San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Analysis



With Comic-Con 2012 concluding, the stage was set for the upcoming year in ‘pop culture.’  After wading through Twitter, online recaps, and videos of the various panels, I fished out the following nuggets from the weekend.

Movie Panels Return

After movie studios pulled back on some of their panel content last year, it seemed as though Comic-Con’s cavernous Hall H auditorium might have been losing some of its luster with Hollywood.  Surprisingly, this year marked a reassertion of sorts, with Marvel Studios roaring back after not appearing at last year’s convention.  In particular, Marvel and other studios had a spectacular run of highly-anticipated films on Saturday.  Here were the films of note at the convention, in alphabetical order:

“After Earth” –  This should have been one of the early signs that Hollywood was not turning out for the convention, but a promotional film that was shown at their modest panel got some surprisingly-positive attention.  Although some hoped that Will Smith might show up unannounced, he did not.

“Chinese Zodiac” – This Jackie Chan film was predicted by some to be the ‘bomb’ of the convention, given its major presence in closing out Hall H’s first day programming.  The panel didn’t seem to be a disaster, but there certainly wasn’t any ‘buzz’ online about it.

“The Campaign” –  Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis made a surprise appearance in order to promote this new comedy.  It’s probably for the best that they didn’t have a formal panel scheduled, since the topic didn’t fit the norm at the convention.

“Django Unchained” – Comic-Con would surely love to have Quentin Tarantino appear more often since he both entertaining to watch hold court over a panel and clearly a well-established super-fan himself.  Mr. Tarantino answered a question about “Kill Bill 3,” stating that it would still be a few years from filming if it ever did happen.

“Elysium” – A trailer for Neill Blomkamp’s first new film since 2009’s “District 9” did very well with the crowd and seemed to be one of the weekend’s big winners. Matt Damon had some nice remarks about how well-thought-out the film was, with Mr. Blomkamp having created a graphic novel of the story, along with books of weapons and vehicles.  Mr. Damon also highlighted the lengths that the production went to for location shooting, including shooting in one of the world’s largest garbage dumps, where dust storms full of ‘fecal matter’ were known to spin up.

“End of Watch” – As I’d suspected, there was no online ‘buzz’ at all about this police film’s panel.  It was a mis-matched choice for a studio to try to present at the convention.

“The Expendables 2” – Given that the panel featured both Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with Dolph Lundgren, there were many 1980s and 1990s action film fans in the room.  The panel was light and fun, with both Mr. Stallone and Mr. Schwarzenegger bantering or shooting one-liners at the crowd.  Mr. Schwarzenegger gave a nice speech at the end of the panel when he was awarded a Comic-Con ‘Inkpot’ award for his contributions to film.  Unfortunately, tragedy struck Mr. Stallone the next day, after news broke that his son had overdosed on drugs and died.

“Frankenweenie” – Tim Burton was surprisingly engaging and funny with his fan interaction. The ‘homage’ trailer for the film that was shown didn’t look half bad either, clearly playing up the film’s roots in 1930s Universal Studios monster films.  I’d have little to no expectations for this film and will now be more-actively following it.

“Godzilla” – Only a teaser trailer of the new Legendary Pictures production of “Godzilla” was shown and the footage was not from the film, since the film hadn’t started shooting yet.  That said, the trailer did get the crowd quite wound up and, oddly, the ‘buzz’ seemed to even overshadow Legendary Pictures’s other ‘giant monster’ movie, “Pacific Rim.”

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – The twelve minutes of footage that was shown was very well received.  Peter Jackson and the major cast members, such as Ian McKellen were all in attendance.  As the convention wound down, a rumor broke out that Peter Jackson had confirmed that a third “Hobbit” film might be in the works if Warner Bros. approved additional funding.  That rumor was officially denied though.

“The Host” – Director Andrew Niccol was given the chance at the end of the “Twilight” panel to show footage from his new film that adapted author Stephanie Meyer’s post-Twilight fiction.   This seemed to be one of the weekend’s big misfires though, as many “Twilight” fans left in the middle of the footage.

“Hotel Transylvania” – I’m still following Genndy Tartakovsky’s new animated film even though it didn’t get much publicity out of its panel at the convention.

“Grabbers” – With the tagline “Only Getting Drunk Will Save You,” I suspect that this one will be a cult hit.  It didn’t have a big presence, but the release of some footage online caught a bit of buzz.

“Iron Man 3” – Robert Downey Jr. was in total control of the Hall H crowd, after literally dancing his way through the isles.  He even had Marvel Studios in the palm of his hand, with a fan making reference to Mr. Downey’s contract coming up soon and Kevin Feige from Marvel admitting that they’d be backing up an armored truck full of cash for Mr. Downey.  Marvel’s major announcements included a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film with the prominently-featured anthropomorphic Rocket Raccoon in the promotional materials.  That film could either be a big hit or a bit misfire, as the comic book had never been a lasting title, but it might make for a nice movie spectacle.   Test footage of Edgar Wright’s “Ant-Man” was shown, but no details were given on that long-rumored project.  Finally, the title of the “Captain America” sequel was announced and it related to the “Winter Soldier” storyline by comic book writer Ed Brubaker.

“Lone Ranger” – Johnny Depp didn’t appear in person at the convention, but Disney did surprise the crowd with a trailer for his new film.  Reaction seemed to be mixed, with some fans thinking that it looked better than expected, while others were worried about the quick cutting action.

