New York Comic Con feels like it gets bigger every year.
Its growth makes sense: Comic and geek culture have become mainstream culture. Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy are no longer esoteric comic book superheroes. If you ask somebody what they think of Doctor Who, they’re likely to respond by asking you to specify which iteration of the show you’re talking about. And the number of people who are familiar with Taika Waititi’s work has exploded since he directed Thor: Ragnarok.
The drawback to this golden age of entertainment is that it makes compiling any given “best of” list extremely difficult. For some, the task might compare to such challenges as choosing between money and love, deciding on a hypothetical desert island meal, or definitively naming Marvel’s best Chris.
With that said, of all the TV and movie offerings I had the chance to preview at this year’s New York Comic Con, I’ve highlighted my top five below, in no specific order.
SYFY’s Deadly Class
The sly, infuriating, and ultimately most heartbreaking thing about writer Rick Remender and artist Wesley Craig’s 2014 comic book Deadly Class was how it made you fall in love with its 1980s antiheroes — a group of damaged teenagers whose crime lord parents enroll them in a prep school for future assassins and murderers — before showing their monstrous sides and their seemingly inevitable downfalls.
The comic is now being adapted into a TV series (Remender is credited as one of the executive producers, along with the Russo brothers, among others) that will debut on SYFY in January, and those who attended its NYCC panel got to screen the first full episode.
Lana Condor (best known for playing Lara Jean in Netflix’s breakout hit To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) and Benedict Wong (who starred as Wong in Avengers: Infinity War) are the most recognizable names in the cast, and both actors are playing characters who are the polar opposites of their famed roles. But Deadly Class belongs to sentient chestnut Benjamin Wadsworth as the show’s protagonist, deeply troubled Marcus Lopez. The show centers itself on Marcus’s experience and his own vulnerabilities, and Wadsworth holds that spotlight effortlessly.
“Gritty,” “grim,” and “murdery” aren’t unique traits for a show to have in the ever-growing field of comic book and superhero television (see: Gotham; every single Marvel superhero show on Netflix; Arrow; and even some elements of Riverdale). But Deadly Class boasts a few elements — like Henry Rollins playing a professor who teaches an “Introduction to Poison” course or its Harry Potter-esque setting — that heighten and brighten its world.
It’s also fitting, and almost too cutting, that amid America’s current introspection into how our institutions are run and the culture they breed, one of the most exciting TV shows coming down the pike focuses on the next generation of supervillains.
Deadly Class premieres January 16, 2019, on SYFY.
FX’s What We Do in the Shadows
Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s beloved 2014 vampire roommate mockumentary gets ported over to television via FX in spring 2019, and attendees of the show’s NYCC panel were treated to a screening of the pilot episode.
Like the original movie, the show depicts how mundane aspects of real life — from drugstore crepe paper to roommate quarrels and city living — become exponentially funnier in the hands of centuries-old vampires who have decided to break with the old world and move to … Staten Island.
Fans of the film will remember that Clement and Waititi (who hadn’t yet found mainstream fame for directing Thor: Ragnarok) starred in, co-directed, and co-wrote it. They’re back for the show as executive producers, along with Paul Simms, but are handing over the starring roles to three new vamps played by Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, and Matt Berry. Harvey Guillen, meanwhile, plays their faithful and scene-stealing human servant.
There’s something wildly hilarious, but also sad — or at least sad-adjacent — about this cadre of vamps finding the meaning of life and adjusting to its bleak modernity, and I can’t wait to see more.
What We Do in The Shadows doesn’t yet have an exact premiere date but is slated to debut on FX in the spring.
Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy
One of the common themes of the new TV shows featured at NYCC concerned fictional schools and academies — and more specifically, how broken they can be or what they signify. Deadly Class is about a prep school for death dealers, and one of the main conflicts of Netflix’s upcoming The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is centered on the dark magic school that Sabrina is supposed to attend.
The Umbrella Academy fits that theme but explores something different entirely: the idea of a chosen family. The series is adapted from the Eisner Award-winning 2007 comic book of the same name, by Gerard Way and artist Gabriel Bá.
The story centers on a “family” of adopted superhuman kids with quirky abilities brought together to save the world by a figure named Sir Reginald Hargreeves. The group is dubbed “The Umbrella Academy,” but they eventually break up after years together and carry the trauma of being superheroes.
In this Netflix adaptation, which is anchored by Ellen Page and Mary J. Blige (who promised the audience at the show’s NYCC panel that she’s pure evil in this series), the Academy — who are now young adults — is brought back together after the death of their mentor Hargreeves. They find out that dealing with each other, and mending their relationships, is just as difficult and important as saving the world.
Attendees of the show’s NYCC panel got to see stylish footage from the series, which featured the beginning of the group’s formation and slivers of the numbers (the members of the Academy have numbers, such as No. 7, as code names) showing off their superpowers.
The Umbrella Academy premieres February 19, 2019, on Netflix.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
One of the most intriguing things about X-Men: Dark Phoenix isn’t necessarily good. The movie’s release date has been continually pushed back — it was originally scheduled to release in theaters in November 2018, then was pushed to February 2019, and then pushed again to June 2019.
This much jumping around and uncertainty isn’t usually a good thing for movies. So it’s possible that Fox wanted to calm some of fans’ reservations by scheduling an NYCC event.
Audience members at Dark Phoenix’s offsite panel got to see the first 13 minutes of the movie, which features the team going to space to save a NASA mission gone awry. Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner) seemingly becomes a casualty, but not so fast — cosmic rays bombard her, and for some unexplained reason, she survives.
As any X-Men fan could tell you, said unexplained reason is that Jean is imbued with the Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity with immense power.
The footage sets the foundation of the fourth movie in the rebooted franchise (it is preceded by 2011’s X-Men: First Class, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse) by lighting the fuse that will end with the team going up against its most powerful adversary — and someone who happens to be one of their own.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix hits theaters on June 7, 2019.
David Harbour is essentially the prom king of New York Comic Con. Harbour is currently most widely known as Sheriff Jim Hopper on the Netflix TV series Stranger Things. But he’s also building on that geek cred by playing the titular role in Lionsgate’s forthcoming Hellboy reboot.
And during the movie’s Comic Con panel, Harbour even said he would officiate a wedding in character as Hellboy if this tweet gets 666,000 retweets. At this point, any celebrity who wants to win over a Comic Con crowd should be paying Harbour for a clinic — the man knows his audience and how to play to it.
But Hopper’s biggest crowd-pleasing moment during the panel came when he and original Hellboy comic creator Mike Mignola showed a brief trailer for the upcoming movie.
We’re introduced to a more rambunctious, ruder, and crasser Hellboy than the one originated by Ron Perlman in the first film. The footage from the new movie suggests it will skew darker and more along the lines of a horror movie (Mignola said so) with a go-for-broke energy (think: a giant sword engulfed in flames) than the world that director Guillermo del Toro created in 2004.
This isn’t to say that del Toro did a bad job — far from it. But Harbour, Mignola, and director Neil Marshall are aiming for something completely different with the character and the story, rather than trying to trace the steps of the work of a master like del Toro. And by the looks of it so far, they’ve done just that.
Hellboy hits theaters on April 12, 2019.