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25 Best Things We Saw at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

From hot new trailers and a V.R. ‘Blade Runner’ tour to Tyler, the Creator’s WTF TV show – these were the SDCC sights and sounds that had us reeling

25 Best Things We Saw at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

The 25 best things we saw at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con – from those 'Black Panther' and 'Stranger Things' trailers to a bold V.R. 'Blade Runner' tour.

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It’s said that lion tamers use wooden chairs in their acts because big, angry cats get confused by multiple points of focus and retreat. For San Diego Comic-Con’s 130,000 attendees, however, information overload has the opposite effect. Look, there’s a samurai made of R2D2 parts! And there’s Tara Reid smoking a cigarette! And there’s a Viking ship on fire in the harbor! Suddenly, the adrenaline is rushing, the spidey senses are tingling, and folks are off on a feeding frenzy for every swag bag, autograph and sneak peek within downtown San Diego.

And this year at the SDCC, the themes of diversity and inclusivity resonated more than ever, in panel after panel: The CW brought DC Comics stalwart Black Lightning; Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther was a centerpiece of Marvel’s movie presentation; and CBS’s new Star Trek: Discovery expands on its predecessors’ multicultural legacy. The rise of women’s wrestling manifested itself at the show with Mattel’s unveiling of a doll line featuring WWE’s female superstars. And at one point over the weekend two former Doctor Who stars – Colin Baker and Peter Davison – clashed over the decision to make Jodie Whittaker the series’ first female lead. All in all, the crowds cheered loudest whenever the issue was addressed positively.

For four days and nights, we scoured the convention halls, the panel rooms, the side streets and installations (or “activations,” as they’re called) looking for the best of the best across genres and mediums, all the while wishing we could be in eight places at once. Here’s our list of highlights from San Diego Comic-Con 2017. 

Dave Maass

‘The X-Files’: The Truth is Aural

Often considered a hokey and archaic art, audio dramas may actually be the next frontier for effects-heavy franchises with dwindling budgets and die-hard fans. Audible has pledged a multimillion-dollar fund for playwrights to work in the medium – and it’s also obtained the rights to extend the X-Files franchise. It’s no surprise they turned to prolific director Dirk Maggs, whose credits include adaptations of Superman, Batman and Spider-man adventures, as well as productions featuring Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christian Slater. At Comic-Con for the first time, he appeared with David Duchovny to promote The X-Files: Cold Cases and announce its sequel, Stolen Lives. While it seems like all the studios are experimenting with VR, Maggs declared that by engaging the imagination, “audio is the true visual medium.” DM 

Albert L. Ortega/Getty

Charlize Theron’s ‘Atomic Blonde’ Ambition

With Atomic Blonde a week away from hitting theaters, star Charlize Theron brought with her an extended clip from the movie: An action sequences that evoked not only the Bourne series but Oldboy in its motion and brutality, turning the viewer into a witness to her bloody throwdown with a group of thugs. She said that she fought to keep her on-screen fighting realistic: “I was always asking, ‘Can a girl do that?’ … I’m here to say, girls can do that.” Asked about playing a female Bond, however, she offered, “I’m fine leaving that to Daniel or to Idris.” AG

Dave Maass

Here There Be ‘Monstress’

With Vol. 2 on prominent display in comic book shops across the country, Marjorie Liu’s Monstress continues its brutal and politically subversive fantasy featuring a young warrior, the tentacle-beast living in the stump of her left arm and colonial slavers plying their trade in an alt-history Asia. Liu got her own “Spotlight” panel this year, where she told her own origin story: Once upon a time a Chinese-American girl wrote X-Men fan fiction while her parents pushed her into law school. Then the attorney secretly signed a fantasy romance book deal, found herself suddenly writing real mutant-superhero comics for Marvel and finally struck out on her own with Monstress. While the comic leaves a high body count, it’s misogyny and white supremacy, she said, that
“are [the] political fantasies that kill.” DM

Dave Maass

‘Medinah’ and Marketing Middle East Sci-Fi

Qatar’s first ever sci-fi TV series, Medinah went all in to generate buzz for potential distributors, braving Trump’s Homeland Security shenanigans to fly its actors in from Doha (along with U.S. stars Eric Roberts and Natasha Henstridge). They erected a throne inside a 28-foot dome of mummies and surrounded it with circus performers, a red carpet, and free T-shirt giveaways. And they scored a ballroom to debut the first, dual-language episode, in which the Arab world’s Elon Musk launches a rocket packed with chemicals to solve global warming. Whether we’ll learn how that connects to the mystical nomad and wolf-beast that appear at the end depends on how Hollywood responds to the charm offensive. But we like what we see. DM 

Dave Maass

Replicant-pocalypse Now: ‘Blade Runner: 2049’