“Looper” – No Bruce Willis appearance meant that this panel had a lower-profile than many other major film panels.  The film had good buzz going into the convention and might be one to keep an eye on.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” – The trailer for Sam Raimi’s new “Oz” film was shown at the Disney Comic-Con panel and was already online. I was more impressed than I thought I’d be. This project originally seemed sacrilegious, but doing a prequel instead of a remake might actually work. James Franco’s star had seemingly lost his luster, but maybe he’ll find a way to get it back. Since the film was produced by Disney and not Warner Bros., the production had to be careful to ‘officially’ stay faithful to the original L. Frank Baum “Oz” books and not the classic 1939 film adaptation.

“Pacific Rim” – Director Guillermo del Toro had his trademark f-bombs flying for the crowd.  Quotes included:  “There’s no f***ing motion capture, it was all key framed” in regards to wanting the robots and monster in the film to look like traditional film robot or monsters. When a fan asked if the film’s monsters would have unique abilities Del Toro said “Take a f***ing guess.” Del Toro later elaborated “Three sea monsters… we have flying monsters… we have monsters up the wazoo… every kind we created was created specifically for the movie.”

“Paranorman” – There didn’t seem to be much excitement or ‘buzz’ for this film.

“Resident Evil: Retribution” – Ditto.

“Silent Hill: Revelations 3D” – Ditto.

“Superman: Man of Steel” – The new “Superman” film from director Zack Snyder with some help by “Dark Knight”‘s Christopher Nolan. I had concerns about reports that the footage was ‘shaky’-style action. During the panel, a notable moment included a crying, large male fan who had to be consoled after seeing the initial footage.

“Total Recall” – Director Len Wiseman came off badly during the panel, making it sound as though he had originated sci-fi staples such as towering, ‘vertical’ cities.  This project continued to look like a train wreck, appearing to not know if it was a remake of the old Arnold Schwarzenegger film or a more-inspired re-imagination of it.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2” – I’m not a fan of “Twilight,” but this was the series’s last panel at Comic-Con and it seemed to go smoothly… other than the part about the fan who died while trying to avoid losing her spot in line.

“Wreck-It Ralph” – This animated film should continue to pick up main-stream recognition before its November release.  Comparisons were made to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Many classic video game characters from a variety of companies appear in the film and that notoriety could end up bringing in many fans of a various video game genres.

Television Kept Rising

While television panels haven’t totally eclipsed the film panels their popularity continued to rise. Much of Friday’s television programming was in Hall H, the first time that the convention had had television show panels in there on a day other than the lesser-attended Sunday. “Game of Thrones” had one of the most-anticipated panels of the convention’s second day, but with no new footage to show, the only real news from it came in the form of a few new casting announcements.  Author George RR Martin did a nice job answering questions amid what was an otherwise forgettable panel full of cast members. The “Firefly” reunion panel seemed to go well, but the weekend ended amid rumors that series creator Joss Whedon might be ‘rebooting’ the show for a cable network.  Nothing was certain, but the property had obviously managed to keep a loyal fan base, so a reboot might make sense. CBS’s  “Elementary,” an American version of the recent BBC series “Sherlock” got decent reviews and might prove to be worth checking out.  I’m not sold on the idea of Lucy Lui as Watson, but the producers insisted that her casting wasn’t simply a stunt to create ‘romantic tension’ with Sherlock Holmes.

Notable Marketing Efforts

The “Walking Dead” television show scored points for hosting an interesting stunt whereby a fan was chosen from the audience to be a zombie during the show’s upcoming season. Such ‘fans as extras’ contests seem poised to become more common, as the super-fan types for different movies or shows would go completely nuts to have such an opportunity. The “Walking Dead” also had the high-profile ‘Walking Dead Escape’ haunted-house experience at nearby Petco Park. A $70.00 admission ticket was steep, but it included a ‘variant edition’ comic book that could probably be flipped on eBay quickly to offset some or most of that cost. “Elysiaum” had an oft-photographed ‘travel agent’ booth that led fans to a couple of websites related to the film.  Their campaign got some early attention, but didn’t seem to generate as much excitement as the actual panel for the film. “Djano Unchianed” set up an off-site old west town and had bandits walking around downtown San Diego.  Fans could get vouchers for free t-shirts from the bandits if they gave them the pass-phrase: “The ‘D’ is silent.” Despite having a lackluster guest list for their panel, “After Earth” did show a compelling video with an interesting Facebook-inspired timeline design to it.  The video was intended to get audiences caught up on the film’s back story.

Marketing Disasters? The “Dredd” screening by Lion’s Gate generated fan backlash after only around fifty fans were purported to be allowed inside.  Apparently most of the seating went to online press. The aforementioned screening of footage of “The Host” was not well received by the captive “Twilight” fans.  Fans of “Game of Thrones” filed out en mass after that panel concluded, choosing not to stick around for Sony’s panels for “End of Watch” and “Silent Hill: Revelations 3D.”

