this is a subscription service – even though Comic-Con HQ is currently in Beta, you do still have to hand over your credit card details for when the charges get applied, monthly from the Sunday of SDCC (24th July). Also, keep in mind that for now, the service is only available for those in North America (although, if you’re determined and you jump through a couple of hoops, I dunno, such as installing an extension into Chrome, say, or creating a US iTunes account to download the app, for example, it can be watched outside of the States. Cough.).
But, here at An Englishman In San Diego, what did we make of the look of the service and its initial content? Does the setup justify the $5 monthly fee (or $50 annually, if you’re that way inclined)? Let’s enter our Access Code, sell away our soul, pull back the curtain and take a look at Comic-Con HQ…
The Site: www.comic-conhq.com
First and foremost (as qualified by the ATTACK OF THE SHOW‘s incredibly slappable Kevin Pereira, who features in the Beta PSA intro vid), the service is very much in Beta, meaning that they have a Get Out Of Jail Card on standby if any links are broken, program texts aren’t formatted correctly, or there’s generally bats in the belfry.
As it happens, on both the online version and also the mobile apps, the site seems fully formed, looking clean, clear and welcoming – the black on yellow colour scheme has worked so far for Comic-Con itself so there was no reason they were going to mess with that formula here.
Once you start heading off the homepage, things start getting a little more sparse – Account Settings simply list your login email address and your billing type, nothing to intensive here yet. We’ve heard word that CCHQ are ultimately intending of creating a community around the service, with a possible forum platform on the horizon – no sign of that here just yet, or anything else for that matter. Work In Progress. Moving along…
The Programming Teasers:
For now, the services content is made up of the two introductory videos for the service itself, promo videos for upcoming original programming, and a truly bizarre selection of shlocky movies and television, broken down into themed blocks including ‘Alternative Realms’, ‘Stranger Thank Fiction’, ‘Mythbusters’ and that Subgenre That Netflix Forgot, ‘Look Who’s Stalking’. I’m not entirely sure what Comic-Con HQ thinks is the psychological makeup of its audience but creepy stalker types…? No, wait, you’ve seen us line up for hours and days on end to get up-close-and-personal with the objects of our fandom: they may have a point!
When it comes to the original content for CCHQ, the promo vids set the tone for the shows to come – those shows being:
- BLAME IT ON SCIENCE (infotainment): An entertainment news series that investigates and analyzes the worlds of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics while engaging viewers curiosity. Hosted by Rileah Vanderbilt (Team Unicorn) and Bobak Ferdowsi (NASA Mohawk Guy).
This looks fascinating – in the sense that I’m incredibly fascinated to see if they can pull this off as a compelling and appealing series. Sure, a lot of people are mourning the loss of MYTHBUSTERS and there is clearly an audience for science-based programming but when your hosts expound on their love of Recombinant Memetics and Supersymmetric Quantum Mechanics, it’s going to be interesting to see how carefully they pitch this show to keep it fun and entertaining. Still, the show has two appealing hosts and this dumb mutt will be checking BLAME IT ON SCIENCE out when the first episode lands, Wednesday 18th May…
- KINGS OF CON (Comedy): Rob (Rob Benedict) and Richard (Richard Speight, Jr.) are mega-famous for their roles on SUPERNATURAL, but only at conventions specifically for the show’s fans. Inspired by real-life, KINGS OF CON is a peek into the embarrassing, awkward world behind the autograph lines and photo ops.
The chaps are playing heightened versions of themselves but it has the same inherent problem that CON MAN has, to a higher degree: the sense that the celebs that appear at such conventions are forced through desperation and ego to be dragged in the first place. Hey, that might actually be true in some cases but us fans don’t need to be reminded of that stark home truth, okay?! We’re riding on the fantasy here! Jeez!
- MOSTLY HARMLESS (Talk Show): A late night comedy talk show, celebrating all things geek where LAST WEEK TONIGHT meets THE TONIGHT SHOW. Our host lets loose, offering hilarious informed commentary and passionate conversations about everything dear to us in pop-culture.
