The 17 Types of TV Panels to See at Comic-Con 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 6:00 am

Our second Comic-Con preview focuses on TV, which is swiftly taking over the entire convention. Tomorrow's list will focus on the original raison d'etre - comics.

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TV has something for everyone these days ... and so do the television panels at Comic-Con this year, which have grown to the point where they pretty much crush the movie-related ones. Pretty much every genre show you'd expect to find is on hand, but there are more specialized offerings too, from Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about their new South Park videogame, to veteran weirdos Sid and Marty Krofft discussing their creations with a "surprise guest moderator" (H.R. Pufnstuf? Witchiepoo?), to a Pinky and the Brain 20th-anniversary reunion.

You can delve into the wacky world of "Legendary Animators of Classic '60s Cartoons" like The Pink Panther, Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones, or attend two panels crammed with cartoon voice actors. Spend an hour with equally legendary animator Bruce Timm of Batman: The Animated Series fame and many other DC cartoons, or with the famously extroverted actor John Barrowman. Listen to Tim Russ, Michael Dorn and other actors discuss black superheroes. Or sing your heart out once more, with feeling, at a screening of the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Listed below are just the highlights, really. One thing's for sure: You're never gonna be able to fit it all in. Hell, I could barely get it all into one article. For dates, times and locations, check the schedule.

1. HBO's Heavy Hits

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Fans would probably cut through a host of wildlings to get into Hall H for Friday's Game of Thrones panel and Q&A session, with what promises to be a lively lineup featuring series stars including Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington (pictured above), Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, John Bradley and Rose Leslie. Rehash the Red Wedding and hear tales from behind the scenes, but don't expect much to be said about Season 4 beyond "I can't tell you that." With filming for the new season slated to begin this summer, I'm guessing co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won't be on hand. But George R.R. Martin will be discussing his work (and no doubt fending off calls for him to get back to writing the next A Song of Ice and Fire novel) in a separate panel on Sunday, so perhaps he'll put in an appearance.

Strangely enough, the schedule blurb for Saturday's True Blood panel and Q&A doesn't actually say who will be present or what we may learn about the venerable vampire drama, now in its sixth season and losing some of its non-sparkly luster. All we know for sure is that the 45-minute panel is moderated by Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly. I guess that's one way to manage expectations.

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Twenty Movie Panels to See at Comic-Con 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:00 am

Editor's Note: this is the first of three consecutive Daily Lists to break down the San Diego Comic Con schedule for you. Today: movies. Tomorrow: TV. Thursday: comics. Yes, they still have those. -LYT

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With subjects ranging from location scouting to Leonard Maltin, and varying in tone from Superman's 75th anniversary to Spike & Mike's animation fest, the movie-related panels at this year's Comic-Con seem almost infinitely varied. The list below represents only a small portion of the movie events likely to raise the pulse and stir the soul of any red-blooded geek.

Dates, times and locations are not listed here; check the schedule for such specifics.

1. An Unofficial Sneak Peek of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with TheOneRing.net

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The gang at the Tolkien site, known as TORn for short, spend some time indulging in "[r]umors, spy reports, conjecture, inside info, debunking, and lively debate" about the next installment of the trilogy. Sounds like fun, but of course the most fanatically geeky Tolkien completists will have already attended a panel earlier that day...


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Ten Things I Knew I Could Find at Anime Expo (and Was Not Disappointed!)

Monday, July 8, 2013 at 6:00 am

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It's convention season! Which, for me, kicks off on 4th of July weekend with the yearly Anime Expo, humbly located in the sprawling Los Angeles Convention Center. I've been an AX regular since about 2005, and though times have changed, certain things, uh, haven't. I've got a good hunch about what I'll be able to find in the dealer's room if I look hard enough. Here are ten of the strange, cool and completely expected things I knew I could find in the crowded exhibit hall. As usual, the show did not disappoint.

10) Stuff That Is in no Way Related To Anime or its Fans in any Way, Shape or Form

Look, I get it - it's a bunch of nerds, gathering in one place, and you've got some nerd shit you're trying to sell to people. San Diego Comic-Con is a few weeks away, and you'd like to not have as much stuff to lug around Southern California. Just because I get it doesn't mean I always understand it. Which is why I knew I could find some weird booth that is ENTIRELY devoted to a completely different fandom - like Harry Potter!

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Accio Anime!