Missed Opportunities

Peter Jackson opted not to show his footage from “The Hobbit” in its full 48 frames-per-second glory.  A similar exhibition of footage at that speed at a theatre convention in April had led to a mixed reaction online.  Another film that was once highly-anticipated for its technical achievements, “Avatar,” suffered when the 3D didn’t look great during their 2009 presentation.  While a solid presentation of the higher-quality frame rate might have helped address fan concerns, the screens in Hall H were not ideal for pushing new technical boundaries and this might not have been an overall bad decision. “After Earth” could have used a boost from star Will Smith, but he wasn’t at the film’s modest presentation in a small convention room.  It was probably for the best that director M.Night Shyamalan stayed home. The new Green Arrow television series “Arrow” was somewhat panned as too ‘conventional’ and ‘cheeky’ by some fans who saw the pilot.  Given that this character seemed destined for a film franchise and good reviews for the “Supermax” script that featured the character, it was a surprise that Warner Bros. chose to go this route with the character.

Actual Comic Book News…

There was actually some major comic book news sprinkled throughout the convention’s programming. Author Neil Gaiman created a video to announce a prequel mini-series to his popular “Sandman” title for DC/Vertigo. J. Michael Straczynski seemed to have a new announcement every day, with the start of his ‘Studio JMS’ umbrella.  In terms of comics, Mr. Straczynski planned to bring back his ‘Joe’s Comics’ line and also had “The Majestic Files” about the Roswell New Mexico UFO incident coming from Legendary Comics. Speaking of Legendary Comics, they continued to pick up steam with their second annual panel.  Writer Max Brooks referred to his arm of Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures as “It’s a comics division, not a pre-movie division.” Quentin Tarantino crashed a DC Comics panel to announce a “Django Unchained” comic book movie adaptation.  In the era of home video, comic book movie adaptations aren’t nearly as popular as they were in the 1970s or 1980s, but Mr. Tarantino’s promise of ‘additional scenes’ in the comics might generate some interest. IDW announced more titles in their  high-end”Artist’s Edition” line of original art reprint books:

  • A Gil Kane “Amazing Spider-Man” book, including #121 (featuring the classic “Death of Gwen Stacy” story).
  • DC Comics, a longtime holdout of the Artist’s Edition line teamed with IDW to do a “Mad” Magazine reprint.  I could only hope that this led to IDW someday doing a Frank Miller “Dark Knight” Artist’s Edition.
  • Mark Schultz’s “Xenozoic Tales” was a lesser-known comic, but fans who know about it are surely in awe of its art.
  • An announced reprint of the “Rocketeer” Artist’s Edition will surely bring down the value of my first printing from Comic-Con 2009, but I have loved that book too much to sell it anyway.

The Scene

At last year’s Comic-Con, I made the observation that many of the convention attendees were engaging in increasingly ‘fanatical’ behavior.  In particular, they were exhibiting new levels of willingness to stand in lines for hours upon end, often foregoing sleep in order to see a particular panel. That behavior seemed to reach a new level when a fan was killed by a passing car while that fan tried to rush back to her spot during a line ‘reconfiguration.’  It’ll be interesting to see if the convention organizers introduce lotteries or seat reservation systems in the future.  Clearly, something needed to be done in order to relieve the line ‘burden’ that had developed. A local San Diego television station reported that Fans interested in seeing the movie panels on Saturday needed to be in line before 7:00am.  Apparently that was the last time that a fan was let into Hall H until Saturday evening. In a related note, the Men’s room in Hall H was shut down for a while on Saturday afternoon, meaning that fans couldn’t go to the bathroom without leaving the room and, thus, giving up their seat. I bet that that was an interesting situation. Finally, more fans seemed to be going to the convention simply to re-sell give-away or ‘convention exclusive’ items on eBay.  I read about one such flipper becoming addicted to the practice after selling a free “Lost” pencil for $5.00 in 2010.  One had to wonder where the convention might be headed next if such ‘flipping’ became an even larger part of the focus of attendees.

Appendix: Schedule Breakdown

I’ve analyzed the schedule for Comic-Con 2012 that has been released thus far and cherry-picked from it the panels that struck me as the most-compelling.

Wednesday, July 11th

6:00-9:45 – Special Sneak Peek Pilot Screenings

“666 Park Avenue” – Anything with “Lost”‘s Terry O’Quinn starring in it will get me to at least take a peek. “Arrow” – I’m skeptical of this television adaptation of “Green Arrow,” but will at least give it a chance. “Revolution” – A post-apocalyptic adventure with both directors JJ Abrams and Jon Favreau involved has my attention. “Cult” – “There is television…and there is the world we live in. In the shadows where they meet, there is Cult.” I met the creator of “Farscape” – Rockne O’Bannon – a few year ago and he struck me as a sharp guy, so hopefully he’s able to make something out of this series.