Starring Steve Zaragoza and Kevin Pereira in bleeped-out, potty-mouthed mode, to demonstrate that they’re down wit da kidz, yo – so, yes, ATTACK OF THE SHOW 2.0, essentially. It’s understandable that Comic-Con HQ don’t want to alienate their prospective audience and want to give them something a little familiar to pin their attention to. CCHQ’s VP Seth Laderman has proclaimed his love for the G4 programming model so expect some of the same, starting with this.
The pitch here is very much adult, arch and acerbic – I’m hoping that the entire service doesn’t fall down this route, with only lip service to those of all ages (there are a number of MARVEL ANIMATED features, as well as episodes of the animated SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH, listed further down the page) or even bases its presentation model on that attitude. I recognise that those who will be watching the service are credit card holders and of a mature attitude but I’d hope for a more open and welcoming approach than something with a steely undertone as the programming expands…
- ENDGAME (Infotainment): A loving celebration of video game culture and news, brought to you by Executive Producer Adam Sessler, hosted by Khail Anonymous and Michelle Morrow and powered by Comic-Con HQ. We’ll dive deep into discussing the state of the industry and picking the brains of those who directly influence it.
Bright, colourful and steeped in the subject matter… This show has the potential of being something very special in the world of video games, setting its stall as a show that will really get into the nooks and crannies and the behind-the-scenes of an industry that currently financially eclipses that of film. While I’m hoping that it doesn’t stay too slavish to its brief of being an ‘adult’ and keeps an element of youthful optimism and positivity, this could be the ‘proper’ show that the video game industry so desperately needs right now. The first show airs on Tuesday 10th May – check back for an updated review…
The Original Programming – Complete Episodes:
There are a couple of shows that have their first episodes up, making the visit worthwhile. The shows appear to be, in the main, in the 10-15min ballpark, nothing that’ll stretch the attention span of the viewer and outstay their welcome – let’s take a more in depth-look at those available now:
- THE COMICS TRIP (10 mins, Reality): A show in which pop culture celebs and personalities visit and explore the comic book stores of the U.S. In this first episode, CON MAN writer/star Alan Tudyk visits with owner Ed Greenberg at his brick and mortar, sharing industry updates, suggested reading materials, and personal stories that define their relationship with comic books.
This multi-camera, incredibly slickly produced affair gives you a cracking feel for this particular store (Collector’s Paradise, Winnetka CA) and the drive and pride of Ed to provide a warm and welcoming environment for his customers – it’s a shame we didn’t actually SEE any of those customers, mind, filmed on either a very, very quiet day or while the Store Closed sign was in full effect. Still, I hope that this will encourage others to go and check out their local comic book store to check out what that have to offer – and I hope that THE COMICS TRIP also showcases those stores that actively go out of their way to entice and encourage readers of all genders and from the surrounding community, creating a communal experience. Very promising indeed.
- 2015 HER UNIVERSE FASHION SHOW HIGHLIGHTS (12 mins, Reality): Her Universe challenges talented Geek Couture designers to compete in a Fashion show where winners are awarded apparel lines with Hot Topic. The arena: a live one of a kind full-scale runway show at the epicenter of pop-culture – San Diego Comic-Con!
You can only take a fleeting look at the mailouts that Ashley Eckstein‘s Her Universe send out to her incredibly well-dressed army of devoted fans to sense that she wants to position herself as the finely decked-out Queen of Comic-Con HQ. This opening salvo is a tightly edited presentation of last years runway extravaganza and fully expect her to be demanding the full spotlight treatment when the Her Universe Fashion Show returns this July. Ashley knows when a camera is pointed towards her and knows how to work it…
- ADAM SESSLER & THE INTERESTING PEOPLE (32 mins, Interview): An insightful one-on-one interview show where G4 alum Adam Sessler sits down with interesting individuals to glean stories about their unique, extraordinary careers.
Yup, another familiar face from G4 and featured here in a longer-form presentation which really allows the conversation to breathe between Adam Sessler and his guest on this episode, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist and inventor who makes for an intriguing first guest. It’s a format we’ve seen before with Charlie Rose and Kevin Pollak, and the familiarity is comforting and unthreatening. It’s a simple setup and very well moderated by Sessler – I’m also loving the nice little touch of the guest, having in front of them a mug with ‘Interesting Person’ on it, and Adam with a mug with, well, ‘Adam’ on it! This show won’t be for everybody but I think it’s a worthy addition to the line-up – here’s hoping that the comics industry will be duly represented in future.