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The Ten Greatest Fictional Threats Defeated By The United States

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 6:00 am

In the two hundred plus years of the United States, we've faced a myriad of challenges that threatened the very existence of the country. We've faced multiple wars; most overseas but some threatening the very borders of America. Economic difficulties like the Great Depression and more recently the Great Recession put the financial stability of the country and her people in question. Terrorism, both domestic and internationally spawned continues to affect our lives, years after our perceived bubble of invulnerability was pierced.

As we approach the 237th birthday of our country, Topless Robot wanted to stop and take a look back at some of the foulest enemies ever to try and ruin our way of life - and while it may seem tasteless to cheer the death of anybody, these threats were all entirely fictional, so it's totally okay. After all, this is the country of baseball, rock and roll, both Star Wars and Star Trek, both Marvel and DC comics and so much more. We're the main protagonist of every single game in the Call of Duty series. Hell, we're the main protagonist of almost every military video game. So let's sit back and remember some of the greatest and most powerful villains ever to threaten the Red, White and Blue and get their asses handed back to them. America! Fuck Yeah!

1. Meteors

To quote Douglas Adams, "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." That being said, Earth seems to have a knack for attracting large bits of space matter. It seems that comets in particular have a vendetta against Earth: a comet bitch slaps the planet in Deep Impact, turns people into either dust or zombies in Night of the Comet, and even punts a five-mile-wide rock right at the Earth in Meteor.

Meteors, on the other hand, have a much lower success ratio when taking on the U.S. Though a comet started the events in Meteor, all it took was Juan Sanchez Villalobos Ramirez and a shit load of nukes to stop the titular meteor. Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis and a complete lack of scientific credibility were enough to take out the rock in Armageddon, and countless SyFy original movies have also tried and failed to destroy the Earth by pelting it with rocks. Thankfully we have NASA and Michael Bay to protect us!


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Nine Reasons the Zombie Fad Must Die

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

Older readers may remember a distant past when less than 90% of all pop culture was dedicated to zombies, but much like the walking dead themselves, zombie pop culture is spreading exponentially. It's an infectious disease that won't rest until we're all eating zombie themed ice cream, watching How I Met Your Zombie and making love with zombie flavored condoms. Here's why we need to put a bullet through the head of this phenomenon, before it's too late.

9. Zombies Aren't Scary

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Gage Skidmore
"Oh no! Quick, start walking at a moderate pace, it's our only hope!"

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown, and also maybe that of a serial killer with chainsaws that can somehow shoot sharks for hands," said H.P. Lovecraft, more or less. In pop-culture terms, the less we know about a monster the scarier it is, because how can our heroes hope to defeat something if they don't even know what it looks like?

Conversely, we know so much about zombies that the average child learns how to defend against them before they learn how to do long division. Not that's it hard to figure out, because a single, shuffling zombie can be outwitted with a casual stroll - it's only when there are dozens or hundreds that they're intimidating. Hell, World War Z had to throw 20 quadrillion at viewers to elicit anything other than yawns.

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"Eh, it's a little scary, but I still see things that aren't zombies."

Well guess what? Anything is scary when you're being attacked by a horde of them. Holy shit, five thousand used car salesmen are rampaging through downtown! Lock your doors, the lobsters of Red Lobster are loose...and out for revenge! Baseballs have gained sentience and, angry at being hit around all the time, have started hitting back. When's Brad Pitt going to fight off millions of flying, demonic baseballs in Moneyball 2: Fastball to Hell? Never, because if your monster's only scary in numbers you've made a crappy monster.

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Ten Great And Nerdy Canadian Films

Monday, July 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

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...Well, today is Canada Day up North here, and while I will be naturally celebrating today with fireworks and a traditional local buffet of poutine, Double Doubles and donair egg rolls, I figured what better way to celebrate Canada's birthday than by sharing some of our nation's greatest pop culture highlights with all of you?...Actually, there are probably several better ways, but for some reason I chose a list consisting of Canadian cinema, so why the hell not?

Joking aside, despite the number of criticisms I have against a lot of our entertainment, such as inferior cable channels and requirements and mandates by the CRTC that tend to set the bar pretty low for quality, we've still produced a decent crop of work over the years, a lot of it most notable in the film area. As such, I've thrown together a list a ten great and purely Canadian films that every nerd should see. Naturally, there will be some notable omissions, so I've missed anything, please feel free to reasonably suggest your own picks in the comments. And by "reasonably", I mean a limit of three swear words.

So consider this a look of some of the finest and...um, relatively classiest films our proud nation has created over the years. Oh, and consider this as part of an apology for Johnny Test and Nickelback. Seriously, even we don't know what we were thinking.

