Comics, Daily Lists

The 7 Types of Comic Book Panels at San Diego Comic-Con 2015 (and Which Ones to See)

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San Diego Comic Con is about a week away, and it is packed full of incredible programming. Everyone is incredibly excited about the biggest geek event of the year, and with so many great comic book-related panels, it’s hard to pick through what’s worth your time and what’s superfluous fluff. Fortunately, that’s what we at TR are here for.

Comic panels tend to fall into several broad categories, and not everyone will be interested in every type. We’ve broken them down into 7 different kinds of comic panels you’ll see at SDCC, and picked out the best from each one. Take a look!

1. SPOTLIGHTS

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Wikimedia Commons

San Diego Comic Con is still unparalleled in its ability to draw the hugest of the huge names in comics. Getting all of these people together under one roof gives us a great chance to hear directly from the creators themselves about their work – the process nerdery, behind-the-scenes drama, headcanon and personal theories guiding how they create their books. It’s also a chance for creators whose names rhyme with Schmant Schmorrison to explain what the hell happened at the end of Multiversity, which is great to do at a panel at SDCC and not in the book.

HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday, 10:30 AM, Room 4: Spotlight on Jill Thompson
Holy shit, did you guys know she designs Daniel Bryan’s gear? I was gonna talk about Scary Godmother and Beasts of Burden and how she’s doing a live watercolor on stage, but damn that’s cool as hell.

Thursday, 5:00 PM, Room 9: The Legion and Paul Levitz
The Legion of Super-Heroes is awesome. Paul Levitz’s Legion is among the awesomest (seriously, go read “The Great Darkness Saga”). This could easily go under another category, but I put it under spotlights because this is probably going to be an awesome introduction to Legion lore.

Saturday, 10:00 AM, Room 23ABC: MARCH with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Crap, everyone be on your best behavior. There’s going to be a Congressman at con.

Saturday, 11:15 AM, Room 6DE: New DC Universe: Batman Are You Ready?
This is technically a Batman panel, but Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder sound like they have an…interesting…relationship. Interesting because Capullo seems like an IRL version of Zakk Wylde from Aqua Team, so I wouldn’t pass up the chance to see him growl life coach advice from the stage.

Saturday, 12:30 PM, Room 6DE: DCE: Grant Morrison: The Multiversity And Beyond
Sigh.

Saturday, 1:30 PM, Room 24ABC: Spotlight on Allie Brosh
Hyperbole and a Half is excellent. That is all.

Saturday, 3:00 PM, Room 28DE: Spotlight on Jim Steranko
When your online persona is “Imagine Onion Joe Biden if he was a super-spy,” and your real life exploits are somehow BETTER than that, you are a legend and a national treasure. Go to this panel if you want to see Steranko, in person, tell the story about the time he open-palm slapped the shit out of Bob Kane.

Saturday, 5:00 PM, Room 29AB: Spotlight on J Michael Straczynski
This panel’s scheduled to run an hour, but expect him to decide that cons aren’t really all that successful and walk out about halfway through. Chris Roberson will finish the panel and make it far more entertaining than it would have been otherwise. I’ll stop making this joke when he stops pretending to care about comics.

2. COMPANY PANELS

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Everyone comes to SDCC for major news about new comics, and publishers usually (though less so lately) use con to talk about their plans for the next six months or so. More often than not, these panels are just really early solicitation information, but you always get good guests, and sometimes the smaller publishers give you some really interesting tidbits about their books. Be sure to make your questions vague, though, since anything we really want to know is usually answered with “you’ll have to read it to find out.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday, 11:30 AM, Room 6DE: DCE All Access
The DC All Access panels are usually their big splashes, the ones with news about what’s coming up next in their flagship books like Batman, Superman and Justice League. Expect a bunch of information about “Darkseid War” here.

Thursday, 4:00 PM: Delcourt Panel
Bandes dessinees (French comics) are about to be a pretty big deal over here. Check back the week of con for some more on this.

Thursday, 7:00 PM, Room 28DE: Monkeybrain Comics
Monkeybrain makes some great digital-only (or digital-first, actually) comics, and the description promises a little more process conversation than you’d usually get for a panel like this.

Friday, 10:00 AM, Room 6DE: Marvel’s Secret Wars
You guys, Secret Wars is so good. Sooooooooo good.

Friday, 12:30 PM, Room 24ABC: GRAPHIX: The Beginning, Present and Beyond
Raina Telgemeier, ensconced on her perch atop the New York Times Bestseller list (where she’s been for most of human history), will be there talking kids comics with Jeff Smith and Craig Thompson.