Thursday, July 12th

10:00-11:00 – Marvel: Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way – Marvel Comics has done this panel at Comic-Con several times now and also at other conventions. It will obviously be of great interest to aspiring comic book professionals. 10:00-11:00 – IDW & Hasbro – IDW has had the Hasbro license for “G.I. Joe” comic books for a few years now and my interest here would mainly be around their plans for reprinting the 1980s Marvel work of writer Larry Hama, who was in many ways was the ‘godfather’ of that property as we know it today. 10:00-11:00 – From Fan to Creator: Goal Setting for Creative Types – Similar to the earlier Marvel panel, but more generic, this is one of a number of panels to help coach aspiring creative types to create a plan for ‘breaking’ into different creative industries. 10:15-11:15 – The Truth About The Hobbit – The first panel at the convention that might have some insider information to share on Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” film. 10:30-11:30 – Battlestar Galactica: So Say We All – As the well-regarded Ron Moore “Battlestar Galactica” series has now been off the air for over three years and the spin-off “Caprica” was cancelled early in its run, that property’s popularity has been cooling off. We’ll see if anything notable comes from this panel, as it will likely be the only one related to “Battlestar Galactica” at the convention. 10:30-11:30 – How to Get News Coverage – Again, for aspiring creative types.  There might be some interesting, practical nuggets of information to be gleaned at this panel. 11:00-12:00 – Filmation and Lou Scheimer – Filmation was the production company behind such shows as “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “She-Ra Princess of Power,” and “Bravestarr.” I watched all of those shows as a kid, but don’t know much about the company, so this might be an interesting look back at their history. 11:30-12:30 – Spotlight on Geof Darrow – Mr. Darrow’s incredibly detailed drawing style is somewhat similar to the now-late French artist Moebius and he apparently apprenticed with Moebius in the 1980s. I have really liked Mr. Darrow’s limited comic book work over the years and his work on the film “The Matrix” was significant. 11:45-12:45 – Stan Lee’s World of Heroes – Stan Lee apparently has a new You Tube channel. Obviously his recent works haven’t really caught on, but this would be a chance for fans to see Mr. Lee in person and cross that off of their ‘bucket list.’ 12:00-1:00 – The Pitching Hour – I’ve attended this panel in the past and it featured several Hollywood development executives hearing ‘pitches’ for ideas from audience members and critiquing them.  It was okay for those aspiring creative types who have this block of time free and supposedly some of the pitched ideas have been moved forward into development. 12:30-1:30 – Spotlight on Mark Schultz – Mr. Schultz was the creator of the comic book series “Xenozoic Tales,” which later inspired the “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” cartoon series. He’s a great artist with an eye toward pulp-style adventure stories. 12:30-1:30 – iVerse Media: New Frontiers in Digital Comics – Comic book writer Mark Waid has been one of the leading voices on the move of comic books into the digital realm and it’ll be interesting to hear about the latest developments from him. 12:45-1:45 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2 – The first panel of the convention in massive Hall H is one that doesn’t interest me, but that will interest legions of fans. It does strike me as odd that Hall H has a relatively ‘light’ first day schedule, opening so late in the day with this panel. 1:00-2:00 – 100th Anniversary of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars – Moderator Mark Evanier tends to run entertaining ‘historical’ panels. 1:00-2:00 – Dark Horse: Powered by Creators – Dark Horse Comics has long been one of the leading ‘independent’ publishers and there might be some interesting historical nuggets discussed at this panel. 1:00-2:00 Voltron: Form Blazing Fans! – I’ve not really followed this property other than being familiar with the original cartoon series and toy line. However, one of the production companies involved with “Dark Knight Rises” is apparently working on a movie for “Voltron” and there will be an update on that film during the panel. 1:30-2:30 – Self-Publishing: Exploring the E-Frontier – Several science fiction authors discuss eBooks and self-publishing. Obviously a timely topic for creative types. 2:00-3:00 – Inside the Shadow Show: Ray Bradbury’s Lasting Impact on Literature, Comics, Film, and Beyond – With the recent death of Ray Bradbury, this should also be a timely and interesting panel. 2:00-3:00 – Before and After: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Journey into High Definition – Probably more of a technical panel, but I’m interested in the complete “Next Generation” series being ‘re-mastered’ for high-definition televisions. 2:05-3:05 Walt Disney Studios – This is probably the most interesting panel of the day in Hall H, as it includes a Q&A with Tim Burton, as he promotes “Frankenweenie.” Sam Raimi will also have a Q&A around his upcoming “Oz” film. Finally, the 1980s-inspired videogame culture-inspired animated film “Wreck-It Ralph” will get discussed. 