Despite a notably toned-down presence among Disney-owned properties at Comic-Con, there was no hotter ticket than the 90-minute panel for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC’s much anticipated fall drama series. If you want to know the premiere date, you have only to ask one of the several thousand fans in the standing-room-only crowd at the convention’s biggest venue: Jeph Loeb, head of television for Marvel Entertainment (and a comic book writer himself) emerged to cheers in a “Coulson Lives” T-shirt, then split the audience into thirds and had them compete for volume screaming “September!” “24!” “On ABC!”
Loeb played the part of hype man for every actor on the show, a roster that includes How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders, reprising her role in the Avengers film; Chloe Bennet as the superhero-obsessed hacker Skye; and Brett Dalton as the gruff black-ops agent Grant Ward.
But nobody, not even Whedon, got the kind of screaming adulation reserved for veteran character actor Clark Gregg, who oversees the S.H.I.E.L.D. team as agent Phil Coulson. Gregg is literally resurrecting the role, as Coulson appeared to be quite dead in his final scene in The Avengers.
“I didn’t like being dead, but I liked the way I died,” Gregg said. “And then #CoulsonLives happened, and then Joss…”
Visibly moved, Gregg paused to collect himself, at which point someone close to the front screamed out, “You’re my favorite Avenger!”
“Thank you, man!” Gregg said. “You’re my favorite guy at the Con! Except Joss!”
The panel took few questions, with Whedon promising the ballroom that S.H.I.E.L.D. “may use some heroes and villains that are not yet cinematic,” but fans didn’t care: the last question during the first part of the panel was, “Could you maybe show us a clip?” and Whedon, an old hand at milking a crowd, said, “There was a thing with legal, with the Disney lawyers, and so we can’t show you a clip. We’re just gonna show you the episode.”
Fans were pleased.
Disney has been on a serious IP-buying spree of late, but with the exception of ABC—which promoted its fantasy series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland at the show, as well—and recent acquisition Marvel (purchased for $4.05 billion in 2009), its properties are thin on the ground around SDCC. Much has been made of J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars movie, which is set to begin filming next year, but Star Wars—another $4 billion buy—is barely represented here.
Even fan sites listed mostly fan-run events, with big investments like the upcoming videogame Battlefront all but absent. Disney appears to be seeking to move the fan conversation around its properties to D23 Expo, an annual event of Disney fans in Anaheim, where it will control the conversation to a much greater degree—and where it will have a much larger presence for Star Wars in particular.
That said, even with the boost in attendance the new properties will doubtless bring, Disney isn’t likely to draw anywhere near as many fans as are presently on hand in San Diego. D23 usually attracts about 40,000 attendees to SDCC’s roughly 130,000.
Meanwhile, huge activations for even minor Warner Bros. properties are all over SDCC. TruTV, Turner’s reality-focused cable network for bros, had a punching bag contest in the Con and a branded breakfast café for its show Impractical Jokers outside; Warner Interactive is pushing its new Batman game (Arkham Origins) everywhere you look, Cartoon Network’s various superhero shows are everywhere, and Adult Swim had a funhouse in the parking lot and a “rest stop” on the showroom floor.
In addiiton, DC Entertainment branded the official SDCC souvenir booklet with art by Dave McKean from its upcoming Neil Gaiman comics, and HBO had a True Blood-themed blood drive.
Previous Cons have looked like the old Avengers/JLA comics, with each super-team’s parent megacorporation fighting proxy wars through fans eager to take part. Now, the convention center looks like WarnerCon.
In the trailer for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’re introduced to Skye, played by Chloe Bennet, a young hacker who is saying some questionable things about S.H.I.E.L.D. and their motives – only to be found and brought in by S.H.I.E.L.D. themselves.
I spoke to Bennet to find out a bit more about Skye and her perspective on living in a world with superheroes and how the actress, recently seen on Nashville, feels about joining the Marvel universe and working with Joss Whedon.
IGN: Based on the trailer, it seems like your character initially has some skepticism, to say the least, about S.H.I.E.L.D.
Chloe Bennet: She does!
IGN: So what is her reaction when she’s caught by them?
Chloe: I can’t say much about it. But I can say that she is this superhero-obsessed girl, in a way where she’s just in awe of it, but she’s also skilled in the sense that she can kind of get herself into these situations. You know, I think she’s going to enjoy the ride, just like myself. I think she’ll have fun.
IGN: You say she’s superhero obsessed and obviously the show’s about normal people in a world with superheroes. S.H.I.E.L.D. can be a little more jaded, I guess, but is Skye still basically going, “Oh my God! These people are really out there!”?
Bennet: I think she would be more one to play it a little bit cool, but then have those geek-out moments. She’s not quite a cosplay girl, she’s not exactly a fangirl, but she gets really excited — but it’s in here [tapping chest], just like all of us about the show, I think.
GN: What does she make of Agent Coulson?
Bennet: I think her and Coulson could get along. You will have to watch and see how they got on, but yeah… [Laughs]
IGN: And how is it working with Joss on the show?
Bennet: Joss is terrible.
IGN: [Laughs] Everyone says that.
Bennet: He’s really stupid and not talented. No! He is absolutely amazing, and it’s just a pleasure to go to work. Attitude reflects leadership, and he has such a great attitude. So does Jed and Maurissa. It’s really just incredible going to work every day.
The stars of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. talked with Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet for the Entertainment Weekly & ABC Upfront Party. See what they had to say about the new show below. Hint Chloe’s interview is towards the end.