Friday, 1:00 PM, Room 4: Archie Forever
The TR Editorial Board (just me, continuing my long tradition of giving myself titles that I haven’t earned) has been pretty impressed with Archie’s creative revival, and they’re rolling out the big guns for this panel. But more importantly, FREE STUFF! They’re giving out gift bags here.

Friday, 1:30 PM, Room 8: Women of Transformers
ANNOUNCE A VICTORION TOY. I promise I’ll buy it.

Friday, 4:00 PM, Room 4: IDW: The Best Panel In Recorded History
I gotta say, IDW’s not messing around with this panel title. They set the bar high, but I appreciate the specificity they offered by saying “recorded” history. There is that cave painting they found in Belgium last year that seems to show Jesus, the Buddha, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Friedrich Nietzche (for some reason) handing out prehistoric sunflowers to audience members, but carbon dating of the painting sets it some time in prehistory.

Saturday, 2:30 PM, Room 24ABC: IDW and Hasbro
DO IT. ANNOUNCE THE VICTORION TOY.

Saturday, 3:00 PM, Room 7AB: Dark Horse Takes Over The World
Eric Powell, Mike Mignola and Chuck Palahniuk have joined forces to make 22 year old Jim squeal with glee. Modern Day Jim is also quite pleased with this panel.

Saturday, 4:00 PM, Room 9: Milestone 2.0: Return of the Mack
You don’t name a panel Return of the Mack without a reason, so who the hell lied to Milestone and said they loved it? Or is Mark Morrison going to be doing a comic for them? I’d buy 3 copies.

Saturday, 8:00 PM, Room 4: Valiantfans.com: Celebrating 25 Years of Valiant
So Valiant comics are pretty good right now. Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt, two of the writers working on their flagship books, are going to talk about their big summer crossover, Book of Death here.

3. COMIC BOOK HISTORY

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Moreso than other cons, San Diego seems to appreciate of the long history of the comic book business. As such, they have a ton of programming looking back at what made the industry what it is today. Oh yeah, and they’re handing out the most prestigious awards in comics, the Eisners, on Friday night. NBD though.

HIGHLIGHTS
Thursday, 10:00 AM, Room 29AB: Up, Up and Away: 75th Anniversary of the 1940 Premiere of the Superman Radio Series
and
Saturday, 4:30 PM, Room 5AB: That ’70s Panel
I would probably listen to Mark Waid, Paul Levitz and Len Wein bullshit for an hour about the Greek debt crisis. I would definitely listen to them talk about the history of the Superman radio series. Along those same lines, Chris Claremont, Bob Layton, Don McGregor, Dean Mullaney and Mark Evanier talking about (presumably) Marvel in the ’70s should be full of great stories about how some of the craziest comics in history got made. I’ll be really disappointed if one of them isn’t wearing a ridiculously high-collared cape, though.

Thursday, 6:00 PM, Room 28DE: LGBTQ Geek Year in Review
You won’t find a happier room than this one all weekend, and Amber Garza, the Geeks Out board member who chatted with us at Flame Con, is one of the panelists here. Fun note if you haven’t clicked through to the panel pages yet: you can RSVP/check in with your Facebook profile to all of them. That’s relevant here because it’s pretty fun to see all the pride flag profile pics checked into this one.

Friday, 11:00 AM, Room 4: Drawn & Quarterly at 25
I’ve been trying to get my hands on D&Q’s 25th Anniversary doorstopper book for a couple of weeks now, and I’m mad jelly that they might be giving one away at this panel. Ugh, did I really just type jelly?

Saturday, 12:00 PM, Room 24ABC: BOOM! Studios Celebrates 10 Years And Pushes Comics Forward
It’s pitched as a company panel, but the group on the dais comfortably positions this as a historical overview – they’ve got somebody from the business end (Matt Gagnon, EIC of BOOM!), a historian of the biz of sorts (Waid), a foreign-born art comix guy (Asaf Hanuka), and two people who are doing the indie-big 2 drift that’s common now (Mairghread Scott and James Tynion IV).

Sunday, 10:00 am, Room 5AB: The Annual Tribute to Jack Kirby
No discussion of comics history would be complete without a retrospective of the King, and no discussion of the King could be as entertaining as one with The Rob (Liefeld).

4. HOW-TO PANELS

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Simon Law, Flickr

Let’s be real: there’s not a single person reading comics who doesn’t have some tiny voice in the back of their head saying “dammit, that’s not how Cyclops should be written” I MEAN “I wish I could do that.” Cons are a great place to find out what it takes for not just creators to make comics, but for publishers to release them, and SDCC has a bunch of panels designed to give you a peek behind the process curtain.