- FILM HQ (42 mins, Infotainment): An entertainment news series analyzing hot topics and upcoming releases in the world of cinema. Executive produced and hosted by John Campea, episodes explore film through panels, industry recaps, reviews, on-location segments, and celebrity interviews.
Possibly the crown in the jewel of the programming schedule so far, what with the show being produced by people who already know how to put on such an internet-based presentation already: Collider. John Campea brings across with him, for this episode, his MOVIE TALK partner-in-crime Jon Schnepp (THE DEATH OF ‘SUPERMAN LIVES’: WHAT HAPPENED?), as well as actress Whitney Moore, host/nerd princess Chloe Dykstra and DC ALL ACCESS‘s Jason Inman. The four make for a lively panel and are very enthusiastic about the topics to hand – if you’ve seen Collider Videos before, you know exactly what you’re getting here, similar in pace and tone, if not in surroundings. This custom-built set looks cosy and comfortable and allows the viewer to relax into the show, rather than being distracted by boom mics, constantly in the faces of the presenters!
I also love the format of the show, with a NEWS UPDATES segment leading the show, hosted by Halleta Alemu and Josh Macuga, kicking things off and giving the show a solid beginning from which to fold into. I’m not sure if these two write their own segments but, if that’s the case, Alemu has the right flair for the show while Macuga could do with an editing polish, just to stop him tripping over his own tongue. Still, a great pairing – possibly wasted for the remainder of the show.
FILM HQ is framed around into round table discussions – or soft furnishing pow-wows, if you will – which it returns to around the features of the show, where John and his guests discuss the topics and films raised by the news. Deftly directed and brilliantly shot, this is ‘proper telly’ standard stuff – not to say that the rest of Comic-Con HQ‘s programming looks like its been held together by duct tape and unicorn tears, mind, just that you can spot experience a mile away. Collider have been doing this a while and they know what they’re doing; CCHQ have chosen well to get them on board.
The next segment is POWER RANKINGS, a subjective top five list of movies to check out in the cinema right now, indulging in Campea’s obsessive love of site rankings, box office takes and review stats. Campea says straight off the bat that this is his own personal list of recommendations with nothing to base it on than his own judgement – a curious barometer to include, considering the editorial segment he chooses to cap the show off with… But more on that in a minute.
Next up is an all-too-brief interview with CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR‘s directorial duo, Joe and Anthony Russo – a welcome break from hearing Campea’s voice for a while! You do sometimes feel that, when John headlines a show, his ego is being given free reign and any opportunity to give someone else a shot at the mic is a welcome respite. (Perhaps give Power Rankings to Halleta and Josh in future episodes?) The last segment is a TOP FIVE listing which chooses a random topic each week – this episode featuring a Top Five of Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies. I’ll leave the choices of films up to you but the bizarre addition of an Irish narrator, out of nowhere, had me watching in bemusement as the list unfolded.
And then, last but not least, something I don’t think anyone could’ve expected from a film show – an editorial piece: THE FINAL ACT, in which Campea speaks to camera on a topic of his choosing, this week about ‘the objectivity of cinema and a series of Rules For Film Fans’. After presenting a show where we were treated to a huge chunk of the opinions of Campea (and, every once in a while on occasion, his guests), this seemed a little hollow and condescending to then have him tell his audience to be civil and make up their own damn minds.
This is a brilliant entree to what I imagine is going to be quite the ambitious buffet, leading up to San Diego Comic-Con 2016. One of the challenges that Comic-Con HQ have is what they can deliver to appeal to your actual Comic-Con attendee over the course of that mammoth event and beyond – the programming featured here is all very nerdy and all but Comic-Con is right there in the title so they better live up to that promise to the hardcore convention audience. They also have to sustain that audience once the convention banners come down and the circus leaves town; here’s hoping that the momentum started here with this opening salvo is kept up and the foot isn’t taken off the gas. I wish the very best of luck to the entire Comic-Con HQ team!