(Also, yeah, I guess we could've use an image more related to Canadian film here, but c'mon, how was I supposed to resist something as awesome as that? Muchos gracias to DA's HammersonHoek for letting us use it.)


10. Manborg

You know, sometimes the mere title of a film can be enough to tell you that it's going to be a classic in some way or another. So when a film comes along called frickin' Manborg, you know you're in for something good. An apologetic tribute to the sci-fi B-movies of the '80s made on a budget of a thousand dollars, Manborg sees our titular half-man/half-cyborg team up with an Australian gunfighter and a kung fu master after the future's Hell Wars to fight the oppressive Nazi vampire regime and okay, if you have read all of that still have no desire to see this film, I call bull. In fact, I'm just going to wait here and stop the list right now until you go see it. Kay?

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...Seen it now? Good. I knew you couldn't resist it. It's a hefty serving of incredibly delicious cheese that may be pretty short (the whole thing clocks in at 71 minutes, and that's with a five-minute fake trailer for Bio-Cop that alone is sheer brilliance), but it will indeed be some of the finest cheddar you have tasted, my friend.


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The 7 Best Attack on Titan Mash-ups

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 6:00 am
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For those of you who still watch all the newest anime, you probably already know that Attack on Titan is the best show this season about a gang of teens flying around and cutting up giant naked people.

For the uninitiated: Attack on Titan is a bombastically dramatic anime series about a dystopian future wherein humanity is driven to live in walled-off cities, in order to defend themselves from creepy, naked, giant humanoid "Titans" that lumber about and devour people. It's quite good, but more importantly, it has THE MOST DRAMATIC OPENING THEME SONG EVER. Behold:



You think maybe, somewhere between the squealing guitar, the operatic chorus, and the non-stop hammering percussion, they thought to themselves, "Hey, this seems a little bit... much. I mean, yeah, this is a dramatic series, but we're presenting this as THE MOST DRAMATIC THING EVER TO BE MADE. No? Okay, fuck it."

Needless to say, you make something this overbearingly serious, and people on the internet are going to have fun with it. Here are the best mash-ups around!

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The 10 Best Superhero Role-Playing Games

Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Copyright 1977 Gamescience, Inc.

The first commercially released role playing game - Dungeons & Dragons - was published in 1974. The game spread like wildfire and the market quickly responded to the phenomenon. What is remarkable about the early days of the role playing game hobby is how creative the initial D&D inspired products were. Unlike in the d20 boom of the early 2000s, the majority of the role playing games released by competitors weren't derivative books that were mere clones of the initial D&D rules set.

This isn't to say that no one was releasing competing fantasy role playing games into the market, or that no games would be released using mechanics clearly based on D&D's combat system. Those things would happen, but the truly derivative products took some time to reach the market. The early entries into the role playing game marketplace, both by TSR and others, covered a wide variety of genres. D&D was published in 1974; the next year saw the publication of Boot Hill, a Western role playing game published by TSR; En Garde!, a game of swashbuckling Three Musketeers-esque action published by GDW; and Tunnels & Trolls by Flying Buffalo. Of these three games, only one was in the same genre as D&D and it was written as a response to the nigh-unplayability of the original D&D rules. Tunnels & Trolls may have shared some features with D&D, but mechanically and tonally it was clearly a different product. T&T was a product that would revolutionize the role playing game industry in its own way, but that is a story for another time.

Steve Perrin in Different Worlds #23 - an issue dedicated to the rise of superhero role playing games - asserts that Superhero 2044 by Donald Saxman is the first commercially available superhero-themed role playing game. Saxman's game was self-published in a small print run in 1977 under the name Superhero '44. When Lou Zocchi's company Gamescience Inc. published a second edition of the game later that year, the name was changed to Superhero 2044. While the game was more the skeleton of a game than a full game in its own right, it is the fertile soil from which a number of later games grew. Grow they did. In 1977, Superhero 2044 was the only superhero game on the market. By 1984, there were no fewer than six competing games in the genre, one of them a Marvel-based role-playing game published by the industry's giant, TSR.

Like the white box D&D rules set, Superhero 2044 is nigh unplayable as written. Also like D&D, Superhero 2044 inspired creative minds that led to the creation of a vibrant new gaming market. While the superhero role playing game market has never come close to matching the size of the fantasy RPG market, it has been a robust market that has seen quite almost 100 different games. Many of these games are quite good and so the task of selecting the 10 best superhero role playing games is no easy task; although with games likeThe Foundation, it isn't impossible.

