Comic-Con's next big thing
Sam Huntington, left, Sam Witwer, center and Meagan Rath, right, star in Syfy Channel's version of "Being Human."
August 9th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Comic-Con's next big thing

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

After writing about pop culture for a while, attending a dozen San Diego Comic-Cons and observing – as well as being a part of – fan culture, you start to notice the signs of a growing movement.

Comic-Con has always been a litmus test for pop culture's appeal. How the hordes of attending fans react to the convention's exclusive presentations often dictates a more mainstream success for comic books, TV shows, movies or collectibles. But predicting a franchise's Comic-Con pH is tricky, since there is always an intangible element to what nerds adopt or reject.

But when you're a nerd and the nerd world is your business, you start to feel like Buffalo Springfield singing, "there's something happening here ... everybody look what's going down" about tribal movements. And after this year's Comic-Con, my gut tells me such is the case with Syfy's "Being Human."

Already a favorite of dark fantasy fans, the show stars Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath as a vampire, werewolf and ghost (respectively) living together to achieve a sense of normalcy.

If a group of supernatural roommates sounds like a soapy set up, that’s because it is. What beloved ongoing story line in nerd culture isn’t? Hook ups, break ups, deaths, resurrections, addictions, arch nemeses, memory loss – not to mention occasional mutations, undead infestations and body switching; this is the stuff that fans cheer for at Comic-Con.

And cheer they did. The trio drew a larger crowd to their end-of-day Saturday panel this year than last. The audience in the Hilton Bayfront Hotel's Indigo Ballroom was full of fans who sat waiting there for hours, specifically so they could see the "Being Human" Stars.

The excitement around “Being Human” reminds me of the groundswell that started the current "Doctor Who" craze. The show has been around since 1963 and always enjoyed a solid fan base, but the franchise was never a dominant force at Comic-Con until relatively recently. A noticeable uptick in Whovian cosplay during David Tennant's tenure as The Doctor (2005 – 2010) started a pattern of excitement.

By Comic-Con 2011, "Doctor Who" had arrived. "Doctor Who" cosplay evolved that year to include not only an army of women fans in cute Dalek dresses, but also nerd culture mash-ups, like a zombie Doctor. Ultimately, the Hall H appearance of cast members Matt Smith (the current star of "Doctor Who") and Karen Gillan in San Diego was a watershed moment for the franchise, moving it into the mainstream.

Currently filming its third season for a Winter 2013 return, “Being Human” also has roots in "Doctor Who's" home turf. The show is the American reimagining/reboot of BBC's original, eponymous and also popular show. Reflecting on the success of Syfy's version of the franchise at Comic-Con, Huntington said he thinks it is a show that “views real world scenarios and issues through a supernatural lens.”

"Were you to take the words ‘vampire,’ ‘werewolf’ and ‘ghost’ out of the scripts, the stories would still work,” Witwer added.

But the supernatural element doesn't hurt; these types of shows are already a hit at Comic-Con (see: “Supernatural”). "Being Human" fits neatly into a crossover-friendly territory between younger-skewing, more romantic “Twilight” and the naughtier, older “True Blood.” And it certainly helps that the lead actors are attractive twenty-somethings. Even so, eye candy alone isn't enough to keep nerds coming back.

Most importantly, a genuine nerd pedigree accompanies “Being Human,” which primes it for a huge showing at future cons.

The actors have a geeky chemistry with one other that’s endearing to fans. They dodge the actor trap of being too cool for their fans, and never come across as just playing a nerd on TV. At Comic-Con, I've seen this cast earnestly interact with fans, even waiting long past the scheduled end of their appearance for fans. The cast moved around the convention together, emphasizing their support of the show and the characters they play, rather than their own celebrity.

It's a formula that works.

“I can't think of a more appropriate place to promote the show than Comic-Con,” said Huntington. “Nerd culture, and the content with which it was born, relies almost 100 percent on suspending belief, while at the same time creating characters that are inherently relatable. I think - hope - that that's exactly what we do.”

Witwer agrees. “That's why we seem to be developing an audience with our ‘nerd culture’ brethren,” he said.

It’s easy to see the nerdy kid in the grown-up Huntington, an erstwhile Jimmy Olsen and star of “Fanboys,” and Rath is a confessed bookworm.

Meanwhile Witwer, the one who has been elevated to heartthrob status, has built the most geek cred of them all after long stints voicing characters for George Lucas on “The Clone Wars” show – he is Darth Maul, for Pete’s sake – and in “The Force Unleashed” video games (not to mention his work as Crashdown on “Battlestar Galactica,” and as Doomsday and the voice of Zod in “Smallville”).

Even the show’s first season boss villain Bishop, played by Mark Pellegrino, who re-appeared in season two, is a power broker in the nerd community after his major roles on “Lost” and “Supernatural.”

If the "Being Human" cast continues to embrace being nerds, they might be the focus of the next con craze.

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soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. ProperVillain

    BBC series was WAAAAAYYYYY better. Better writing, better acting. The American version is 3 pretty people with nominal acting skills trying to be "edgy". Yeah, I think that sums up 99% of American television...

    August 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Syndrome Zed

      Yeah, just like Coupling – the Brit version was 10 times funnier, which is amazing in its own way because the US premiere episode was copied almost verbatim from the British version. I suspect Being Human will suffer the same problem as Coupling – the actors will be ok, but not great. And since it's on the Network Formerly Known As Sci-Fi, even if it does well enough for them to stay on the air, they'll cancel it after the 4th or 5th season because it costs more to produce than re-running Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus in its place. Just ask Eureka, Sliders, Stargate Atlantis, etc.

      September 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  2. SomethingsFishyHere

    This story seems 'planted' to me. Does anyone else think this writer has gone a little too overboard reporting about a series already two seasons old?

    August 14, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  3. 旺角

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    August 14, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  4. Autism sucks!

    I wish that curing autism was the next big thing. I could really use some hope with my son. If you think life is unfair, you really feel it when you have an autistic child. GOD, please cure my son. Give him a chance!

    August 14, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • die die

      it could be worse.

      August 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  5. Joe

    i'd hit it!

    August 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  6. LoLa

    No, just no. Being Human is no more "geek" than Twilight, Vampire Diaries or the Secret Circle. And just because they had a panel at ComicCon doesn't mean they belonged there. Glee, anyone?
    Btw, the Brit version was ok, as far as hokey angst-filled dramas go, but the American version pales in comparison to even that.

    August 12, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Giselle

      STOP the Obama thugs from torturing Medical Marijuana Patients. STOP the hatred Mr. President.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • wrenthefaceless

      Exactly what I was thinking. A lot of stuff at 'Comic-Con' these days is not geek, its stuff the geeks dont even like. Sad days are ahead.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  7. onlyaname

    i was looking forward to the syfy version when it came out but i loved my British charters to much , then the brits killed them off so maybe i should give the american version a try

    August 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Anna

      Obama sent federal agents wearing masks into San Diego to terrorize law-abiding cancer patients and shut down all state sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. Obama is a thug.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      I agree. The season after Mitchell and George was ok but I thought what made the show so amazing was the chemistry between the 3 actors. Not feeling the same stuff with the new ones:(

      August 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  8. reithena

    I love the first season of the British version...Not so much the second season. I'm willing to give the SyFy one a shot.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm |