Before we plunge into news junkets and global premiers, here’s one more look-back at SDCC 2022.
This was my 5th adventure with TORn for an experience that continues to be as overwhelming as it is incredible. Bookending Covid closures, the cons of 2019 and 2022 were completely different for TORn. Three years back we were in 20th Anniversary mode, and our panel of familiar faces brought both reminiscent nostalgia as well as the “rare good ballast” of Dispatches from Middle-earth that our faithfully devoted Comic Con fans love (hello the Button Lady!), as well as a discussion of the then far-off Rings of Power series.
Roughly two decades earlier, the convention was a much smaller enterprise, and so were we. Hall H was just a room with a lot of seating capacity and a big screen. A handful of us presented on our panel and we didn’t have so much as a folding table on the exhibit hall floor. The Lord of the Rings films were a great big unknown for most not too far beyond the bounds of Tolkien fandom. Weta’s 1st line of FotR movie collectibles were on display at the Sideshow Toy booth while the Weta team wandered the floor like we did; I was shooting pictures with my mother’s digital camera and couldn’t get the date set right…
We could see the wave coming on some distant horizon. We knew we were building something, part of something. Something that crossed boundaries and minimized identities of nation, ethnicity, faith, gender, economic status, ability. The last thing we were thinking about was 2022.
A merry gathering
For me, this year’s Comic Con was absolutely an unexpected party. Two panels, a booth, and hosting the Prime Video Rings of Power fan event was not in the early forecast! Understanding the moment, TORn leadership reached out to fandom colleagues we met for the first time in person in London, inviting them to join our panels and staff our booth.
And they came! From London proper and destinations sprinkled throughout the US, they came by planes, trains, and yeah – automobiles. Planes dead on the tarmac, nasty weather, overnight flights, crazy transfers and rerouting, driving through 115 degree heat… nothing stopped these new friends from coming together to do what we love the most: celebrate the writings of JRR Tolkien.
Celebrate we did! And represent. And engage. Crowds at the booth were often five people deep, in an area dedicated to books that is usually pretty quiet by con standards. Willie (Knewbettadobetta) holding court alongside Matt (Nerd of the Rings) and Jed Brophy (Nori, orcs #5, 6 & 7, elf #5, Ringwraith, writer…). Kaitlin’s (Tea with Tolkien) calming presence. Kellie (author and Happy Hobbit) sharing her books and signing for her fans. Kris (Elf_boi) scripting the names of fans in elvish on an iPad. Lauren in her now-famous Galadriel cosplay. Chris (TORn Tuesday camera man and all-around ninja) tirelessly handling exchanges to move the small mountain of merch we had to sell. Cliff (our own Quickbeam) booming trivia with the voice of an ent. Tireless Justin (TORn Tuesday) seeming to be everywhere and nowhere, the nuclear power making it all happen.
Panels, halls and a party
This year we hosted not one, but TWO panels. Thursday’s set featured a more typical TORn offering, with Justin at the helm, engaging staffers Cliff, Kellie, Cathy (Garfeimao), and Josh (Collecting the Precious), and special guest Kris. Richard Taylor and Philippa Boyens kicked of the conversation with a War of the Rohirrim-themed welcome video! (Demosthenese interviewed Boyens recently re: WotR here.)
Straight from the panel this Took struck out to find the Day Before line for Hall H. Highlights: Hanging with LadyNico and her intrepid British Posse; scoring a ticket to see Shatner on Shatner from Cathy; late night blues with Varking and Knewbettadobetta, literally sleeping on the concrete wrapped in a thin blanket; meeting Dianne from our Discord; jamming to the disco cabs riding by (also a low-light); finally getting banded and marching to the next line.
As you may have heard, the Prime Video Rings of Power Hall H panel was astounding. Check out this piece by staffer Garfeimao for details.
Two hours after Hall H ended, it was time for our staff to report for duty at what promised to be the fan event of the weekend: the Prime Video party! Showrunners Patrick McKay and Lindsey Weber mingled with us after a special cast signing for holders of a Golden Mallorn (leaf) ticket. Actual costumes graced the hall, as you can see in this post by staffer Mithril. The event was spectacular, and being able to select cosplayers to meet the cast was truly memorable.
Sunday, TORn’s second panel was serious, funny, and exemplary. Moderated by Justin, the focus was on Middle-earth’s 2nd Age, and it was a whopper. Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen, Cliff, Willie, Anna Marie, and Matt held some serious court in a room fixated on every word. Time compression seemed to actually happen as a rich discussion of the 2nd Age’s known elements, and the wide open spaces between them inviting new storytelling, unfolded. Here it is!
This isn’t just a new era for Middle-earth storytelling – it’s a new era for Tolkien fandom too. After a long slog by many faithful and hard working staff, TORn 3.0 has bloomed! It’s incredible to be here. Hosting and sharing Comic Con with our friends in fandom enriched everyone’s experience and illustrative of how times have changed. We look forward to continued collaborations as the community swells and the influence of JRR Tolkien broadens through time and place. Forth Ringers!