Before I begin this list, I should warn you that superhero-themed RPGs are my obsession. I have made it my life's goal to own a copy of every super hero RPG ever published and I'm doing pretty well. If I don't own it, it's either really rare, a foreign game, or exists only in digital form. I'm not saying this as an assertion of my authority, or to dismiss your personal favorites. Though if you disagree with me, you are clearly wrong and your favorite game was ignored because it was found wanting which is why I crucified it upon the Tree of Woe. Do you see it? That's right, it's the game nailed right next to SPI's DALLAS role-playing game.

What are the 10 best super hero RPGs, according to this crazed obsessive?

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10 Things I Learned About Video Games, Eroge, Japan and Myself From Playing Saya no Uta

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 6:00 am

Here in the US, video games typically fall into a small set of genres. First and third person shooters dominate the American market, with other genres like adventure, puzzle and role playing games holding their own. In Japan, however, there are seemingly limitless types of video games. While American kids were marveling at the original Nintendo Entertainment System's killer titles like Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda, Japanese gamers were learning military history and strategy in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or planning the next moves of their menagerie of mecha in Super Robot Taisen. Both Romance and Taisen were best sellers in Japan but at the time were never seen on American shores, mainly because as good as they were, they just wouldn't have sold here in the States.

With the increased popularity of Japanese culture in the US, the borders to entertainment have opened. In the few arcades left here, it's almost unheard of to not see a Dance Dance Revolution machine. Music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are taken right from such Japanese classics like Guitar Freaks or Keyboard Mania, and it's not at all surprising to see Japanese imports like Taiko no Tetsujin sucking down quarters.

Of course, there are many more types of games from Japan that have not made the transition to the United States. One of the preconceptions about Japanese culture is that young men seem to have a hard time with members of the opposite sex. It's portrayed constantly in anime, with male protagonists becoming incredibly shy, subdued, or even having their nose burst into arterial sprays of blood during an interaction with an attractive woman.

That stereotype isn't helped when all you have to do is visit TR for some Super Terrific Japanese Things. The country that brought us Nintendo, sushi and Kirin Ichiban is also the same country that has given us Eel Juice, Vagina Bread, and the Penis Powered Game Controller. The Japanese culture has long been known for its technological prowess, with innovation solving so many of their problems. So what do you do when you have a population of young men who are believed to have difficulty talking to the opposite sex? Make it into a video game! Enter Dating Sims: games in which the goal is for you to pursue one or more virtual girls in the hope of forming a digital love connection.



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Twenty Things Shockingly Less Expensive Than Aniplex USA's Gurren Lagann Blu Ray Set

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Friends, our hobbies are expensive. Whatever you collect, chances are you've probably sat there, ensconced with regret, thinking to yourself, "y'know, in any other country, what I paid to get a DVD boxed set of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp could've fed a family of three for a month."

Take pity, then, on the poor, bedraggled anime fans of the Western world. As the DVD market dried up, piracy ran rampant, and the general popularity of anime waned, companies that made it their mission to release anime in the West have either shrunk, gone out of business, or generally fucked off.

There are some survivors, but the one that drives the most ire out of any anime fan is easily Aniplex USA. See, in Japan, anime fans are used to being gouged and stripped of all their money by expensive. limited-release boxed sets and the like. Aniplex USA, seeing the home video market in the West evaporate as streaming services like Netflix became the norm, had an idea: "What if we charge just about the same amount of money as we do for Japanese fans, in the West?"

And thus, the FIVE-HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLAR Blu-ray boxed set of the rather popular series Gurren Lagann was born. That's a quite a bargain! I mean, considering that the MSRP on the thing is actually SIX-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE DOLLARS. AND NINETY-EIGHT CENTS. Coming out tomorrow!

For the uninitiated: Gurren Lagann is a terrifically entertaining, ebulliently animated piece of entertainment from Gainax, creators of Evangelion among others. It's a hot-blooded show about giant robots, sharply dressed pilots, and all sorts of colorful, exciting mecha mayhem.

This guarantees two things: one, this will sell out. Every other absurdly-expensive Aniplex USA boxed set has, and I don't see how that'll change. Especially since Gurren Lagann is a terrific and entertaining show and people want it.

Two, the people who want it but can't afford it will be really angry and upset and whine on the Internet.

In the spirit of this, I present 20 things that are somehow less expensive than the Gurren Lagann Blu-rays!

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