It is one of the most anxious times of the year for major Hollywood studios. San Diego Comic-Con—which returned to in-person festivities in 2022—has long been a sort of pop culture mecca where nerds and media enthusiasts of nearly every stripe descend from around the world. But the producers and studio execs who are only a three hour train ride away? It’s the moment of truth where they bring their wares to the harshest fanbases and hope for the best.
If SDCC 2022 had a winner in this tense atmosphere, it was unsurprisingly Marvel Studios. One of the few production houses that can make as much news in the years they choose not to go to San Diego as in the years they do, Marvel once again had the prime Saturday evening spot in Comic-Con’s cavernous Hall H. There (and unlike any of the previous day’s Hall H panels), Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spoke to a completely packed room of 7,000 attendees—and he made the audience misty when Marvel revealed the genuinely poignant Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer; and then he made them giddy by confirming there will be not one but TWO Avengers movies coming out in 2025. It was pure showmanship, and Marvel remains king of the carnival.
It wasn’t always this way.
There was a time, not long ago, when Marvel Studios had something to prove, even at SDCC. Indeed, one of Feige’s former key collaborators and a longtime MCU producer, Jeremy Latcham, was also in town this year’s SDCC to reveal some highly amusing footage for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves to Hall H on Thursday. And while speaking exclusively to Den of Geek backstage, Latcham looked back on the first year Marvel Studios came to SDCC… and that one year they weren’t even allowed in Hall H.
“During the first Marvel panel, I was 25 and it was the Iron Man 1, The Incredible Hulk, and Ant-Man panel,” Latcham says while speaking of SDCC circa 2006. “It was not in Hall H. It was in Room 6BCF. It’s that little random room upstairs. And Kevin Feige, Steve Broussard, and myself drove down from L.A. in Kevin’s car and we stopped at a seaside [spot] to get coffee. We got the [local] newspaper out, and it said ‘Marvel rolls out the B-team.’ And we were like, ‘Oh no.’”
As hard as it is to remember a not-so-distant past when movie theaters didn’t cling breathlessly to every decision made by Marvel Studios, those early days when Marvel was still working with Edgar Wright on Ant-Man looked like an incredible risk to outsiders. At the time, superhero movies were big business, of course, with X-Men: The Last Stand opening to over $100 million in the summer of 2006. But characters like Iron Man, Ant-Man, and even the Hulk looked like “second tier” next to the assets Marvel had already licensed to other studios. Indeed, the biggest news out of SDCC 2006 was the first time fans got a glimpse of Topher Grace’s Venom covered in CG goo from Spider-Man 3.
Latcham says, “[Jon] Favreau came out, Edgar Wright I think came out, Louis Leterrier came out… and slowly people started to get excited.”
Latcham went on to have a steady run with Marvel in those early days, working as an associate producer on Iron Man (2008), a co-producer on Iron Man 2 (2010), and an executive producer on The Avengers (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). But as he noted to us, during all those years, he was behind the Hall H screen helping get stars like Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans queued up for their big entrance.
Now working as a producer outside of the MCU system, he seems genuinely jazzed to be making the big Hall H entrance himself for Dungeons & Dragons. He also seems eager about the prospect of offering audiences something they may not know they really want yet.
Says Latcham, “We look at the world of franchises and we have a lot of them. I love them all… but I want there to be room for a new thing we can fall in love with and geek out with over the next decade. Like occasionally I’m in an Uber, and the driver’s like what do you do for a living? I’m not a good liar, so I say, ‘I produce movies.’ Well what movies do you produce? ‘Iron Man.’ And I’ll have an Uber driver now go, ‘That was my favorite movie as a kid.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow, a generation so quick that in 2008 you were 10 and now you’re a grown-up driving Uber! And you grew up with these movies.’”
As far as Latcham is concerned, the next generation needs their own kind of Marvel Studios event to catch them by surprise.
“For me it’s so important to have new things starting all the time, so that generation has something to grow up with that is just uniquely theirs,” says the producer. “They were the ones who saw it when they were 11 first and they’re the ones who get to love it for a generation. So my dream is to have that, to create something new and to have a new thing out there in the world that we can all geek out on for a while.”
With Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Latcham thinks he might have found that next thing. He did, after all, hire lifelong DnD fans John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein to write and direct… after they co-wrote the script for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens March 3, 2023.