Holy costumes... Captain America?
Of the many attendees at Comic-Con, held last month in San Diego, Calif., a generous portion were costumed in the style of the latest super hero on the block–albeit several re-interpreted versions. Captain America's, vampires, warlocks, "steam punks," Wolverines, Jokers, Doctor Who's, villains of horror films both past and present, Storm Troopers and many, many more this writer surely could not identify, crowded the convention center.
And for the major licensors and licensees, determining where interest lies for this particular set of fans is indicative of what's to come for various properties.
"In addition to Comic-Con being a kind of 'one stop shop' for many of our genre-based licensed products, one of the best things about the show is being able to give our fans a tangible look at our upcoming programs. When it comes to certain items–in particular high-end collectibles–we like to use Comic-Con to build excitement," says Christopher Lucero, director, global licensing, NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group.
Comic-Con is also yet another platform for which to generate momentum for licensing programs large and small–and all the better if products offered are exclusive.
Among the trends spotted on the floor were several enthusiasts for Marvel's Captain America character, which coincided with the film opening July 22. (As a "thank you" to the city of San Diego, the film Captain America: The First Avenger, opened a day early, says Michael Pasciullo, senior vice president, brand planning and communications, Marvel Entertainment.) At the show, Marvel also unveiled its partnership with LEGO for LEGO Super Heroes mini-figures, construction sets and buildable characters featuring Marvel franchises The Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man.
Other hot properties spotted were from the BBC Worldwide roster, noted in part by the countless Doctor Who-clad folks roaming the show floor; properties from HBO including True Blood and Game of Thrones; classic super heroes; and Star Trek.
Television properties across the board enjoyed a big presence at Comic-Con 2011.
BBC Worldwide gained strong exposure this year. Its series, "Doctor Who," is a long-standing hit for the network, enjoying a nearly half-century run. (The series will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.) The series' current stars, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, were on hand for several panels, and multiple products were launched. Among them, Underground Toys showcased the Doctors' sonic screwdrivers, assorted Doctor figures sets, a 3D Dalek molded money bank and much more. Titan brought its 11th Doctor maxi-bust, Amy Pond maxi-bust and launched exclusive Comic-Con t-shirts and mug designs. IDW Publishing featured multiple Doctor Who-themed comics, including an exclusive issue that drops the Doctor, Amy and Rory in the midst of Comic-Con themselves. Bif Bang Pow! offered attendees an exclusive, limited edition TARDIS bobble head; and Quantum Mechanix, quite possibly the show-stealer, displayed an exact one-to-one replica of the TARDIS, as well as a series of Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers, designed by the actual "Doctor Who" prop maker, Nick Robatto, who was on hand.
"Everyone at BBC felt that the assortment this year was a huge step up, and each of the licensees saw the benefit in terms of sales and increases year-over-year," says Carla Peyton, senior vice president, licensed consumer products, the America's, BBC Worldwide.
HBO again brought its popular property True Blood to the confab, its largest merchandising program. HBO debuted several products including a luxury handbag line, Hammitt for True Blood; a high-end branded headphone collection from REVAMP; the Tru Blood Beverage line from FMCG; the tarte for True Blood make up collection; and comics from IDW Publishing, to name a few.
HBO also unveiled products for its latest property, Game of Thrones.
"'Game of Thrones' is quickly becoming an important merchandising opportunity for us," says James Costos, vice president of HBO Licensing and Retailing. "This show's product was the most ever sold for a freshman season. HBO developed a tight and focused assortment of merchandise and will be aggressively developing a larger program next season."
Costos says the Game of Thrones paperweight, which was unveiled at Comic-Con, was a huge success, and HBO will look to expand on the current assortment of apparel and prop replicas as seen on the TV series (armor, costumes, figural products).
Warner Bros. Consumer Products signed Pop Culture Shock Collectibles to produce media statues of Mortal Combat characters, and featured the first sculpture from the collection, Scorpion. WBCP also unveiled its new ThunderCats toyline from Bandai America. The re-launched series, "ThunderCats," premiered July 29 on Cartoon Network. Another big launch for WBCP is the LEGO partnership for DC Comics Super Heroes. The multi-year agreement will see 13 iconic DC super heroes translated into LEGO mini-figures and build-and-play adventure sets.
