Unless you’ve been living in a cave on Mars with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, San Diego became the mecca of geekdom for Comic-Con 2015. Just about every aspect of pop culture was represented at SDCC. Movies, television, video games, toys, music, and even professional wrestling all had a presence at the annual event. My Comic-Con began a little earlier than most folks when I made a trip downtown to the Central Library on the previous Sunday to check out the Art of Comic-Con. This exhibit is nestled on the 9th floor of the building and opened June 20 and will run until Aug. 30. The Art of Comic-Con features a mural by Sergio Aragones and a collage of past souvenir book covers. The most significant exhibit is a collection of sketches from the early days of Comic-Con. Amongst the collection are drawings by Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Brad Anderson (Marmaduke), Will Eisner (The Spirit), and famed Marvel artist John Romita.
Preview Night kicked things off this year and it’s become almost as busy as a weekend. Lines for freebies and exclusives were filled to capacity as soon as the doors opened. The most heavily trafficked area of the exhibit floor was the block featuring booths for Lionsgate, MTV, Legendary, Mattel, Lucasfilm, and Fox. The Walking Dead have wowed attendees for the last several years with their booths, which have replicated scenes from the TV show. This year, they had a revolving door of zombies and a Del Arno truck also filled with zombies. Nearby, you could visit the trailer home of Ash from The Evil Dead and get yourself a rubber chainsaw to fight those pesky Dead-ites. As an action figure aficionado, I love walking the Comic-Con floor and checking out all the cool toys on display. Both Mezco and 3A Toys had some cool Judge Dredd figures while Mattel showed off one of the new proton packs from the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot along with our first look at merch from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Hasbro had an assortment of figures for Transformers, Marvel, My Little Pony, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At the LEGO booth, you could see life-sized versions of Chris Pratt in Jurassic World, the Hulk, and Hulkbuster Iron Man made entirely out of Lego bricks. I also love exploring Sideshow Collectibles who always bring high-end figures and statues that I could never afford. My favorites were Marty McFly with in-scale DeLorean and statues based on Superman: Red Son.
While Marvel only brought the Ant-Man costume, DC blew their competition away with the costumes for the Holy Trinity on display at their booth. In addition to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, DC also had props and costumes from Arrow and The Flash.
I cut my Preview Night early in order to get in line for Thursday’s Hall H panels. Last year, Comic-Con implemented a wristband system, as a way to gauge how many attendees would fill up the famed 6500-seat auditorium. This year, the wristbands would allow folks to leave the line and return the next morning before 7:30AM. It was one idea for con organizers to combat the growing trend of camping out sometimes days in advance to get into popular panels. In fact, fans began lining up Tuesday afternoon for Thursday’s panels and Friday’s line was starting up Wednesday night. It was a nice idea in theory, but when you have thousands of people in line, having four volunteers distribute wristbands just won’t cut it. After waiting in line for almost four hours, we finally got our wristbands and called it a night.
Comic-Con began in full on Thursday. Bill Murray made a surprise appearance to start the day off in Hall H. Murray entered through the crowd to the tune of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple to promote his comedy, Rock the Kasbah. Drummers dressed in white ushered in the Lionsgate panel for Mockingjay, Part 2. The big three of Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson were joined on stage by Willow Shields, director Francis Lawrence, producer Nina Jacobson, and moderator Conan O’Brien, who taped his talk show this week at nearby Spreckles Theater. The trailer for the final Hunger Games film kicked off in rousing fashion with hundreds of soldiers performing a drill display before Katniss appears in a red uniform. Footage showed the resistance facing numerous traps in the Capitol.
I opted to skip the Doctor Who and KISS/Scooby Doo panels in order to further explore the exhibit hall and snag some freebies. I managed to grab a Scream T-shirt, full-sized Mockingjay poster, a FOX poster tube to put it in, and a Gotham lunchbox. I also decided to forgo the madness of Hall H on Friday due to the stacked lineup of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars. Although they didn’t show any new footage, Star Wars fans got to see Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill reunited along with new additions like John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Gwendoline Christie. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, JJ Abrams invited the audience to join him at the nearby amphitheater for a free concert with John Williams conducting. There were fireworks and we got to witness the fanfare as we waited in line for Saturday’s Hall H wristbands.