3:00-4:00 – 1982: It was 30 Years Ago Today-Greatest Geek Year Ever! – File this under ‘what could have been.’  This panel seems to simply be composed of online pundits raving about the films of the summer of 1982, rather than actually featuring some of the talent behind those films. 3:00-4:00 – IDW’s Artist’s Editions: What’s Next? – IDW’s Scott Dunbier will apparently talk about new titles in IDW’s original art reprint series. I have a few of those ‘luxury’ volumes and they are probably the jewels of my comic book hardcover collection. They are the ultimate comic book fan coffee table books. 3:00-4:00 – Hotel Transylvania – This is the new animated film from director Genndy Tartakovsky, who is known to “Star Wars” fans for his very-well-regarded “Clone Wars” serial series. That series shouldn’t be confused with the later “Clone Wars” series on Cartoon Network. 3:15-4:15 – Low Budget/Big Genre: Making it Fun – This could be an interesting panel on the topic of low-budget filmmaking. The panel includes both people from Syfy’s film productions and the somewhat-notorious low-budget film production firm The Asylum, makers of classics such as “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus.” 3:25-4:25 – CZ12– This panel is to promote a new film that Jackie Chan has written and directed. Presumably Mr. Chan will be there, as this presentation is in Hall H, but he’s not explicitly listed in the ‘official’ description. 3:45-4:45 – Image: The Walking Dead – This should be a packed panel, with creator Robert Kirkman, so I’m surprised that it is in Room 6A instead of Ballroom 20. Then again, this panel refers to ‘Image,’ so it is likely only to promote the comic book series, with a “Walking Dead” television series panel planned for later in the week. It’s moderated by Sina Grace, a friend of a friend who was involved with the comic book series early in its run. 4:00-5:00 – Abstract Studio: Terry Moore – I’m quite familiar with Mr. Moore’s “Strangers in Paradise” series and apparently there will be some news around its 20th anniversary celebration. 4:00-5:00 – Archaia: How to Effectively Pitch a Story– I’m not very familiar with Archaia’s properties, but they pulled off a nice Jim Henson panel last year at Comic-Con and they produce some impressive hardcover comic book collections at reasonable prices. They seem to be a fun, niche company that has an eye toward quality. 4:30-5:30 – Marvel: Next Big Thing – There are various rumors running around regarding Marvel Comics’ big event plans for the next year, but we’ll find out for sure what they are at this panel. My big question:  Will Alan Moore’s “Marvelman”/”Miracleman” finally get integrated into the Marvel Universe, several years after Marvel acquired that property? 4:40-5:45 – Cracking the Case with Sherlock Holmes and Watson: A Behind-the-scenes Look at CBS’s New Series ‘Elementary’ – This is a preview of the new CBS television series that is based on the recent BBC ‘update’ to Sherlock Holmes. For a twist, it stars Lucy Lui as ‘Joan Watson.’ I’m not sure what to think of it, as I really enjoyed the BBC imagination of Holmes, but my first impression here is that CBS is potentially ‘dumbing things down’ for American audiences. 4:45-5:45 – The Expendables 2-Real American Heroes – Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Arnold Schwarzenegger will all appear at the panel. Apparently the panel for the original “The Expendables” was rather amusing, with the crowd eating up having all of their ‘action heroes’ around. The addition of Mr. Schwarzenegger, even if his star has diminished over the years, will make it intriguing. 5:00-6:00 – Legendary Comics – Thomas Tull’s Legendary Studio’s comic book division will have its second annual panel, after announcing Frank Miller’s “Holy Terror!” at last year’s convention. The personnel that Mr. Tull has been lining up continues to be throwbacks to some of the ‘big names’ that Dark Horse comics brought in during the 1990s and it’ll be interesting to see if any of their work catches on with the fan community. 5:30-6:30 – Batman’s Biggest Secret: The Bill Finger Story – The credit for Batman’s creation is usually given to Bob Kane, but he was widely known to have used ghost-writers/artists such as Bill Finger during that time period. Supposedly some new ‘evidence’ will be discussed at the panel that might stir the pot a bit on the ‘real’ creation of Batman. 8:00-9:00 – The Image Revolution Documentary – “Twenty years ago, the seven biggest artists in comics created a company that revolutionized comics.” This will be an interesting documentary to eventually see, as it chronicles one of the key turning points in my comic book collecting heyday. Unfortunately, it is being produced by a little-known production company, so I doubt that it will get much in the way of notice or distribution. 8:15-9:15 – Robotech Industry Panel – Similarly to “Voltron,” this is another ‘giant robot’ property from the 1980s that has long seemed on the cusp of breaking through with a big movie deal, but annually only seems to have some minor updates to supply fans. 8:30-10:30 – Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope – This screening, which includes as Q&A with director Morgan Spurlock, might have been more beneficial for the film at last year’s Comic-Con. Given that the film never managed to get major distribution, it never lived up to what it could have been for Mr. Spurlock.


