If you’ve been reading a lot of Cinema Blend recently, you may have noticed two common occurring words in our headlines: Comic Con. From last Wednesday to yesterday six members of our staff – Katey Rich, Kelly West, Eric Eisenberg, Sean O’Connell, Jesse Carp and Da7e Gonzales – ran around the San Diego Convention Center and adjacent hotels working to bring you absolutely every little bit of information we find about upcoming movies and television shows.

As hard as the work is (and believe us when we say that it’s hard work), one of the greatest rewards is being able to attend panels. Year after year studios bring some of the most interesting, beloved material and guest stars the event, and as interesting as the footage is, there’s also something magical about being surrounded by so many fans at once (Hall H holds as many as 6,500 geeks). Over the course of the convention the entire team got to attend many different panels, with some of us waiting in line or hours in order to do so, but there were a select few that really stood out.

With Comic Con 2012 over and done, we’ve reflected on our time in San Diego, picked our favorite panels, and explained what it was about them that made them so special. Check it out!

The Expendables 2 Panel
By Katey Rich

The Expendables wasn't a great movie-- even the people who liked it could tell you that-- and it doesn't hold a candle to much of the work done by stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, etc. in their earlier years. But none of that matters when you've got all those stars sitting in front of you, charming the hell out of an audience and making jokes to each other as if you've somehow been invited to the most macho family reunion of all time. The Thursday panel for The Expendables 2 barely showed off any footage, beyond a brief airport scene that includes references to both "I'll be back" and "Yippe-ki-yay motherfucker," but the main event was the return of movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who owned the crowd with a combination of genuine Hollywood charisma and the politician's knowledge of how to work a room. It took minutes for him to have the audience eating out of his hand, and with Stallone making Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot jokes and Terry Crews standing on the table, the panel felt more like a potential bar brawl than Hollywood marketing.

The Warner Bros Panel
By Eric Eisenberg

If there is one word that can be used to describe the Warner Bros. panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Con it would be “epic.” How else can you describe the rebirth of Superman, Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots and monsters, and Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth? In addition to getting some truly impressive talent up on stage (Sir Ian McKellan!), every second of footage was exciting and there was plenty of it (you really can’t go wrong with 12 and a half minutes of The Hobbit). But that was just what was on the schedule. The studio brought people to their feet when both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis walked out on stage for The Campaign (and what followed was one seriously hysterical panel), but the real showstopper was the arrival of Godzilla. Right after the Pacific Rim gang got off stage, Legendary Pictures officially announced that they were commencing work on a brand new movie about the famed atomic monster with director Gareth Edwards. At the end of the Warner Bros. panel I heard the man sitting next to me turn to his wife and say, “Waiting five-and-a-half hours in line for that only made it more special.” How many things would you wait that long for?

The Spartacus: War of the Damned Panel
By Kelly West

Starz really came through for Spartacus fans at Comic Con this year, not only by delivering Steven DeKnight, Liam McIntyre and Manu Bennett to us for the panel to talk about the upcoming Spartacus: War of the Damned, but by surprising us with numerous former cast members from last season (whose characters have since gone forth to meet the gods), including Lucy Lawless, Nick Tarabey, Katrina Law and Peter Mensah, in addition to Craig Parker and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (whose character is actually still among the living). Fans went nuts at their arrival and rightfully so. Whether friend or foe to Spartacus, they were all beloved by fans of the series, and we'll most definitely feel their absence next season. Their appearance also allowed the panel to look back on Vengeance and discuss some of the amazing moments in the series and the bloodbath that was the finale. I attended some great panels at SDCC this year, with some very excited fans (the Buffy panel, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and True Blood among them), but Spartacus was the most satisfying, and based on the cheers from the crowd, I doubt I'm alone in thinking that. Gratitude.

The Firefly 10th Anniversary Reunion Panel
By Da7e

The Science Channel-hosted Firefly 10th Anniversary Reunion Panel had one sub-textual message pulsing through Ballroom 20 on Friday it was that the fandom isn’t a life-support system for the dead series, but the beating heart of a living entertainment property that has been fully reclaimed by those who only want to love and nurture it. The closing question asked Joss Whedon to sum up what Firefly fandom meant to him, the cameras pushed in on his face in the ensuing silence as he struggled to find right words. Joss Whedon, director of the highest grossing film of the year was brought to tears in a room full of people that knew what he was capable of a decade before any executive was ready to trust him and as someone screamed “We Love You!” the whole hall began to applaud and stand. Then, the cast joined us on our feet and no one needed any words because you could look up and see the answer to the question on Joss Whedon’s face. The sheer magnitude of being near the center of that much raw adoration for a cast who stood behind a man who wanted to share space western stories with us summed up in one of those statements that looks cynical in print: we love you. I’m not being hyperbolic in the face of fandom; it was the kind of beautiful moment I rarely get to experience as someone covering pop culture.

The Fox Animation Panel
By Jesse Carp

Craziness abounds at San Diego Comic-Con but there was definitely something in the water at the back-to-back Seth MacFarlane panels on Saturday in Ballroom 20. First, the panelists for both Family Guy and American Dad are all comedians (the performers and the writers) so the official discussion often meandered off topic and into the realm of, well, forcing the interpreter to sign things like “flippity-floppity-saggy dongs” or improvising a Chris Griffin and Herbert seduction scene in the voices. Oh, and there was a 90% chance that any fan who asked a question was going to get ripped apart. Quite a collection of oddities approached the microphone during both events, with one at American Dad kicking things off with a steady stream of mic-checks. Like five, which prompted the panelists to respond in kind before the kid finally asked whether Francine’s lascivious past is based on any of their mothers. Ouch. People were even stranger at the Family Guy panel, with one bringing a large jar of mayo which then he began to eat by the spoonful while standing at the microphone. Seth Green asked if he even had a question or just wanted to performance art the ‘Mayo Character.’ He did, it was mocked.

The Marvel Panel
By Sean O’Connell

The word on Marvel is that they’ve mastered the Con. They’re plugged into the next-to-last slot in Hall H on Saturday night -- Kevin Smith, if we’re being honest, actually closed the room —because they know how to blow the roof off of the joint with the presentation. Witnessing it first hand, though, I now realize Marvel built this well-earned reputation by treating Comic Con like a rock concert, pouring energy (and news bits) into the Hall H crowd and receiving it back, tenfold. Kevin Feige receives as loud a welcome as any Hollywood star, because fans attribute Marvel’s recent successes to his strategic moves. The panel worked fans up with the mere mention of titles for sequels we knew were coming! (Confirming the Winter Soldier storyline for a Cap sequel was a fantastic moment.) They remembered to surprise fans with unexpected announcements and test footage of Ant-Man, bringing Con icon Edgar Wright on stage to present it. And then out comes Downey Jr., which – at Comic Con – is the equivalent of announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!” People lost their minds, and RDJ played them like a master conductor standing before a world-class symphony. It was a presentation, sure. But Marvel treats it like an Event, capitalized for emphasis. And when I left the Marvel panel Saturday evening I honestly felt like I’d been witness to something special.

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