There likely was no network more visible than Syfy at San Diego Comic-Con this year. It’s no accident—the network is not only celebrating its 25th anniversary, but used SDCC as a launching pad for its rebranding, a refocus on the fans embodied in their new slogan: “it’s a fan thing.”
“This year, we designed our presence at San Diego Comic-Con to be ubiquitous. We wanted to bring the action directly to the fans throughout the streets of San Diego,” said Alexandra Shapiro, EVP marketing and digital, Syfy and USA Network. “Comic-Con fans are some of the most passionate in the world, and we were aiming to reward that passion and commitment by infusing their Con experience with joy, delight and indelible memories. From parties, to weddings, to cosplay karaoke and drumlines, our goal was to give the fans easy access to celebrate what they truly love.”
Syfy certainly lived up to their promise, making a lot of noise this weekend, and it wasn’t just the sci-fi drumline rolling through the Gaslamp District playing sci-fi theme songs. Syfy was everywhere, coordinating a litany of events, activities, panels, screenings, content and yes, parties, all catered to fans.
One of the weekend’s most unique activation was the Syfy Geek Love Chapel, where the network offered super fans a chance to get married or renew their vows in a ceremony officiated by actor Orlando Jones (American Gods). For real.
“I was talking with Syfy about their incredible activations this year and we were talking about focusing on fans and celebrating the 25th anniversary by bringing the people that have gotten them there together,” said Orlando Jones. “I said I want to marry fans. It would be awesome to be a part of a lifelong, incredible, memorable experience and do something that isn’t at all about promotion, it’s just about celebrating what this is all about.”
The ceremonies featured wedding cake, flowers, elaborate costumes, makeup and sci-fi music from the aforementioned drumline, followed by “Just Married” pedicabs.
“You fall in love with a show, a character, a movie, a world, a game, whatever it is, then you meet somebody else that loves the same thing you love, and then all of a sudden you got a new friend or wife or however that works for you,” said Jones. “I thought it’d be really fun to celebrate people who had met through that process, and how cool would it be to do the ultimate thing, which is marry or renew vows? I thought that would be friggin’ awesome.”
It’s lived up to Jones’ wildest expectations, as the actor has performed dozens of vow renewals over the weekend, and yes, several weddings.
“I didn’t expect to do so much in a weekend. I’ve married McFly and Lorraine. I’ve married Starfleet commanders. The first was Poe Dameron and Han Solo,” said Jones. “It’s been epic and beautiful in so many ways. It’s been a real experience and surprising to fans, because they didn’t expect to show up and have their makeup done, and have all these other elements to go along with it.”
The Geek Love Chapel was only one of the many elements that stood out this year for the network.
Cosplay Karaoke buses filled with oldies but goodies such as Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero” trundled through the streets all weekend. Fans weren’t alone on the mic, as the cast of Syfy’s The Magicians joined fans in the singing frenzy.
When their vocal cords needed a break, fans could take a ride on Trivia Trolleys, competing amongst themselves for a chance to win cash prizes.
Any cosplayers beset with wardrobe malfunctions were able to hail Cosplay Repair Carts scattered across the city, helping to ensure all con-goers were ready for their photo ops.
From Wednesday through Sunday, anyone in town (no badge necessary) were able to test their mettle with The Expanse Escape Room, an activation where fans tried to escape a dangerous spacecraft.
In addition, fans exploring the Convention Center were rewarded with 15 different panels, headlined by a Battlestar Galactica Reunion panel with creator Ronald D. Moore and cast members. Syfy also screened a new episode of their show Blood Drive, and the next installment in their freshman anthology series Channel Zero.
And as is tradition, the Sharknado franchise continued to hawk free swag and merchandise in the Gaslamp District, preparing the masses for the network’s fourth annual Sharknado Week, featuring six days worth of fin-based programming starting Sunday July 30, culminating with the premiere of Sharknado 5: Global Swarming on Sunday August 6.
Star Ian Ziering even took part in the Geek Love, renewing his vows with his wife (above).
If you weren’t in San Diego, Syfy offered wall to wall coverage of the weekend’s festivities and news, with star and self-professed nerd Zachary Levi hosting a three-night live TV event, SYFY Live From Comic-Con, airing on their network, accompanied by around the clock coverage on its website syfy.com.
While many networks host exclusive, red carpeted Comic-Con parties, Syfy opened its doors to all comers not once but twice this week with first-come-first-served fiestas at the New Children’s Museum in San Diego. The themed parties, on Thursday July 20 and Saturday July 22, included photo booths, arcade games, live performances and free beer.
San Diego is just the beginning for Syfy’s new vision, and Jones hopes he can continue to be a part of it.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky and keep getting to do this at San Diego and other cons, I don’t know. I literally got ordained to do this. Not that I’m bragging, but I’ve finally hit the pinnacle. It’s not the Oscars, it’s this,” he said.
“I met a couple yesterday that met in a Sci-Fi chatroom. Like the original ‘Sci-Fi’ chatroom. Their first date was in the chatroom. Then they came to Comic-Con in 2002 and Time Machine was the big movie, and I play Vox in the film. Their first Comic-Con they saw Vox and fell in love with Time Machine and met in a Sci-Fi chatroom and now they’re in a Syfy chapel getting married by one of the characters from Time Machine. It’s trippy, right? They were emotional about it. ‘In our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have imagined it coming true,’ because when they first got married, it was a shotgun wedding in Vegas. They didn’t have a ceremony. This is the first wedding ceremony they’ve ever had. To be part of that type of story, that’s what Comic-Con is all about.”
If you’re not feeling the love right now, you’re just not a fan. After all, “it’s a fan thing.”
[All images courtesy of Getty Images for Syfy]