HIGHLIGHTS
Thursday, 11:00 AM, Room 29AB: Nurturing Talent: What It Takes to Be a Decision Maker
Digital platforms have opened up a host of new opportunities for new, small publishers to pop up everywhere. This panel has Eric Stephenson from Image, Mark Waid as the head of Thrillbent, Chip Kidd from Random House, Todd McFarlane, Jonboy, Denis Kitchen from the CBLDF and Reginald Hudlin talking about how to run your own shop.

Thursday, 12:00 PM, Room 9: Editing Comics with Oni Press Editorial
Oni was pretty upfront about what they were looking for during their open submission period, and now that submissions have closed, they’re going to talk more about what they were looking for and how they assessed what they got. Hopefully their insight will be a little more in-depth than “nobody wants to read 160 pages of people sitting in a room talking about block grants for science programs in the Dakotas, Jim.” Aww, I made myself sad.

Thursday, 1:30 PM, Room 4: First Second: What’s In A Page?
This panel has a bunch of First Second creators talking process. One of them is Scott McCloud, so I figure it’ll be “a master class on comic art critiquing with the guy who wrote Understanding Comics.”

Friday, 11:00 AM, Room 23ABC: Image Comics: Where Creators Own Process
You want a panel to learn about making comics, you could do worse than sitting in on a discussion led by the guy who covered an entire wall in Beautiful Mind scribbles to plot out his Fantastic Four.

Saturday, 3:00 PM, Room 29AB: Comixology Submit: The Future of Self Publishing
He’s not at this panel, but Hugh Howey, the author of the Wool novels, is going to be around speaking at a bunch of other panels. Between him and all the work Comixology is putting into small-i independent comics, there’s a strong theme running through this con about the value of DIY publishing.

5. PANELS THAT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF

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Image Comics

It would be a disservice to all the other panels about humor comics to call this section “Panels With Chip Zdarsky On Them,” but…that’s kind of what it is. I went to one where he was a guest at NYCC last year, and I spent most of it doubled over laughing. That said, there are several other really funny people coming to SDCC to talk comics this year, and these panels should all be a riot.

HIGHLIGHTS, ZDARSKY DIVISION
Thursday, 1:00 PM, Room 2: DeConnick & Fraction: Milkfed Criminal Masterminds @ Work

Thursday, 2:00 PM, Room 23ABC: Image Comics: Where Creators Own the Mainstream

Sunday, 12:30 PM, Room 6DE: Marvel: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Milkfed Criminal Masterminds is the production company bringing Sex Criminals to TV. The Image panel has Chip talking about Kaptara, which was pitched as “Gay Saga,” but in reality is a lot closer to “Gay movie version-Masters of the Universe.” And at the Marvel panel, be sure to ask him how many of his “Marvel Ideas Journal” he plans on bringing to life in the pages of Howard the Duck.

HIGHLIGHTS, NON-PERVERTS

Thursday, 11:00 AM, Room 28DE: God Is Disappointed In You
Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler’s bible adaptation is hilarious, and their “Bible in 10 Minutes” slideshow has a well-deserved reputation for being really funny. They’re also previewing their sequel to the Bible, Apocrypha Now. It’s about time the Dead Sea Scrolls got a sarcastic retelling.

Thursday, 4:30 PM, Horton Grand Theater: Funny Pages
This is a ticketed event, but if you get in, you get to see Ben Blacker (from The Thrilling Adventure Hour and one of the best runs on Thunderbolts I’ve read) chatting with Paul F. Tompkins about funny comics. It should be a riot.

Saturday, 7:00 PM, Room 23ABC: The Best and Worst Manga of 2015
David Brothers and Deb Aoki are usually very measured in their criticism, but when they get fired up, they can be brutal. Hopefully setting aside some time for the worst manga of the year opens the door for some savage burns about ridiculous comics.

6. COMICS IN EDUCATION

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Wookiepedia

It’s easy to get swept up in the spectacle of Nerd Prom (and sorry, White House Correspondents Association. SDCC is the REAL Nerd Prom. Calling a gathering of the most powerful people in the United States “Nerd Prom” is like trying to change the name of the football position the most popular kid in school plays from “Quarterback” to “Dweeb”). Sometimes even I forget that there’s an entire profession built behind and around our collective dorkery, and there’s a term that flatscans use for job-based gatherings like this – “professional development.”

