FOR YEARS NOW, San Diego Comic-Con International has been a reliable mega-stage from which Marvel Entertainment would introduce its multi-part, live-action universe to the pop masses. But now, we have reached the point where one does not need the other.

If you believe “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn on social media (and one would think he’s got some reliable inside sources), Marvel Studios will not have a presence at this summer’ Comic-Con. Gunn wrote in a Facebook Q&A over the weekend, about whether he would be at San Diego Comic-Con this year: “I’m not sure. Marvel isn’t going so I’m not sure I will either.” And he followed that up with a tweet:

For so long, so many of the winding Comic-Con lines have belonged to Marvel — becoming an annual rite of summer for fans of comic-book culture.

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But what would Marvel’s not having a cinematic presence at SDCC ’15 mean? Depends on what angle you’re looking at this news from.

If you’re a rival studio — like, say, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment — that would present a major opportunity. With “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” not scheduled to hit theaters till 2016 — and having already given fans just a dab of heat vision at SDCC ’14 with an intense wordless scene of Superman looking down at Batfleck from the sky, as well as the reveal image of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman — WB and DC could use SDCC ’15 as a showcase for the next steppingstone to their eventual Justice League franchise. With Marvel not being there, this especially would leave DC/WB with the opportunity to become the belle of the superhero ball.

One could look at a Marvel no-show and wonder whether it was the right move. Well, consider that Marvel will have already unleashed this summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” upon the world, And these days, Marvel, like the Human Torch, generates its own heat.

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Comic Con has served as a way for Marvel Studios, since its infancy, to show the comics-loving world that what the studio had planed for its shared universe could work. Even with the unexpected $100 million-plus opening weekend of the first “Iron Man” movie, there were still doubts that Marvel could build the necessary parts to lead up to an Avengers franchise. SDCC was part of the game plan:

The guy who played the Human Torch is going to be Captain America? Send him to Comic Con.

Another new actor is playing the Incredible Hulk? Send him to Comic Con.

This shared universe thing had never been tried in such a grand capacity. Now? It’s the standard for comic-book cinema (presuming you’ve got the rights to all your major characters).
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But this isn’t to say that Marvel is done with Comic-Con.

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If you remember the recent event last October, when Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige introduced the “Phase 3” plan of movies, that is probably the future of how Marvel introduces big news to the world. You almost half-expected Feige to introduce a new Marvel smartphone, that’s the kind of feel the event had. Marvel can make its own “Cons” now.

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Does that mean no more SDCC? Has Marvel just gotten too big for its Hulk britches?

Unlikely.

Phase introductions are one thing. Showing each movie to fans is another. Marvel should (and hopefully will) continue to use SDCC as a way to give extended sneak peeks to fans.

It’s just that perhaps now, SDCC won’t get the best looks or biggest announcements. The House of Mouse owns Marvel, as well as a little franchise called Star Wars. Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim is coming in August. This could be the true home of major Marvel (and Lucas) reveals.

Gunn’s statement shouldn’t be seen as the end of Marvel at SDCC, but more as confirmation that Marvel has become its own grand universe. It no longer needs to share the stage.

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