Expect a sudden shortage of geeks in your neighbourhood from tomorrow morning - unless you happen to live in the San Diego area. Comic-Con, the city’s annual movie and comic-book extravanganza, kicks off in blur of blockbuster panels, hot-button TV shows and fanboys in Boba Fett costumes. Empire is there in force and will be filling you in on all the big movie news and red-button-worthy TV previews. But what’s beeping across our Con radar prior to day one? Here’s the pick of ten panels to look out for.
NBC's upcoming drama, Awake will get an exclusive screening pilot screening as well as a panel with star Jason Isaacs. The former Malfoy Sr. stars as a copper involved in a car crash alongside his wife and son. After the incident he exists in two parallel realities – one in which his son survived but his wife died and another in which the reverse is true. Both the 'red' reality and the 'green' reality (named after the coloured rubber bands he wears to tell them apart) play out in each episode and, apart from being an incredibly cool concept, Awake will help ease the pain since Case Histories's series end took Isaacs from our screens. Honorary mention in the “What the hey?” bracket of intriguing TV sci-fi to JJ Abrams’ Alcatraz, panelling on Saturday evening.
There can be few who didn't fall a little in love with HBO's adaptation of the George R R Martin fantasy series and with work already underway on the second series (based on A Clash of Kings), we expect the Thrones panel to have queues winding halfway to The Wall. Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will be on the panel as well as Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kit Harington and Jason Momoa (who's technically dead but we'll forgive him). The best part? Martin himself will be moderating. Woot!
The arrival of Buffy to Comic-Con will no doubt tip fervour levels past ‘unprecedented’ and straight onto to ‘unsafe’, but Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return for a Ringer panel should have more than just fans of the Slayer excited. She’ll be appearing on a panel for Warner Bros.’ new TV series, pysch-drama-stroke-crime-thriller Ringer. In it she plays a woman who assumes her estranged twin sister’s identity when her life is threatened by the Mob. It sounds a bit like Dead Ringers meets the last 20 minutes of Goodfellas, and it’s definitely piqued our interest. Nestor Carbonell, Ioan Gruffudd, Kristoffer Polaha and the show’s creators will join Gellar on the panel. Sorry Ioan, this time that screaming is not for you.
If you have any illusions about getting into Hall H for the Breaking Dawn panel then we hope you're already in the queue. After a two-year absence from the Con, Twilight is back in San Diego and the Twi-Hards will doubtless be out in force. If you can handle the decibel-shattering screaming and the overpowering scent of oestrogen in the air then by all means do check out the panel, at which a bunch of the cast will be there to receive any undergarments you may wish to throw at them. For those less inclined, we can guarantee the guy selling 'Twilight is Gay' t-shirts will once again be plying his profitable trade somewhere on the convention floor.
Thursday morning will brings a little West Country to Hall H. Bristol’s animation whizzes Aardman will be showing off footage from their two new features: nautical stop-motion adventure The Pirates! and CGI-ed yulefest Arthur Christmas. We’re keen to see how the none-more-British studio has been working with Sony – judging by Empire’s recent trip to Bristol, pretty darn well – and the proof of the pudding, if not the pudding itself, will be on display during the Animation Showcase. Remember: we’re in America so it’s ‘The Pirates! Band Of Misfits’ not ‘The Pirates: In An Adventure With Scientists’. Fear not, both feature manpanzees.
For anyone missing the awesomely named ‘Knights Of Badassdom’, Relativity Media will be introducing the equally badass martial artist Gina Carano on Friday. Carano is the star of Steven Soderbergh’s new spy thriller Haywire, and the indie king will be bringing his action game to Hall H. Put it this way, there’s more a lot gun battles than in sex, lies, and videotape. Sharing the slot is one of the studio’s other big debutants, The Raven. It’s a dark thriller that reimagines American gothic novelist Edgar Allan Poe as a gritty crimefighter who looks a little like John Cusack (okay, he is John Cusack). The actor will at Comic-Con for The Raven panel, along with co-stars Luke Evans, Alice Eve and director James ‘V For Vendetta’ McTeigue.
Midway through its shooting schedule, the new-look Total Recall forms a cornerstone of Sony’s presentation on Friday. Director Len Wiseman will be on hand to introduce his cast: Colin Farrell (also at the Con to talk Fright Night), Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and the mighty Bryan Cranston. If, like us, you’ve got a soft spot for the Verhoeven’s original, you’ll want to get your ass to Hall H to find out how Wiseman’s vision for the Philip K. Dick sci-fi is shaping up. Farrell, of course, plays troubled factory drone Doug Quaid. Cranston is taking time out from Breaking Bad’s resident meth kingpin to play Vilos Cohaagen, the role made awesome by Ronny Cox first time out.
In the absence of The Avengers, Man Of Steel et al at this year’s Con, there’s no question over the biggest name in town – and if you said “ThunderCats”, head to the back of the class. Of course, it’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Spidey himself, Andrew Garfield, will be swinging in with Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), director Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach in tow. This one will be roadblocked with fans hoping for another glimpse at the newly rejuvenated Spider-Man. Expect at least several more questions on how the 27 year-old will be passing off as a high-schooler and plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” as Garfield demonstrates it while swinging around Hall H. We hope.
Last but emphatically not least, Steven Spielberg will be showing off footage from his performance-captured take on Hergé’s boy wonder, Tintin. It’s Spielberg’s first appearance at Comic-Con – excluding the link-up for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull in 2008 – and not even a troupe of Gamorrean Guards on rollerskates could cause a bigger stir among veteran Con’ers. Tintin doesn’t adorn quite as many childhood bedroom walls in America as he does on this side of the pond, but with Senor Spielbergo in attendance and the gloriously adventuresome trailer raising excitement levels, this is not to be missed.
Lost fans rejoice because Comic-Con deity JJ Abrams has another one his noodle-twisting TV series on the Con showreel. Alcatraz is heading to a small screen near you soon, with Lost writer Elizabeth Sarnoff turning out a compelling premise involving the mysterious disappearance of the 300 or so inmates of Alcatraz prison in the ‘60s and their reappearance – unaged – 50 years later. It falls to Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sons Of Anarchy’s Sarah Jones) to unravel this giant plate of sci-fi spaghetti. Sarnoff, Jones and Lost’s Jorge Garcia will be appearing to answer questions and show off the pilot episode at 5.15pm on Saturday. First description of Alcatraz as “the new Lost” should come around the 5.16pm mark.