Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Most Notable Comic-Con Panels Of All Time

Full post on
edited by @davidehrlich

With Comic-Con only days away, we decided to take a little look back to put the giant event into perspective. Although sometimes the movies promoted at the convention don’t break through to a mainstream audience, there have been many panels throughout the years that could be considered monumental or important for a variety of reasons. Here are the ten most memorable, in chronological order.
1. Star Wars and Blade Runner Begin It All (1976 / 1981)
Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 3.29.42 AM
In 1976, Charles Lippencott famously hosted a panel for “Star Wars”, showing slides from the film to a somewhat skeptical (and not full!) audience. While it took some years for someone from a film other than a publicist to present a film panel at Comic-Con, footage (screened in 16mm, natch) was luckily not far off, perhaps most notably in 1981 when a “Blade Runner” panel screened a featurette before featurettes were a thing, that can now be found on the 30th anniversary blu ray.
2. Convincing The Fans About Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1988)
36-Batman_Nicholson_Joker (1)
(Tim Burton circa 2013)
In 1988, fans were so overwhelmingly against the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman, the studio’s consultant on all things geek knew they had to do something to prove that Burton’s vision was everything the fans would want in a “Batman” movie, not the rehash of the campy Batman series the hardcore fans so feared. So “Batman” creator himself, Bob Kane, appeared at Comic-Con with a slideshow and fans soon found themselves warming up to the whole idea after getting a peak of Anton Furst’s designs of Gotham City and watching a Tim Burton led tour of the set, Bat Suit and Batmobile. This marked the beginning of a change in fan perception towards the film, as it unleashed word of mouth that turned entire fan community around.
3. Dracula Breaks Through (1992)
In what is now old hat, 1992 marked the first time an Oscar-winning director came to Comic-Con to show fans his genre film, as Francis Ford Coppola arrived in town with a a lengthy featurette and practically taught a class in filmmaking to a rapt audience (a feat the giddy legend would repeat at the “Twixt” panel some years later) . It was a huge moment to have someone in the film world of that caliber attend Comic-Con. Back in 1992, Comic-Con was one of many similarly sized genre conventions around the country, and Coppola went on to appear at many others that year promoting the film, to fantastic results, as the film was a surprise hit.
4. Comic-Con, Meet Joss Whedon (1997)
In a rare occurrence, Fox decided to combine their film and television into one panel, with one relatively unknown talent linking the two – writer and creator Joss Whedon. The move made certain logistical sense, as that year Whedon was involved in two geek properties, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Alien: Resurrection”. “Alien”, seeming like the bigger project, went second in the line-up, and when a third of the audience got up and left after “Buffy” had concluded, the geek world knew they might have a television phenomenon on their hands. Whedon has spoken about the experience as a turning point in his career, enjoying himself so much that he returned in 1998 with the entire Buffy cast (sans SMG who didn’t appear until “The Grudge”) and has since become one of the icons of fandom.
5. Lord of the Rings Comes To Life (2000)
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Back in 2000 when the largest room at the convention was 6CDEF, the Con removed the temporary walls separating 6CDEF from 6A and 6B, creating a 6000-person room, comparable in capacity to the current hub of all things major, Hall H, in order to host a screening of brand new clips and behind the scenes footage from “Fellowship of the Ring”. Can you imagine a studio greenlighting a panel in the largest room at Comic-Con just to show a long featurette? But the panel was a massive success, capped off with a surprise appearance by Ian McKellan, who had been hanging out at the Marvel booth, and decided to come up and watch the footage for himself. This panel manages to represent both a bygone era of Comic-Con, and provide a sneak preview into what it would become.

6-10 and the year 2000 onwards on


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