Making Room: Comic-Con Absences Allow for Underdogs to Rise to the Top

As nerds and superfans alike gear up for San Diego Comic-Con, most would be expecting to see the series with the most noteworthy cult followings having the biggest showings.

In some ways, that’s still true. BBC America is holding its usual “Doctor Who” panel, marking the first SDCC appearance for new Doctor Jodie Whittaker. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” will hold its last panel with star Andrew Lincoln before he leaves in its ninth season.

Although some of these old favorites have come to hold a consistent presence at the conference, the 2018 show floor will have some noticeable absences. HBO was one of the first to say it would not be at SDCC, marking the first time “Game of Thrones” would not be at the convention in some way since its launch.

“Due to production schedules and air dates for Game of Thrones and Westworld, these series will not be presented at San Diego Comic-Con this summer,” HBO said in a statement. “HBO has a longstanding relationship with SDCC and we are very grateful for the fans’ enthusiastic response over the years.”

The absence of those vying for the Iron Throne leaves an opening in the conference’s coveted Hall H for underdog series and nontraditional players. While The CW’s “Riverdale” has come to Comic-Con twice before, this year will mark its first time having a panel in Hall H.

Hulu is said to be preparing to make a major splash at the convention by debuting “Castle Rock,” the Stephen King-based and JJ Abrams-produced series. Series writer Marc Bernardin tweeted in May a trailer from the upcoming series, saying “My Comic-Con is gonna be the best kind of bananas…” The original is set to premiere on July 25, just one week after the fan convention.

Amazon told Deadline the specifics behind its plans for the convention and its “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” series, noting that it would have one giant panel for all of its programming news while also world premiering some footage. It’s also building a VR operative experience (called the Jack Ryan Experience) for the con, giving participants the chance to join in an effort to get Ryan out of an escape room.

One of the most surprising newcomers to SDCC is Sky, which has never crossed the pond for the convention. It will hold a panel for Sky One’s “A Discovery Of Witches” with stars Teresa Palmer, Matthew Goode, Alex Kingston, Owen Teale, ep Deb Harkness and ep Jane Tranter, a major move for Sky considering the intense battle currently being waged by Disney and Comcast for the British telecom company.

And while it seems a bit silly to ever call Netflix an underdog or outside player, Marvel Studios skipping out on Hall H for the first time since 2015 allows the streamer to capitalize on and heavily leverage its superhero properties like “Iron Fist” along with its fan favorite originals such as “Stranger Things.”

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