On Friday, I also swung by Nerd HQ; Zachary Levi’s con away from the Con. This year, Nerd HQ moved from Petco Park (which was now the home for The Nerdist) to the New Children’s Museum. They have their own lineup of panels that literally sell out within seconds. All proceeds go to benefit Operation Smile. I was able to get tickets for the Badass Women panel with surprise guests Felicia Day, Yvonne Strahovski, Krysta Rodriguez, Bree Turner, and Mercedes Mason with Levi as moderator. The panelists discussed the female Ghostbusters, women who inspired them, and dream projects.
Saturday was a marathon session as I hunkered down for the long haul. The programs began at 10:30 and continued until just before midnight. Agent Justin has a great rundown of the day’s panels (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4) but just some of my thoughts. Warner Brothers retrofitted Hall H with a pair of panoramic screens and a sound system with enough bass to rattle the rafters. WB used them to great effect for their panel. Nothing like seeing The Flash race from one side of Hall H to the other. After The Man from UNCLE, WB/DC played a montage of concept art that confirmed Green Lantern Corps as an upcoming movie and showed Wonder Woman in a WWI setting. Very interesting. The Comic-Con footage for Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are already online. The former certainly looks like it brings the sturm und drang though I don’t have a lot of confidence in Zack Snyder to bring any subtleties to the burgeoning DC cinematic universe. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman definitely looks badass and we saw glimpses of Kryptonite, Robin’s costume defiled by Joker graffiti, and a quick shot of General Zod’s corpse, which could lend credence to the theory that Lex Luthor will unleash Doomsday. Speaking of Supes’ archenemy, Eisenberg’s Luthor skewed too closely to the comedic huckster that we saw Hackman and Spacey portray. Let’s hope he’s more diabolical. The extended trailer ends with the money shot of Superman peeling the Batmobile open like a tin of sardines to come face-to-face with the Dark Knight.
Suicide Squad actually looks far more intriguing with a gritty edge courtesy of David Ayer, director of Fury and End of Watch. All the major team members were spotlighted in the footage: Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, The Enchantress, Katana, and Will Smith’s Deadshot. The focus of the sizzle reel seemed to be Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie who perfectly captures the character’s psychotic playfulness. Plus, we get a Batman cameo and Jared Leto appears to knock it out of the park from the brief scenes we saw of his Joker.
The audience got a double dose of Matt Smith during Screen Gems panel for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Patient Zero, two upcoming zombie flicks. We also got to see Lily James from Cinderella, and Game of Thrones stars Natalie Dormer and John Bradley. This was followed by Quentin Tarantino’s presentation of The Hateful Eight, along with cast members Kurt Russell, Walt Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Damian Bachir, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, and Bruce Dern. The panel started with an introduction to the 70mm process hosted by Samuel L. Jackson. The footage was gorgeously shot by Robert Richardson and did a marvelous job running down each character from Roth’s hoity toity Oswaldo Mobray to Russell’s gruff John Ruth. To top it off, Tarantino was proud to announce Ennio Morricone would be providing an original score for Hateful Eight, his first Western score in over 30 years.
Legendary Pictures panel began with Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak and the horror flick Krampus, from the director of Trick R Treat. Del Toro, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Mia Wasikowska participated in the panel for the former while the latter featured Michael Dougherty, Adam Scott, and Toni Collette. Legendary closed out with Warcraft, which made great use of the panoramic screens to show off the Alliance and the Horde. The footage looked incredible with the Orcs of the Horde as fully realized beings rather than CGI cartoons.
BTW, Duncan Jones visited the Hall H line the night before to pass out Twinkies and Agents Justin and Earl got their hands on a couple of those spongy treats. Jones wasn’t the only celebrity to greet the campers. Earlier that night, Zack Snyder drove the Batmobile by the Hilton Bayfront to pass out T-shirts, Peter Capaldi stopped by the previous night to say hello, and Supernatural‘s Misha Collins delivered pizza for everyone waiting for Sunday’s panels. Entertainment Weekly hosted a “Women Who Kick Ass” panel with Gwendoline Christie, Hayley Atwell, Jenna Louise Coleman, Gal Gadot, and Kathy Bates. Joss Whedon took the stage right after taking questions from fans and announcing the comic series, Twist, about a female Victorian Batman.