Friday, July 13th

10:00-11:00 – Remembering Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon – Jerry Robinson was the co-creator of The Joker and a regular fixture of Comic-Con. Joe Simon was the co-creator of Captain America. Both men passed away during the last year and this panel would be a good opportunity to hear their friends reflect back on their lives. 10:00-11:00 – Community: School is Back in Session – Last year’s panel for “Community” was extremely popular and I’d expect this year’s panel to do well too. One thing that I noticed though: Chevy Chase isn’t listed as appearing. 10:00-11:00 – How to Break into Television Writing – Some working writers in the television industry share their thoughts on how to get started in that business. 11:00-12:00 – Mike Mignola and Friends – Learn the latest on Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” franchise. This might be the only opportunity, other than from Guillermo del Toro on Saturday, to hear updates on a potential “Hellboy 3” film. 11:00-12:00 – Spotlight on Herb Trimpe – Mr. Trimpe has had an interesting career that spans from the 1960s until today, drawing any number of Marvel comic books. I heard an interview from him a few years ago where he was pretty cantankerous when referring to the modern comic book business. Perhaps his attitude has softened a bit over the past few years… or not. 11:30-12:30 – Spotlight on Lynn Johnston – I was a regular reader of Ms. Johnston’s “For Better or For Worse” comic strip and it would be interesting to hear what she has planned next for that strip’s characters. The strip largely ended ongoing material on August 31, 2008, but it has been a mix of re-worked re-runnings of old strips since then. 12:00-1:00 – Spotlight on Larry Hama – Besides being the single most important writer behind the entire “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” property in the 1980s, Mr. Hama has had a career as an illustrator and also wrote acclaimed series such as “Nth Man.” This is his first guest appearance at the convention. 12:05-1:05 – The Big Bang Theory Screening and Q&A – This will be the first television show to inhabit Hall H during one of the major days of the convention. That certainly marks an interesting shift whereby some of the television shows at the convention are eclipsing big-name movie stars and their projects in popularity. 12:30-1:30 – Judge Dredd 35th Anniversary – With the new “Dredd” film coming out this summer, this would be a chance for comic book and film fans to find out why Judge Dredd has had such a strong following in the U.K. over the past thirty-five years. 12:30-1:30 – Firefly 10-Year Anniversary Reunion – Given the ‘cult’ following of the short-lived show and an appearance by director Joss Whedon, along with the original show cast, I suspect that this could turn out to be one of the most-discussed and popular panels at the convention. 12:45-1:45 – 666 Park Avenue Pilot Screening and Q&A – When else are you going to see Terry O’Quinn from “Lost” in person? 1:00-2:00 – From Imagination to Screen-The Art Department of Industrial Light & Magic – Some personnel from ILM look back on the career of “Star Wars” illustrator Ralph McQuarrie and also provide a peek into some of what goes on at ILM’s art department. 1:00-2:00 – Spotlight on Michael E. Uslan, The Boy Who Loved Batman – This seems to be largely a repeat of a panel that Mr. Uslan did last year at Comic-Con. It was a solid panel though and he has an interesting career story to tell. 1:15-2:15 – From Fanboy to Filmmaker: A Case Study on How to Make a Successful Animated Film – Recent USC film student Jonah D. Ansell discusses how he got Christopher Lloyd, Kathy Bates and Neil Young to help out with his animated short film. 1:25-2:25 – AMC’s The Walking Dead – Another television show that will be featured in Hall H. This will undoubtedly be massively popular. 1:30-2:30 – Comic Book Entrepreneurs – A number of pioneers in the comic book industry, at least in starting new ventures related to comic books, will be discussing what’s next. 2:00-3:00 – Star Wars Origami – Learn how to fold paper into “Star Wars” figures. Where else in the world would you get this kind of knowledge? 2:00-3:00 – ASIFA: Hollywood’s State of the Industry – This will touch on the animated film industry and one of the intriguing questions will revolve around the current state of the 3D computer versus traditional 2D hand-animation battle. 2:45-3:45 – Game of Thrones Panel and Q&A session – Continuing the streak of television shows that are featured in Hall H, this will undoubtedly be one of the best-attended panels of the entire convention. Author George R. R. Martin will be moderating a Q&A with most of the major cast members. There might be a few issues though, as production on the upcoming Season 3 doesn’t begin until after Comic-Con. Thus, there will only likely be promotions for the upcoming Season 2 home video release and no new footage to show. Also, fan favorite actor Peter Dinklage isn’t listed as being on the panel. 3:00-4:00 – Walt Disney Animation Studios: Wreck-it Ralph: The Art of Story – I attended a panel on PIXAR’s story process a couple of years ago and if this is anything similar, it should be impressive. 3:00-4:00 – The Future of Star Wars Publishing: Dark Horse & Del Rey– I don’t keep much of an eye on the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” books or comic books, but the panel description mentions author Timothy Zahn and his work has been exceptional. 3:15-4:15 – Marvel: Cup O’ Joe – Marvel’s chief creative officer Joe Quesada usually gives a great, rapid-fire Q&A session with fans. Given his current role at Marvel, he might be able to answer more questions regarding Marvel Studios films than he could in the past. 3:30-4:30 – 75th Anniversary of Prince Valiant – The old “Prince Valiant” comic strip gets cited by many a historian for inspiring many of the leading comic book artists of the 1960s and 1970s. The ‘realistic’ drawing style that the strip featured still looks impressive today. 4:35-6:35 – Sony: Total Recall, Looper, and Elysium -The “Total Recall” remake doesn’t interest me at all. “Looper” has me moderately interested after a recent trailer showcased its premise. Apparently Bruce Willis has to travel back in time to kill his ‘past self.’ The really curious item of the three has to be “Elysium,” by Neill Blomkamp, who surprised everyone with “District 9.” 5:30-6:30 – Spotlight on Scott Snyder– I’m not really familiar with Mr. Snyder’s work, but his name has constantly come up on ‘best comic book writer’ lists over the past year. He’s notable for his current run on “Batman,” which everyone agrees is a hard character to ‘break new ground’ with. 5:30-6:30 – Dark Horse: Joss Whedon – While this will likely focus on Mr. Whedon’s comic book-related work, it seems safe to assume that other film-related topics will come up. 5:30-6:30 – D+Q & Fantagraphics– Fantagraphics has been one of the more interesting comic book publishers in that they’ve produced some comprehensive historical collections. Notable amongst those are “The Complete Peanuts” and the new “Carl Barks Library” collections. It’ll be interesting to see what they have coming up next. 6:00-7:00 – Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal – Talk about an odd panel. Longtime CNN talkshow host Larry King will be interviewing the voice actor Peter Cullen. Mr. Cullen is, of course, famous for being the voice of Optimus Prime in both the original 1980s “Transformers” cartoon and also in the more-recent Michael Bay-directed feature films. 6:45-7:45 – AMC’s Breaking Bad – Staff from the notable AMC series will discuss their final season plans. 7:00-8:00 – Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Celebration – I was at the 25th anniversary panel a few years ago and that featured Ridley Scott, along with all of the major living cast members, except for Harrison Ford. Based on the panel description, there might be some minor cast members who turn up again, but it doesn’t seem likely to be as big of an event. 7:00-8:00 – And Then What Happened? Serialized Shows That Ended Too Soon – This could be interesting for fans of shows such as “Dollhouse,” “Flashforward,” and “Firefly,” that ended prematurely. Some of the creative staff behind those shows will reveal ‘what might have happened next.’ 8:00-10:30 – Syfy Presents the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – The ‘Oscars’ of the comic book industry. It’s always nice to check the list of nominees and the winners in order to get ideas for comic book series or collections that one might have missed. 8:30-9:30 – Space Command: Bold Adventures in the Far Reaches of Space – The guy behind this project, Marc Scott Zicree, has some pretty extensive credits on sci-fi shows of the 1990s and this appears to be a Kickstarter project that he’s heading up. It has actually already doubled the original goal in donations. 8:30-9:30 – 35 Years of Heavy Metal – “Heavy Metal” magazine certainly has a ‘bad boy’ reputation in the comic book community and this late-night panel should feature some interesting characters. The magazine’s artists have long been some of the leading fantasy illustrators in the world. 8:30-9:30 – Toy Masters – This is an oddity, but apparently the panel will show parts of a new documentary entitled “Toy Masters” that focuses on 1980s action figure lines, such as “He-Man.” Also related to He-Man will be some discussion of the “Masters of the Universe” film, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  They appeared to have had an panel at the 2011 Comic-Con as well, so perhaps there will be some updates on the documentary project’s progress.  Footage from the documentary that is online is compelling.

