Warner Bros. took its show on the road for SXSW, bringing its DC pop-up Super Hero Lair to Austin for the 2018 pop-culture festival.
“We’re trying to customize it for each market we go into,” said Lisa Gregorian, president and chief marketing officer, Warner Bros. Television Group.
For Gregorian and her team at Warner Bros., the pop-up represents much more than just a quick activation. It’s an exhibit of American culture and history, focusing on the uniquely American art form of comic books.
“If you go back in history between 1880 and 1920, more than 30 million people immigrated to the US during that time. Two young guys in Cleveland created a character about what it was like to be an immigrant. That character was Superman. He had to find his way in America, he had to assimilate, he had to leave behind who he was and not be able to return to his home.
“Years later, cities were overcome with crime and Batman was created. He was part vigilante, part detective. In fact, that character was originally part of Detective Comics. Wonder Woman was created by Dr. William Marston in World War II when women went to work.
“These stories evolve and constantly reflect American culture. Our over-arching strategy for DC Comics is to tell that story across the United States.
When Warner Bros. hosted the pop-up in Washington, D.C., it focused on the way these stories take on social issues, such as diversity, identity and mental health. In Austin, the focus is more populist; it’s about bringing these superheroes to the fans that love them and making them accessible to everyone,
The activation at 717 Red River Street is free to everyone and, much like the outdoor activations at San Diego Comic-Con, no badge is required. When Daily Brief visited on Wednesday afternoon, things were mostly calm and quiet after the weekend crowds had eased.
Upon entering, visitors can grab free coffee during the day or free beer, provided by an Austin-based brewery owned by Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles, at night. Three working Batmobiles and two working Batcycles are on the property, including the sleek version driven by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever and the tank-like monstrosity from the more recently released Justice League. Flanking the set up are life-like mannequins of superheroes, including Wonder Woman.
Over SXSW’s first weekend, comic-book creators Jim Lee, Frank Miller and Dan Jurgens were at the pop-up to meet fans and sign comics for them. People came from all over Texas and across state lines for the chance to hang out with their heroes, said Gregorian. Lee, one of the major artists behind Superman, also was on hand to help celebrate Superman’s 80th anniversary alongside a 16-foot statue of the Man of Steel. Lee designed an exclusive cover for an 80thanniversary book that fans could buy and have Lee sign. Special editions of comic books and other merchandise also are available inside the shop.
Back in the courtyard, visitors can participate in an activation for DC’s new series on Syfy, Krypton, which tells the story of Superman’s ancestors, taking pictures of themselves in a booth that looks like they are on the doomed planet.
Other fun things to do are shop for Funko figures, take selfies with Teen Titans Go! or just take a quiet moment to appreciate your free coffee.