There’s been a shift in the last decade or so in American education towards emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM fields. A lot of the work being done at a meta level on education involves integrating STEM education into ongoing literacy activities, and comics are a natural point of entry for a lot of students into those fields. There’s also an entire series of panels focusing on scholarly aspects of nerd culture under the Comic Arts Conference tag. Many of these panels are off-site, so they also provide a nice, natural break from the teeming insanity of the con floor.

HIGHLIGHTS

Wednesday, 5:00 PM, San Diego Central Library: Creating Superheroes in the Classroom: An Interactive Workshop for Teachers
Kicking off the con, the panelists will talk specifically about working comics into K-12 curricula. They’ll show you how to instill a deep, abiding love of comic books in younger students, and how to use continuity and scientific inaccuracy to drive them away when they get older.

Thursday, 11:30 AM, Room 26AB: Comic Arts Conference #2: Research Methods and Digital Humanities
For all my nerdy librarians out there, you can find out how to code comic book metadata so it’s easy to find on your holocron.

Thursday, 12:00 PM, San Diego Central Library: Comics for Impact: STEM Education
This is a panel dedicated specifically to STEM education through comics. I really hope someone has a lesson plan called “So You Want To Bond Ferromagnetic Metals To A Human Skeleton” set up.

Thursday, 4:45 PM, Room 6BCF: NASA: Turning Science Fiction into Science Fact
This panel sounds great, but I can’t wait for next year, where DARPA will present “Turning Mad Science Fiction Into Terrifying Science Fact.”

Sunday, 4:00 PM Room 32AB: No Tow Trucks Beyond Mars
A group of scientists from the Jet Propulsion Lab will be on hand to discuss Ulysses Solomon Archer and the future of space-based long haul trucking.

7. WHAT THE ACTUAL SHIT

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Finally, there are these panels. The nonsensical, the off-topic, the dubious marketing tie-ins, the poorly scheduled or the ridiculous ones. I get the spirit of inclusiveness that led organizers into letting some of these panels in, but a comic book convention hosting the World Breath Holding Competition doesn’t really…actually, you know what? Joe Madureira is one of the guests. Seeing how long you can hold your breath makes more sense than I gave them credit for.

HIGHLIGHTS

Friday, 3:00 PM, Room 7AB: Rise of Aquawoman
This is a panel about scientific advancements in free diving. You thought I was kidding about that breath holding shit?

Friday, 8:00 PM, Room 4: Be A Financial Superhero Even If You Aren’t Tony Stark Or Bruce Wayne
Look. I get that financial planning is important and everything. I mean, assuming I don’t die from an aneurysm nitpicking a continuity error in X-Men 17: Oh Christ, Another Fantastic Four Crossover, I’m going to have to think about retiring or something, right? But…Friday at 8 PM during Nerd Prom? Isn’t there something better you could be doing than listening to a lecture about why annuities are a terrible investment for Spider-Man? I bet accountant conventions are a BLAST.

Sunday, 10:00 AM Room 14A: Fangirl Foods: Food Network’s Chef Duff Goldman
I appreciate the effort here, but a Q&A with the guy from Ace of Cakes is a liiiiiiiiiiiiittle off-topic for Comic Con, no matter how many times you shout “TARDIS CAKE.”

Sunday, 12:00 PM, Room 14A: Ball-Jointed Doll Collectors Group
I might not be totally plugged in here, but aren’t dolls with ball-joints called “action figures?” And “Make new friends, both real and resin” isn’t how you close a panel description. It’s an elevator pitch for a horror movie.

Previously by Jim Dandeneau
6 Nerdy Cool Things We Saw at the Tribeca Film Festival
10 Important Clues to the Conclusion of Multiversity
The 9 Worst, Most Exploitative Nerdy Crowdfunding Campaigns
11 Valiant Comics We Want To See On The Big Screen
11 Things We Learned About Oni’s New Rick & Morty Comic From Zac Gorman
9 Cool Things About Frankenstein Underground We Learned From Mike Mignola
The 26 Coolest Things at Toy Fair 2015
The 20 Best Comics of 2014
10 Things We Learned from Scott Snyder about Wytches
Topless Robot’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide – Comics
12 Other Events Marvel Should Revisit for Secret Wars
The 14 Biggest Highlights from NY Comic Con 2014
4 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t (And 4 Why We Should) Get Excited About the Kirby Settlement
The 7 Best Ways to Clear Up Comics Continuity Errors

About Author

Jim Dandeneau is many things: motorcycle tech, plastics executive, accomplished Highlander. But above all else, he is a comic book fan, and has been reviewing comics and covering cons for TRV since 2014.