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October 14, 2013

NYCC: Shows like ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ are major draws

Posted in: Comics,Fans,TV

Andrew Lincoln, left, Danai Gurira, Steve Yuan and Lauren Cohan attend "The Walking Dead" panel at New York Comic Con at Jacob Javits Center on Oct. 12, 2013. (Laura Cavanaugh / Getty Images for AMC)

Andrew Lincoln, left, Danai Gurira, Steve Yeun and Lauren Cohan attend “The Walking Dead” panel at New York Comic Con at Jacob Javits Center on Oct. 12, 2013. (Laura Cavanaugh / Getty Images for AMC)

NEW YORK — At the Javits Center in Manhattan this past weekend, the Frodos and Jokers were easily outnumbered by the Heisenbergs and Khalesis.

Reflecting television’s place on top of the pop-culture food chain, the lineup at New York Comic Con was dominated by the small screen, with panels about shows such as “Game of Thrones,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” proving a major draw among the estimated 130,000 attendees.

Although it began as a more narrowly focused celebration of comic books and anime, like its behemoth West Coast rival, San Diego’s Comic Con International, NYCC is increasingly dominated by pop culture — particularly television.

“I definitely have seen a really strong increase in the TV presence over the past couple of years,” said Kim Mueller, content and talent director at ReedPOP, the company that produces the 7-year-old event. “This year I would say we have double the [TV-related] content that we’ve had in the past. We are working with almost every single major network.”

The networks, of course, also recognize the event’s importance as a promotional platform, using it to publicize shows as wide ranging as “Da Vinci’s Demons,” “The League,” “Cosmos,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” “The Pete Holmes Show” and “Person of Interest.” (What? No “Nashville”?)

But it was a show with a direct link to the comic-book universe that generated the most excitement.

AMC’s monster hit “The Walking Dead,” which had its fourth-season premiere Sunday, was once again the weekend’s hottest ticket, drawing a capacity crowd of 3,000 attendees to the main stage of the Javits Center (an additional thousand or so unlucky fans were left to huddle around the entrance).

Fans leapt to their feet to welcome most of the show’s large cast and producing team, including newly installed show runner Scott Gimple and lead Andrew Lincoln. Nothing, however, compared to the cacophony of screams for Norman Reedus, who stars as crossbow-wielding fan favorite Daryl Dixon.

The gory drama, last season’s highest-rated scripted show among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers cherish, is based on a series of comic books by Robert Kirkman.

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Andrew Lincoln plays Rick Grimes and Chandler Riggs is Carl Grimes in "The Walking Dead." (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

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Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene in "The Walking Dead." (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

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Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Danai Gurira as Michonne in "The Walking Dead." (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

“There are a lot of shows with no connection even to genre that show up at Comic Con,” said executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. “‘The Walking Dead’ actually started as a comic book, so it’s the perfect project to celebrate at Comic Con.”

Its success, she said, has encouraged mainstream television to embrace other genre fare, like the CBS summer hit “Under the Dome.”

“As with anything, if a particular genre is doing well, everyone wants to get in on the action, even if initially there was some resistance,” she said.

The weekend’s confab also showcased two of the fall’s biggest success stories, Fox’s genre mash-up “Sleepy Hollow” and ABC’s “Avengers” spinoff, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Both are hits for their ratings-challenged networks, and both feature creators with solid fanboy credentials. “Sleepy Hollow’s” team of producers includes Len Wiseman, director of the “Underworld” film franchise, as well as “Star Trek” writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” meanwhile, is the brainchild of “Buffy” auteur Joss Whedon and is the first live-action series from Marvel. Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel Television, thinks of New York Comic Con as “a way of saying thank you” to fans rather than a promotional platform.

“Because you’ve come to the show, we have an opportunity to share with you some stuff that no one else is going to be able to get to see,” he said.

This year that included a chance to check out “Lola,” Agent Phil Coulson’s car, and to catch an early glimpse of Tuesday’s episode of the witty drama.

Loeb promised the Comic Con crowd that the show’s writing staff had a clear vision for the episodes ahead — “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was just given a full-season order by ABC on Thursday.

“There is a plan,” he said. “You don’t have to wait five or six years to find out if it’s an island or if it’s a turtle.”

Ronald Moore, one of the most prolific and acclaimed sci-fi writers in the TV game and veteran of the beloved “Battlestar Galactica,” made his first New York Comic Con appearance Friday. He was there to promote his upcoming Starz series “Outlander,” based on the time-traveling historical novels by Diana Gabaldon.

“The ex-fan part of me can always touch into what it was like to talk to people behind the scenes, and so I have a great empathy for that connection,” Moore said of the convention-going experience, “and it’s fun to talk about what I do.”

Current hits might have been the biggest attraction at Comic Con, but there was also plenty of room for nostalgia. A Saturday panel celebrated 50 years of “Doctor Who,” and the gathering wrapped up with a reunion of “The X-Files” stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny on Sunday evening — leaving fans just enough time to get home for “The Walking Dead.”

— Meredith Blake

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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