The San Diego Comic Con invites film, TV, comics and myriad other media into its halls once a year, and the results are often hilarious. Last year, Paste Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson and I spoke to one woman who stood with her kids for four days to watch a trailer that would be released on the internet a few weeks later. Those epic lines are symptomatic of an event that’s slowly slid from its titular devotion to sequential art to promoting massive summer blockbusters and fall tv lineups.
That said, the big studios have recently shown some trepidation at SDCC. Disney/Marvel declined panels in the massive 6,500-seat Hall H last year and 20th Century Fox pulled out of any promotions this year, voicing privacy concerns.
Does this mean that the con will return to its more intimate, comic-centric roots? Probably not. New conventions like Jeff Smith and Tom Surgeon’s CXC and SPX are already addressing the need for pure sequential art celebrations, and SDCC allows some nice cross-pollination for general audiences to wander to comic-heavy areas like Artists’ Alley.
One way or the other, this year doesn’t shirk on engaging comics panels. Broken down, comics still rule the programming by count, if not necessarily by seats. Here are some of the coolest comic panels worth the time of any SDCC visitor, whether they’re familiar with the medium or are indulging for the first time.
One-on-One with Paul Dini
When: 2:00 – 3:00 P.M.
Where: Room 6DE
Why Attend: Paul Dini is a treasure trove of experience and stories. His animation resume includes runs writing, editing and/or producing such gems as Batman: The Animated Series, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and other projects that brought DC’s pantheon of heroes onto the small screen. And after scripting the videogames Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, Dini’s most recent batcentric project takes a much less traditional approach.Dark Night: A True Batman Story is an autobiography that recounts an episode of Dini’s life where he was mugged severely, breaking both body and spirit. The book shows how the fictional characters Dini helped developed inspired him to overcome self-doubt. No matter what questions emerge here, Dini is incapable of providing a dull response.
Image Comics: Creating the Zeitgeist
When: 2:00 – 3:00 PM
The creators of two of Paste’s favorite comics of 2016 (so far) are going to be in the same room riffing on making big, bold comics, and that reason alone necessitates our interest. Kieron Gillen’s brash take on pop culture has made The Wicked + The Divine and Phonogram biting, astute and riveting commentary. Marjorie Liu’s Monstress is the unholy lovechild between Studio Ghibli, H.P. Lovecraft and the Nuremberg Trials, framing one heroine’s descent into wartime hell in an intoxicatingly fantasy world. The two will join Chynna Clugston Flores, who’s re-releasing her quirky, seminal graphic novel, Blue Monday, next week. Also: Matt Fraction is probably a surprise guest. Just a feeling.
DC Rebirth: Young Gotham/Young Metropolis
When: 3:15 – 4:15 PM
Where: Room 6DE
DC received a lot of the guff in the wake of its Rebirth announcement, with accusations that it was denying innovative, new material to appeal solely to 30-something dudes reliving their second childhoods. Fortunately, those reports were mightily exaggerated. While the second-largest American comic publisher is reinvesting in the continuity of its classic characters, it’s also keeping younger readers in mind with some of the most attractive comics emerging this summer. This panel hosts a load of amazing creators working on those titles. Of note, the new Batgirl team of Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque and incoming Supergirl scribe Steve Orlando are worth the trip alone.
When: 8:30 – 9:30 PM
Where: Room 8
The publisher behind We Can Never Go Home, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, Kim & Kim and upcoming The Forevers has been boldly revving its engines in the industry, and 2016 may well be the year it takes off. Sporting a punk sneer and dedication to hiring diverse creators, Black Mask has only hinted at its potential with a fairly sparse publishing schedule and frequent delays. But this primer panel—featuring founder Matt Pizzolo, Magdalene Visaggio, Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss among others—should offer a concrete foundation of where the company’s going and what cards it has up its sleeve.