Saturday, July 14th

10:00-11:00 – Comic-Con How-To: Anatomy of a Fight Scene, Part One – This could be a helpful panel for creative types who want to learn more about the creation of compelling fight scenes. 10:00-11:00 – After Earth – This new film from director M. Night Shyamalan stars Will Smith and neither of them will be on this panel. Their lack of an appearance at a time when both of their careers could use a boost strikes me as a major PR misstep. Most likely though, some sort of advance footage will be shown, although the panel will not take place in of the major convention rooms, so any resultant ‘buzz’ will be smaller than it could have been if the bigger name talent had bothered to present it. 10:00-11:00 – That 70s Panel – Moderator Mark Evanier will lead a discussion with 1970s comic book superstars that includes Marv Wolfman (Tomb of Dracula), Steve Englehart (Batman), and Herb Trimpe (Incredible Hulk) 11:30-12:30 – Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained – This should be a pretty exciting panel, with Mr. Tarantino there in person. The script for “Django Unchained” is fantastic and, while the first trailer underwhelmed me, I still expect the film to be good. 12:00-1:00 – Spotlight on Klaus Janson – Mr. Janson is probably best known for his collaborations with Frank Miller in the 1980s, but he’s had a solo penciling career since then that is well-respected. The panel will include an appearance by artist Bill Sienkiewicz. 12:00-1:00 – Comics Arts Conference Session #10: Focus on Steve Englehart – Mr. Englehart was a big name in comic book writing from the 1970s until the 1990s and has focused more so on novels during the past few years. 12:45-1:45 – Open Road Films: End of Watch and Silent Hill: Revelations 3D – Every year, there is a film that doesn’t quite seem to fit at Comic-Con and this year that film will likely be “End of Watch.” Also, I’m not sure that there will be much interest in a new “Silent Hill” film. Basically, this hour will be used by people to get inside Hall H to get settled before the major programs of the afternoon and evening start. 12:45-1:45 – DC Comics: Before Watchmen – This will surely be one of the more-interesting comic book panels, as there continues to be much debate around DC Comics’ decision to produce prequels to Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” maxi-series. 12:45-1:30 – The Simpsons – This is a popular annual panel with “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and many of the familiar voice actors from the show. It’s hard to believe that the show is now entering its twenty-fourth season. 1:45-2:30 – Family Guy – Given Seth MacFarlane’s popularity, I’m sure that this will be a jam-packed panel. 2:00-3:00 – Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski – Mr. Straczynski has given very entertaining ‘spotlight’ panels in the past. I expect this to be another quality panel. 2:00-3:00 – Will Eisner and the Graphic Novel – I wonder if anyone at this panel will mention that writer-artist Jim Steranko tried to take credit for inventing the graphic novel at last year’s Comic-Con. 2:30-5:00 – Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Preview Their Upcoming Lineups – Besides the Marvel panel that follows it, this might be the other ‘biggest panel of the convention.’

Pacific Rim” – Director Guillermo del Toro’s big-budget ode to old Japanese monster movies will have its first footage screened. Mr. del Toro is fantastic with a crowd and he will be joined by the film’s star, Idris Elba.

Man of Steel” – The new Zack Snyder-directed “Superman” film will likely have its first footage shown. No details regarding guests is provided, but it can be assumed that both Mr. Snyder and the new Superman start Henry Cavill will be in attendance.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Many names are mentioned in the panel description, but no one is explicitly mentioned as attending. I’d assume that there will be a large cast turnout though, along with director Peter Jackson. The film will need to combat the mixed reaction that viewers at the CinemaCon theatre industry convention gave early footage back in April.

Godzilla” – There is a rumor that Legendary Pictures will show some sort of teaser footage that relates to their upcoming “Godzilla” film.

