Comic Con 2013 weekend: Marvel, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox and surprises

Comic Com is truly a place for the unexpected and the weekend was full of surprises

In my experience the best moments always come from stumbling into a panel you didn’t plan on attending which blows you away.  I found one of those today but I’m going to cover it separately so I can give you all the details.

I missed an early panel I’d planned on attending for web series Tiny Commando created by Ed Helms (The Office) and starring Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Gillian Jacobs (Community). My sister-who-did-get-up-on-time tells me it’s a must watch.  The trailer reminds me of the world of tiny make believe that we live in when we’re children playing with our toys. Never a bad thing to return to those days.

Matt Smith (Doctor Who) crashed Richard Madden panel at Nerd HQ

Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) has his panel crashed by girlfriend Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who)

A late-add panel with Richard Madden, Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark, was an unplanned bit of joy at Nerd HQ, compounded when the panel was crashed by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman.  It’s a testament to Richard’s acting that most of the questions he got were about the character of Robb Stark, who was tragically offed in the season 3 finale. Nerd HQ continued delivering to fans by announcing another surprise panel addition with Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers Loki) for Sunday. Even with so many fans purchasing tickets via smartphones they still sold out in minutes.

Not a surprise at all was how great it was to get together with other fans for a showing of Serenity in Petco Park Saturday night. Nerd HQ did a nice job, getting a high–res screen for the ground that was large enough to see and spared us having to look up at the jumbotron. I noted at several points how quiet the crowd of about 1000 was, just enjoying the beauty of the ballpark and city skyline, a great film, and a community of friends. There are films shown every night of Comic Con over at the Marriott, as well as parties and a ton of offsite meetups and events. So if you come, don’t plan on wrapping up your night when the convention center closes at 9pm.

In cool, dramatic fashion Warner Bros announced the next Superman film will also be a Batman film! With the panel nearly over they brought out Man of Steel director Zach Snyder and Harry Lennix (Nick Fury in Man of Steel) for a dramatic reading ending, with a dramatic graphic of the superimposed Batman and Superman logos.

Warner Bros also screened footage from the much anticipated Godzilla and The Lego Movie while partner studio Lionsgate brought cast and footage from I, Frankenstein and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Sandra Bullock made her first Con appearance for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, co-starring George Clooney.  Yes it sounds similar to June’s Europa Report but will probably have more broad appeal due to its stars and less of Report’s hard sci-fi content.

Cosplay – not actually Loki

During Marvel’s Thor panel the lights dimmed and Loki’s disembodied voice appeared. Lights up to Tom Hiddleston crashing the stage in full Loki gear and full Loki mode. That man is hilarious, working the crowd up as his Army – one tweet read “I’m pretty sure Loki could’ve told people to jump off the Hilton Bridge today and they would have #PowerOfLoki

Marvel also revealed the title and villain for the next Avengers movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and footage screened showed Robert Redford making an appearance in forthcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The full cast of Guardian’s of the Galaxy, including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and David Bautista, flew over from London for a Hall H appearance and was flying back that night. Early footage shows a darker tone and more mature humor than current Marvel interpretations.

The only big surprise from 20th Century Fox was what they were bringing to Comic Con. They withheld any pre-publicity on their panels, walking a dangerous line between creating curiosity and ambivalence about their upcoming slate. Andy Serkis was a big hit in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes panel discussing the challenges and joys of working with WETA to reprise the role of Ceasar. Hugh Jackman appeared to talk about The Wolverine, which promises to finally get to the heart of Logan/Wolverine’s angst. Jackman also said he’d dressed up in Wolverine gear and walked around Comic Con all morning without being recognized. I so hope that’s true.

Hugh Jackman did double duty on stage with the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Fourteen actors lined up for the panel including Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. That’s a lot of stories to tell! It will be interesting to see how they pack it all in there.

When the big panels ended, Tom Hiddleston delighted fans by hanging out the window of his chauffeured Escalade gawking like a fanboy at the comic-blinged Gaslamp Quarter. Just one more think you’ll only see at the Con.

Bear McCreary interrupts the Starship Smackdown with a lesson

One of the best ways to end Comic Con is with the Starship Smackdown panel, where panelists – usually show writers and superfans – pit ship against ship in a raucous battle for dominance. At the semi finals each ship gets a Captain the likes of Captain Crunch and Captain Quint (Jaws). Everyone is exhausted and all shows are propriety have been dropped. The panelists have been known to pass a flask around. Bobak Fedowski, mokawk guy from NASA’s JPL lab was not advertised for the panel but I was delighted to see him there. A real scientist! And he did actually throw some science into the mix probably to the dismay of the rest of the loopy panelists. But during an extended moment of mocking the sound effects of Star Trek’s V’Ger ship a blur running up on stage turned out to be composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) to give an emphatic tutorial on why that sound should be adored and respected. Then he sprinted back to seat in the crowd to geek out with the rest of us. McCreary has been called one of the secret weapons of the television industry, but sometimes the masters of magic are just like us.


Comic Con ’13 Day 1: Nerd HQ, Psych, NASA

By Karen Veazey  @kmyvz

San Diego Convention Center has closed for the night but the Gaslamp Quarter is party central. MTV, Wootstock and Geek & Sundry are hosting the larger events while industry parties and special screenings are tucked into secret hotels.

