We’re less than a week away from the 41st San Diego Comic-Con. What started out as a small gathering of less than 200 comic book fans in a hotel has grown into a gathering that has more than filled the 615,000 square feet of the San Diego Convention Center. Along with its increase in size, the scope of the convention has increased as well. Whereas it once exclusively centered on comic books it’s now the largest celebration of pop culture in all of North America.
Over 130,000 people are expected to attend Comic-Con this year over its four and a half days, running from Thursday, July 21st through Sunday July 25, with a three-hour preview night on Wednesday, the 20th. That attendance number will include fans of everything from science-fiction, video games, television and movies, anime and yes, even plenty of comic fans still make the pilgrimage.
Due to its size and drawing power, Comic-Con attracts tons of A-list talent, including Hollywood stars and legendary artists, to many of its hundreds and hundreds of different panels and programs. For a full list, check out Comic-Con’s site.
Here are just a few of the highlights from the recently announced programming.
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. TheOneRing.net: Hobbit Talk – It’s been a slow few years for one of the web’s biggest and most powerful fan sites, but with work on The Hobbit in full-swing, this is certain to be a lively and fact-filled panel. TOR.net has a great relationship with the filmmakers behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so they’ve frequently been the first to get the scoop on news, videos and messages straight from the source.
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 – In recent years, Twilight fans have been coming out to Comic-Con in huge numbers. Many Twi-hards even camped out overnight last year to assure that they would be able to get one of the fiercely contested seats in Hall H for the Twilight panel. The convention organizers seemed to have learned from their mistakes in previous years. This time around they’ve made this the first panel of the day in the hall, saving the Sparkly Vampire-set from having to sit through hours and hours of other programming in the auditorium before they can get their fix of supernatural romance. This year’s panel is going to feature a Q&A with the cast and crew of the upcoming film, as well as some exclusive preview footage. I can hear the teen girls swooning already.
3 p.m.-4 p.m. A Game of Thrones – Even before the release of HBO’s hugely successful television adaptation, author George R.R. Martin was a huge draw at Comic-Con. He’ll be joined by producers and cast members, including the Emmy-nominated Peter Dinklage, to answer questions about the show and, most likely, the recently released fifth-book in the series “A Dance With Dragons.”
6 p.m.-7 p.m. The Visionaries: A discussion with Jon Favreau and Guillermo del Toro on the Future of Pop Culture – Each of these guys has multiple comic book movies under their belt, so they’ve definitely got the geek-cred to take the stage at Comic-Con. These two enormously entertaining directors are certain to be a highlight of the entire convention, setting the bar very high on the con’s first day.
10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. The Black Panel – This lively and hilarious panel showcases African-American talent in pop culture today, including musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers and more. It’s a great panel every year, but this year will focus on the life and works of the recently departed Dwayne McDuffie, who was a powerful voice for diversity in comics and animation.
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The Walking Dead – You just can’t keep a good zombie down. The Walking Dead is about a group of survivors and their struggles in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. One of the most successful comics to debut in recent memory has spawned an adaptation on television that’s been doing pretty well on its own. This panel will feature series writer and co-creator of the comic Robert Kirkman, famed director Frank Darabont, along with cast members including Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and several others.
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. The Big Bang Theory Screening and Q&A – The hit CBS comedy brings its cast and crew back to Comic-Con for another year. Unsurprisingly, a sit-com featuring nerds, engineers, mathematicians and a pretty girl is a winner among the Comic-Con crowd….
5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. True Blood Panel and Q&A – For those who didn’t drink their fill Thursday’s Twilight panel, HBO’s decidedly more adult brand of vampire romance will be featured as well. Series creator Alan Ball, stars Anna Paquin, Steven Moyer, Ryan Kwanten and more will all be on hand to answer questions from fans. Interestingly enough, this panel isn’t being held in the center’s largest room where it had been in previous years. I guess I’m not the only one who’s noticed the drop in quality over the past couple of seasons…
12:15 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Futurama – Good news, everybody! There’s a Futurama panel! Comic-Con mainstay Matt Groening and executive producer David X. Cohen will join the voice talent of the Galaxy Express crew to talk about and watch new footage from upcoming episodes. Better news! Fans will certainly stick around as this panel will be followed up by a Simpsons panel immediately afterward.
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Immortals – Relativity Media’s Clash of the Titans meets 300 movie hits the convention’s biggest hall in a prime slot. This one’s certain to be packed to the rafters with people eager to get a glimpse at the upcoming epic.
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Dark Horse Joss Whedon – If there’s a more popular person than Joss Whedon at Comic-Con I’ve yet to see them (with the possible exception of Neil Gaiman). On the strength of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, his work in comics and on next summer’s Avengers movie, Whedon is simply unmatched in geek fandom. This panel is actually being held outside of the convention center at one of the adjoining hotels.
4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. DC Focus: Jim Lee – See! There are panels that are exclusively focused on comic books too! Jim Lee is one of the most popular artists in the industry and has been for years. Now that he’s also co-publisher of DC Comics, he’s gone from high-profile to low orbit. With DC’s upcoming relaunch of 52 superhero books, you can be certain he’s going to have plenty exciting to talk about here.
5:45 p.m.-7:30 p.m. An Early Evening With Kevin Smith – Director, comic book writer, podcaster, Smith truly is a modern Renaissance man. It also helps that he’s an admitted geek, who has seemingly never lost touch with his convenience store roots. His talks never fail to be outrageously funny and difficult to score a seat for.
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Glee – Creators and producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and the show’s cast will be on hand for a sneak preview of Glee The 3D Concert Movie. I’m going to graciously avoid this panel and so someone else can have my seat, ’cause I’m a nice guy like that.
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Fear Itself – All of Marvel’s heroes are hip-deep in their big summer event, Fear Itself. Writers Greg Pak, Nick Spencer and editor-in-chief Axel Alanso will talk about what’s next for the Marvel Universe.
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Doctor Who – Stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan will be bringing footage from the upcoming season that’s sure to have Who-fans queuing up early to make sure they get into this panel.
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Max Brooks: Zombie Survival – I’m already quite prepared, but some of the less-ready folks may want to attend this session with the New York Times best-selling-author of World War Z (soon to be a Brad Pitt-film) and The Zombie Survival Guide for advice on how to make it through the onslaught of undead.