Fox was the big main event of the evening. Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials started off the panel followed by Fantastic Four with Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Toby Kebbell, and director Josh Trank. The X-Men portion closed out the evening with Hugh Jackman making a quick appearance to tease Old Man Logan for Wolverine 3. The Hall H audience went nuts for everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. The footage began with a Masterpiece Theater-style intro as Deadpool promised nobody would sew his mouth shut in this movie. This is going to be a hard-R with lots of violence, cursing, and meta-textual humor. At one point, Ryan Reynolds demands that his costume not be green or animated. We also got to see bits and pieces of the leaked video footage translated into live-action. Comic readers will take note that Deadpool is joined by Colossus and the cantankerous Blind Al.
Fox needed an additional table on the stage to accommodate the cast of X-Men: Apocalypse. Taking the stage were Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Evan Peters. New cast members present were Oscar Isaac, Ben Hardy, Olivia Munn, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Lana Condor, and Alexandra Shipp. Yes, I too thought Apocalypse was a bit underwhelming, but I’m willing to wait for the final product before passing judgment. Remember how everyone nearly rioted over Quicksilver? Meanwhile, Jubilee with her yellow coat, Storm with her mohawk, and Psylocke looked like they stepped right out of the comics. According to the footage, Magneto attempts to live in solitude in the woods before the rise of Apocalypse. He uses his powers to influence minds and recruits Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel as his Four Horsemen. The reel closed with a shot of Professor X in all his bald glory. The actors from X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four returned to the stage for one big superhero selfie with Stan Lee and Channing Tatum making last second cameos.
While my fellow Agents took leave of Hall H, I stayed the course for WB/DC’s Superhero Saturday Night as they promoted Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and a brief look at the animated Vixen. Despite all the heroes and villains we’d seen on Saturday, Stephen Amell was the first to come out in costume. Dressed as the Green Arrow, Amell, in his own words, cut a “WWE-style promo” to get the crowd pumped. The Flash was the only one that screened a teaser for the second season with a blue streak racing through the city, a voice introducing himself as Jay Garrick, and an warning that Zoom is coming. Is this the return of Reverse-Flash or has the presumed dead Eddie Thawne been transformed into a villainous speedster? Producers also further teased Cisco and Caitlin’s changes into Vibe and Killer Frost. The fourth season of Arrow will see the arrival of Michael Holt aka Mr. Terrific and the Batman villain Anarky. Meanwhile, John Diggle will finally get a costume of body helmet and a face-concealing helmet. Team Arrow is going to need all the resources they can with HIVE serving as the big bad. Gotham producers were a bit tight-lipped about the season 2 though they mentioned the city would see a transition from gangsters to the colorful foes that will eventually face the Batman. During the Q&A, actor Cameron Monaghan popped up in character as Jerome (a younger version of the Joker) before being restrained by security. Supergirl will have her own roster of rogues to face with Livewire, Reactron, and Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord.
The night finally ended with a screening of the Supergirl pilot. Yes, the Devil Wears Prada portions of the show were probably the weakest points, but the action was well done given the limited budget. Dean Cain and Helen Slater cameo as Supergirl’s foster parents, a pair of astrophysicists who helped Superman with their research into Krypton. When her rocket escaped the Phantom Zone on its way to Earth, it inadvertently dragged a prison ship containing convicts sentenced by Supergirl’s birth mother, Alura Zor-El. The first one she takes on is Vartox, a superpowered being with an axe made of alien metal. The pilot was definitely stuffed with plot points and way too many characters seem to know Kara’s secret identity. Still, there’s potential for later episodes to smooth over the rough edges.
Head on over to Flickr to check out my complete photo gallery for Comic-Con 2015. Hopefully, I’ll see you all at an upcoming convention. It doesn’t look like I’ll make D23 Expo this year, but I’m planning on Long Beach Comic-Con and Comikaze Expo.