For the first time in years Comic-Con happened without Robert Sanchez, a founding father among online movie writers, who is under investigation for allegations of sexual abuse and has been off the grid for weeks.
But just in time for the festival, his website sprang back to life — this time under new ownership — and there are signs that he's reactivating his online profiles (just in different places).
The website Sanchez founded, IESB.net (Inland Empire Strikes Back), shut down days after he disappeared (screengrab at left taken last week). His associates at the time said he was missing, and attempts to contact him were unsuccessful. His wife, Stephanie Sanchez, told TheWrap she had no comment.
IESB.net began posting new material as Comic-Con began, most of it dispatches from Gig Patta, a freelance contributor who had written for the site during the Sanchez years. He told TheWrap on Saturday that he'd only talked to Sanchez on the phone a few times, and that neither he nor anyone he knew had heard from Sanchez in the past weeks.
Behind the regeneration of IESB.net is JR Harrison, a former movie reviewer for the site who says he is buying it from Stephanie Sanchez, and that the two are working out details of the handover. Harrison is based in Rancho Cucamonga, near the Sanchez's last known address, and told TheWrap that he had been looking for a way to carry on without Sanchez' involvement.
In a statement at its relaunch, IESB.net made it clear that it was distancing itself from its founder:
"Out of respect for the children and family involved, IESB’s new management team is not going to comment on the difficult and deeply private matters that they face. However, we do want to make it very clear that Robert Sanchez is in no way, shape, or form involved in the running of IESB.
We are not running the site for Mr. Sanchez (nor would we). We are running it for ourselves. The new management team is comprised of several folks who have written for IESB in various capacities (including one member who was part of IESB in its very early stages) who share the same passion for movies that IESB’s readers have."
Sanchez (at right, from 2008) was a familiar face at Comic-Con for years, especially since he was an organizer of "The Wrath of Con," among the festival's most exclusive parties (some members of the panel associated with it it couldn't get in this year). It carried on in 2010 with a new name — "From Dusk 'Til Con" — and, by all accounts, went off without a sighting or a hitch.
Considering the deeply serious allegations against him and the number of people and companies to whom he allegedly owes money, it's no wonder why Sanchez sat this one out.