Right now I’m happy to be far away, cozy in comfy clothes enjoying quiet time by the bay after an exciting first day of Comic Con.

Much Madness Happening at Comic Con

Much Madness Happening at Comic Con

I keep thinking the Con won’t get any more popular, but the first round of tickets sold out in 93 minutes last fall. Over 140,000 people crowd the Convention Center for the four day event consisting of discussion and Q&A panels from networks, studios, writers, fans and scientists. Plus an awesome 525,000 square foot exhibit hall. (I think it’s awesome, my sister thinks its borderline masochistic to spend time in there.)

As a whole the Con isn’t for the faint of heart, the crowds are overwhelming, the lines are long and you’ll be walking all day. But for a fan, it’s a once in a lifetime event to see the people who create your entertainment – or science – up close and unplugged. Plus TBS set up a free King of the Nerds cereal bar this year. You give us free cereal we make you a king.

Come to the nerd side, we have cereal

NERD HQ at Petco Park

We spent most of today at our favorite offsite spot, Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ (more info on what Nerd HQ is all about here.) Nerd HQ has become so popular in just its third year that nearly all its Conversations for a Cause panels sold out in less than three minutes. Limited to 250 tickets, with proceeds benefiting Operation Smile, it’s well worth $20 to see panels like Supernatural or speakers like Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy) in this intimate setting. It can literally save you hours of standing in line at the convention center to see the same panel from the far corner of a ballroom with 2,000 other fans.

The HQ relocated to a much larger, more comfortable setup at Petco Park with a ton of opportunities for online and arcade gaming. I squealed when I saw Galaga and wasn’t a bit embarrassed about it.

You can play the new D&D online game Never Winter to win prizes, or check out the amazing technology of the Virtuix Omni interactive virtual reality system. Whether you game or not this is cool technology you really don’t want to miss so check out the demo on their fully funded Kickstarter.

On our schedule today – Nerd HQ panels with Psych, Zachary Levi and the NASA Mars Curiosity JPL Team.


Dulé Hill and James Roday – USA’s Psych

The cast and writers of USA’s Psych love their fans and don’t take themselves too seriously. Their show is edgy family fun that winks at the conventions of crime procedurals and you can see they’re all grateful for how good they have it.

No surprise reveals from this panel from stars Dulé Hill and James Roday, writer Steve Franks and producers Chris Henze and Kelly Kulchak, but keep an eye out for their upcoming musical episode in December and a remake of an episode from a previous season. That’s unprecedented in television and I’m really curious what it will look like. If anyone can pull off something like that it’s this Psych team,

Fans were also relieved to hear Maggie Lawson’s character Jules will be back this season despite her new lead role in ABC’s family comedy Back in the Game.


Zac Levi talks with fans at NERD HQ panel

Zachary Levi could be Ryan Seacrest in another life. He spent all day hosting panels, taking photos with fans, then wrapped the day by doing his own Q&A panel.The big question was what’s up next for Zac, who’s currently starting on Broadway in First Date.

He spoke pretty extensively about his entrepreneurial ideas and desire to help create content that gives more control to the fans. Less about studios and money, more about content and fan support. It’s a bold statement from a fairly young actor, and one which could get him in trouble with future jobs. But he believes in his vision and as a fan of many good canceled shows -*cough* Arrested Development *cough*- I hope he succeeds.

Talking about why he supports Operation Smile through Nerd HQ Zac encouraged fans to think bigger. “Go find something, be bigger than yourself.” Which kind of perfectly sums up what the guy is all about.


Seriously smart: NASA JPL Mars Curiosity Team

I’m going to try and contain myself here because the NASA JPL team rocks.

I went to this year’s Con with one big goal, to see the Thursday afternoon panel for the upcoming Ender’s Game movie (Nov 2013 from Summit Entertainment.) I even planned to camp out overnight if necessary. But when I heard Nerd HQ added a panel with the NASA JPL team at the same time as Ender’s Game it was no contest. These guys are the real deal. In fact Curiosity Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi introduced his co worker by saying “Raise your hand if you sent commands to a real spaceship yesterday.”

Ferdowsi, Fred Serricchio, and Rob Zimmerman showed the video of the landing and talked about their own experiences working on the Mars rover project. It’s fascinating science. Did you know that spacecraft are built using “old” technology, since the tech approved for the space program is usually several years old by the time the build starts, and older yet by the launch date? Me either! By the way it’s not bad tech, I was just surprised anything going into space isn’t blinged out with the newest shiniest gadgets we could slap on that thing.

One comment on the video about the landing summed up how great science is in real life – to paraphrase: Things are tough in our country right now, but that’s a ton of American ingenuity that just touched down on Mars.

We are still doing great things. And this team of funny, unassuming, relatable guys who happen to fly spaceships came to share their part in that with us nerds.

Always do science when you can

The panel was announced just a few hours before it went on sale so it didn’t sell out, but watch for it again the future. Zachary Levi recommended that if you enjoy things like this, or want to see a particular panelist, tweet them and let them know.

You can watch all the Conversations for a Cause videos here, and if you like them consider a donation to Operation Smile on behalf of Nerd HQ.