NBCUniversal hosted several panels and debuted several new and returning shows. Among them are new series "Grimm" and "Whitney," as well as returning series "Community." On the floor, Anovos featured uniforms, triad cards and journals for the Battlestar Gallactica property; Quantum Mechanix displayed high-end replicas of the Farnsworth, the Tesla and a Claudia maquette for the Warehouse 13 property; Her Universe showcased the Battlestar Gallactica exclusive toaster necklace, a Battlestar Gallactica hoodie and "red spine" t-shirt, along with an exclusive Warehouse 13 t-shirt. At the Simon & Schuster booth, fans could find the Warehouse 13 original novel A Touch of Fever, which debuted July 28. NBCU also brought its properties offsite, creating fan-friendly interactive experiences in local restaurants and hotels.
CBS–which is always a Comic-Con favorite with its classic properties such as Star Trek and Twighlight Zone–brought multiple exclusive products to the show. For Star Trek, Anovos offered exclusive three badge pin sets, while Bandai unveiled its Jean Luc Picard trading card set. Diamond Comics displayed Star Trek Mr. Potato Heads; Hallmark showed off its holiday ornaments for the current year and 2012; and Quantum Mechanix displayed new replicas of the Enterprise, the Kirk animated maquette and new phaser replicas.
For the Twighlight Zone property, Bif Bang Pow! introduced a limited edition black and white Mystic Seer replica, and a new Abby Sciuto bobble head debuted for the NCIS property.
Disney Channel made a splash in teal with its Perry the Platy-bus parked front and center on the show floor, occupying booth space at Comic-Con for the first time ever. As part of the bus' cross-country tour promoting its animated series "Phineas and Ferb" and the debut of the animated original movie, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, Aug. 5, attendees were invited on board to play new video games, sing "Perry-oke" and meet the characters.
"Comic-Con was a great place to debut officially the Platy-bus and cement the fact that 'Phineas and Ferb' is a fan favorite–this show connects not only with kids, but also tweens and families," says Adam Sanderson, senior vice president, franchise management, Disney ABC Television Group. "(Disney Channel's presence at Comic-Con) really sends a message to all of the parts of the business. Everyone goes to Comic-Con to see what the latest buzz is."
Big Tent Entertainment's Domo property creator Tsuneo Goda was presented with Comic-Con's official Ink Pot award. Goda also made a rare special appearance at the Dark Horse Comics booth.
Fox debuted multiple exclusive products as well, in particular for its The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama and Glee properties. Highlights include Family Guy limited edition glow in the dark mini Stewie and mini Brian figures from Kidrobot; a sneak peek of Monopoly Futurama Collector's Edition; Glee greeting cards, stickers and e-cards from Hallmark; and The Simpsons t-shirts from Changes.
Nickelodeon announced two deals at Comic-Con. For its CG-animated comedy "Fanboy and Chum Chum," Nickelodeon Consumer Products unveiled its partnership with Jazzwares for a new line of toys (action figures, plush and electronics), exclusive to Toys 'R' Us stores nationwide and online. NCP also entered into a new licensing agreement with Toynami for a co-branded line of SpongeBob SquarePants urban vinyl toys modeled after UNKL's UniPo figures. Prototypes of the line were revealed at the show.
Toynami also inked a deal with social expression brand Angry Panda to launch a first-ever, one-of-a-kind collectibles in the U.S. The line debuted at Comic-Con.
Toy trends veered toward the collectible and exclusive, as well.
Present in numerous oversized show bags was the Marvel Universe 16" special edition Sentinel figure from Hasbro, based on Marvel's X-Men property. The Comic-Con figure featured a special edition outer box adorned with one-of-a-kind artwork by Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics' chief creative officer. Also flying off the Hasbro booth shelves were Transformers limited edition figures, Star Wars vintage Revenge of the Jedi special edition Death Star collector's packs and Marvel Legends Thor special edition figures.
Mattel debuted exclusive new collectibles including its Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Voltron Blazing Sword action figure and the DC Universe Swamp Thing. Mattel also displayed its Masters of the Universe classics Queen Marlena figure, Masters of the Universe Polly Pocket collection, Hot Wheels Back to the Future Time Machine and Hot Wheels Franken Berry vehicle, Green Lantern Kilowog and Carol Ferris Barbie doll.
Ugly Doll also premiered its exclusive Cookie Dream Babo plush, with life size characters roaming the floor.