If comic book fans had a Mecca, it would be San Diego, specifically, this Wednesday to Sunday. This is the week that the stars (literally and figuratively) in the nerd universe align in San Diego. Geeks of all stripes will descend upon southern California in droves. Yes, this is the week of Comic-Con, the longest running and largest comic book convention in the United States. The con is four solid days (and one three-hour preview night) and 2.6 million square-feet of pop culture paradise.
Last year over 125,000 people packed the convention center and that number will probably be eclipsed this time around given how quickly tickets sold out. In addition to vendors, the biggest draw is the blockbuster panels the convention hosts every year. All aspects of the entertainment industry have realized what an important marketing opportunity Comic-Con is. They break out the biggest stars and announcements for maximum impact. There’s far too much to attempt to cover here. The Comic-Con website has the full list of all the panels and events, but here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.
1:45 p.m. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” – On the first day of the con, the big guns come out. “Twilight” cast members will be on hand and footage from the new movie will be screened. This is a recipe for sure insanity. Last year some fans camped out over night to ensure they would be able to get in to see the “Twilight” panel. It’s doubtful that the frenzy has died down any this time around. The room for this panel holds 6,500 people and it won’t be nearly large enough.
3 p.m. “Avatar” – This is one of the few panels that could follow-up and maintain the excitment after “Twilight.” Superstar director James Cameron will present 3-D footage from his sci-fi flick “Avatar,” his first dramatic movie since “Titanic.” It’s safe to say that fanboys are excited to see what Cameron’s been doing for the past few years. He certainly knows how to to sci-fi, this is the man who brought us Terminator 2 and Aliens after all.
4:30 p.m. “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” – This movie is directed by Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Brazil, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), and features Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Heath Ledger, in his final role before his death. Need I say more? I didn’t think so.
5:45 p.m. “Kick-Ass” – Director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Layer Cake) will be hoping to use the tremendous king-making power of Comic-Con to bootstrap this film into the geek stratosphere. Currently, his adaptation of the ultra-violent comic book is still without a distributor. If he plays his cards right, I doubt that will be the case after the con ends.
8 p.m. “Green Lantern: First Flight” – DC’s newest direct to DVD animated feature will have its world premiere in front of the most appreciative audience possible.
10 a.m. Warner Bros. panel – The studio will break out footage from several potential blockbusters including “Where The Wild Things Are,” “The Book of Eli,” “Jonah Hex,” and “Sherlock Holmes.” With possible appearances by Denzel Washington, Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. this could be a huge one.
10:30 “Coraline” – Director Henry Selick and some guy named Neil Gaiman will be on hand to discuss the stop-motion hit. When the man who wrote “Sandman” shows up, comic book fans follow suit.
11:45 “Caprica/Battlestar Galactica: The Plan” – C’mon, it’s people who are in the know dishing on BSG, like fans are going to miss this? No frakin’ way!
1 p.m. “The Big Bang Theory” – The creators and stars behind one of the coolest and geekiest television shows out there will be on hand to screen footage and answer questions.
2 p.m. Spotlight on Dwayne McDuffie – Okay, this probably won’t be a blockbuster panel to most people, but Mr. McDuffie is one of my favorite comic writers out there and I had to give him his proper respect. He worked on the excellent “Justice League Unlimited” cartoon and wrote “Justice League of America” until recently.
2 p.m. Cup o’ Joe – Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada will be on hand with his customary huge announcements for the future of the Marvel Universe.
3 p.m. DC Nation – This will be DC answer to Marvel’s panel. Executive editor Dan Dido will talk about the latest happenings in DC.
3:45 p.m. “District 9” – Peter Jackson will make his first appearance in the flesh at Comic-Con after sending several video messages during the “Lord of the Rings” years.
4 p.m. “Dollhouse” – Nerd overlord Joss Whedon will thrill the audience by screening a never-before seen episode of the Fox show and hosting a Q&A session.
5:15 p.m. Star Wars Spectacular – “Attack of the Show” hosts Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira will host this exploration of everything that’s new in a galaxy far, far away.
6:30 p.m. The Visionaries – Peter Jackson and James Cameron on the same stage together. I’m just speechless.
11 a.m. “Lost” – Anything “Lost” related is a mob scene at Comic-Con and this will be no exception.
1 p.m. “Futurama” – Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Billy West, Katey Sagal and more talent behind the animated show that’s too tough to die. Maybe we’ll hear more about the recent controversy surrounding the show?
2:15 DC: Blackest Night – The minds behind this summer’s biggest event in the DC Universe will shed some light on exactly how dark things will get.
3:15 “Heroes” – Creator Tim Kring and the rest of the cast know they have some serious fence-mending to do after the train wreck that was the last season of the show. There’s no better place to do that than San Diego.
5:15 Kevin Smith – The comic book writer / movie director never fails to be one of the biggest draws of the entire con.
10:30 a.m. “Smallville” – This television show that details Superman’s formative years is going into its ninth season and showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
12:45 p.m. The Next Generation of Marvel Video Games: Upcoming Marvel comics video games will be previewed, including Ultimate Alliance 2, Iron Man 2 and Super Hero Squad.
3 p.m. Starship Smackdown – The Enterprise vs. the Death Star, who would win? This annual event attempts to discover which ship from the world of science fiction truly reigns supreme.
4 p.m. Buffy the Musical – As a fitting finale to con programming, there will be a showing of “Once More With Feeling” the musical episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.