3:30-4:30 – Kickstarter Changes Comics – An impressive line-up, including former DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz and the publisher of Jeff Smith’s Cartoon Books discuss the phenomenon of Kickstarter projects with regards to comic books. 4:00-5:00 – The Following Screening and Q&A – When else were you ever going to see Kevin Bacon in person? 4:15-5:15 – EPIX Originals: William Shatner and Roger Corman – As bad as Kevin Smith’s solo panel has been over the past few years, I’m intrigued by this panel that he’ll be moderating. Mr. Shatner actually starred in “The Intruder” – one of Mr. Corman’s few critically-recognized films back in the early-1960s. Mr. Shatner also showed up in later Corman productions such as “Big Bad Momma.” 4:30-5:30 – Spotlight on Jim Lee – Mr. Lee has probably been the most successful comic book artist of the past twenty-five years. Besides still drawing on a regular basis, he serves as one of the heads of DC Comics. 5:15-6:00 – Person of Interest Screening and Q&A – I’m not really interested in this television series, but both Jim Caviezel from “The Passion of the Christ” and Michael Emerson from “Lost” will be there. 5:30-6:30 – Spotlight on Mark Waid – Mr. Waid is known within the comic book industry for an impressive run on “The Flash” and for “Kingdome Come” with Alex Ross. He’s also known for being quite outspoken, so this could be an interesting panel. 5:45-6:45 – Metal Hurlant Chronicles – This internationally-produced television series, based on “Heavy Metal” magazine precursor “Metal Hurlant,” might be interesting. Michael Jai White has some nice action scenes in a trailer for the series that is online, but it is hard to figure out what the show will be about. At first glance it looks like a lower budget “Game of Thrones,” but there are also large robots somewhere in the mix. 6:00-7:00 – Marvel Studios: Iron Man 3 – This is likely to be the ‘biggest’ panel of the entire convention, as Marvel Studios is expected to make future film announcements that go beyond simply “Iron Man 3.” 6:00-7:30 – A Tribute to the Legendary Ray Bradbury – Another tribute to Ray Bradbury, moderated by frequent-panel-moderator Mark Evanier. The one uncomfortable thing about this panel is that Mr. Evanier recently mentioned on his blog that he avoided Mr. Bradbury near the end of his career due to disliking the conservative political views that Mr. Bradbury apparently espoused. 7:00-8:00 – The Future of Graphic Novels – Very oddly, Olivia d’Abo, an actress who played the older sister on “The Wonder Years” and who also showed up in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” will be on this panel. 7:00-8:00 – Building Props for Sci-Fi in the 21st Century – This wouldn’t normally interest me, but the panelists have all worked on big-name blockbusters and they will apparently talk about new technical advances that make it easy for fans to make their own impressive props. 7:15-8:15 – MythBusters – A cousin of mine went to this in panel at the 2010 Comic-Con and loved it. 7:15-9:15 – Comi-Kev: Q&A with Kevin Smith – Kevin Smith continues his tradition of doing a Q&A show in Hall H. Attendance at these events has varied over the past few years and my interest in them has sharply fallen. Rather than tell his trademark humorous stories, Mr. Smith has increasingly used the time to either hawk his own products or talk about his recent drug use. A friend and I walked out of Mr. Smith’s panel mid-way last year due to it devolving into a lengthy commercial for his podcast empire. 8:00-9:00 – Guerilla Marketing – Several successful eBook and self-publishing print book authors offer tips on marketing. 8:30-11:30 – HBO Presents the Comic-Con Masquerade – This ends up being the big event of Saturday evening; if you can’t get into it or want to see the costumes closer-up, you might try wandering through the Sails Pavilion area, where many people prepare to go on stage. 9:00-10:00 – Tromatize Yourself – Horror director Mick Garris and adult film star Ron Jeremy will join legendary low-budget film producer Lloyd Kaufman in the annual ‘Troma’ panel.  Past panels have proved to be rather entertaining late-night pseudo-trainwrecks.

Sunday, July 15th

10:00-11:00 – Comic-Con How-to: Publishing Industry: From Manuscript to Industry – Book publishing insiders discuss paths to success after completing a novel. 10:00-11:00 – The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel – Jack Kirby might be the most-admired artist of the modern comic book community and this annual panel features well-known comic book artists paying tribute to him. 10:00-11:00 – Fringe Screening and Q&A – This series on Fox has never been a ratings superstar, but it has a loyal following. Its panel in Hall H will focus on the upcoming final season. 12:30-1:30 – Darwyn Cooke and The Man Called Parker – Darywn Cooke has established himself as a strong writer and illustrator. His notable work at DC Comics might get mentioned a bit here, but most of the spotlight will be on his graphic novel series for IDW adapting the ‘Parker’ novels. 12:30-1:30 – BBC America’s Doctor Who – The big panel of the weekend for Doctor Who fans. 1:00-2:00 – Image Comics’s 20th Anniversary – I was at the 15th anniversary panel at Comic-Con 2007 and that was notable for featuring every Image Comics founding member on stage. This panel has most of the founders, but is missing the two biggest names: Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane. 1:00-2:00 – Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – Well-known comic book writers Marv Wolfman and Peter David will be at this panel, discussing the sequel to a Disney game that is intriguing due to delving into Disney’s animated history. 2:30-3:30 – Comic-Con How-To: Drawing with Jim Lee – Anyone interested in drawing would be advised to catch some tips from comic book master artist Jim Lee. 3:45-4:45 – Drew: The Man Behind the Poster – Drew Struzan has done some of the most iconic movie poster paintings. He will do a Q&A at this panel and clips from a new documentary about his work will be shown. 4:00-5:00 – Full-Time Creative Work on a Part-Time Schedule – A struggle for many aspiring creative-types is trying to balance their ‘real life’ and production of their creative works. This panel will feature guests who one can presume will offer tips on how to juggle those different tasks.

D.S. Christensen
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