While sometimes it feels like the US is becoming a dystopia, Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming (re)vision of the sci-fi classic’s gritty, future-shocked Los Angeles made its way to the convention, courtesy of an installation that combined VR technology with a live-action recreation of the film’s foreboding streets. Visitors started out in a virtual LAPD “chase” of a Nexus 8 replicant that escalates and quickly goes wrong, forcing you to step into the rainy marketplace, inspect the wreckage and interact with live performers – including brutish patrolmen, seductive streetwalkers and assorted cyberpunk denizens. Props and costumes lined some walls, while the rest paid homage to the noodle bar and strip joints of Ridley Scott’s original. You could even scan yourself to see if you’re human or a Replicant yourself. (No comment). DM/AG

Das Bunker Brings the L.A. Darkness

About 20 minutes away from the convention, Los Angeles’ seminal goth club took over a two-story venue, with EDM and newer industrial on the downstairs dance floor and the upstairs crowd getting their own mix. While there were some cosplayers on hand (we spotted R2D2, Princess Leia and the Vampire Chronicles‘ Queen Akasha), the crowd’s dark, sleek looks provided a striking contrast to Comic-Con’s generally lighter tones. Still, there were some geeky moments: A huge cheer went up when a remix of the Star Wars theme came on, quickly followed by Faderhead’s “Dirtygrrrls, Dirtybois.” The power of the Dark Side, indeed. AG

Dave Maass

Color Me ‘Broad City’

The duo from Comedy Central’s hit series cleared out a space across from the convention center and covered it floor-to-wall in paint-by-numbers line art designed by the show’s title sequence artist Mike Perry. Fans were handed paint buckets and brushes to help create a surreal environment that ties into an upcoming episode when the two New Yorkers eat shrooms. That wasn’t the episode, however, that stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer premiered at their evening panel. Instead the audience was treated to a raunchy story in which Ilana seeks vaginal therapy because she hasn’t orgasmed since Trump was elected. DM

Moderator Kevin Smith (L) and actor Elijah Wood at Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: BBC America Official Panel during Comic-Con International 2017 at San Diego Convention Center on July 23, 2017 in San Diego, California

Albert L. Ortega?Getty

Elijah Woods’ Musical/Trivia/TV Tour

Since his first Comic-Con in 2001, the erstwhile Mr. Frodo has seen the event expand to encompass multiple mediums, and this year he was just as versatile. Besides promoting the return of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Woods and Dirk superfan Kevin Smith went head-to-head at Screen Junkies’ Saturday night party, debating questions like “Who’s the greatest living filmmaker?” and “Which comic-book movie will be celebrated in 50 years?” Woods capped the proceedings by DJ-ing the party alongside Master of None music supervisor Zach Cowie, with a set that built to a proper geek anthem in David Bowie’s “Magic Dance” from Labyrinth. AG

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‘Black Heroes Matter’ Returns

A year after garnering media attention at the convention, David Walker (who’s currently writing the Luke Cage comic for Marvel) and Baltimore-based designer URAEUS gathered another cadre of black fans and cosplayers-of-color outside the venue for another flash mob to “create a sense of visibility” for their communities. As Walker explained, “It was born from my belief that not only do we deserve visibility and representation in pop culture, we’ve earned it.” Amid the Friday night exodus from the event, the group of just over 50 people posed together in solidarity, fists in the air, was hard to miss. AG

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‘Legion’ Lets You Into Its Mindset

The FX show’s panel was largely reveal-free (although it did deconstruct last season’s excellent seven-minute, slo-mo/silent-movie “Bolero” sequence), so Legion fans looking for something new queued up for a mixed-reality experience at the FXhibition offsite. Visitors played the role of the protagonist, David, and were led one-by-one into a mental hospital, where they were attended to by actors playing a nurse and a creepy interrogator. With the help of Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headset, they recreated the brain-bending mechanics of the show. But practicing levitation and mind-reading was largely a distraction for the big crap-your-jumpsuit moment when you turned around and the not-virtual-at-all “World’s Angriest Boy in the World” came running at you. DM

Dave Maass

‘The Gifted’ Gives the Gift … of Totalitarianism

Every year, one franchise goes just a touch too dark. Last year, it was The Man in the High Castle‘s museum to Nazi America. This year, The Gifted – Fox’s upcoming, weirdly X-Men-free X-Men show – turned downtown San Diego into a fascist dystopia. Trolleys were wrapped like concentration camp train cars, vaguely racist anti-Mutant propaganda were spread on buildings and fans were ushered into stations where real nurses swabbed their cheeks with real genetic analyses. Once you saw the teaser, it all made sense: The series itself, described by showrunners as a superhero version of River Phoenix’s 1988 movie Running on Empty, follows a family of mutants fleeing the police with the help of an underground railroad operated by old-school X-comic heroes Blink, Thunderbird, Eclipse and Polaris. DM

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‘Star Trek’: The Next Iteration

Going into the Star Trek: Discovery panel, Trekkies could be heard grumbling about the CBS decision to paywall it on their streaming service. But once the explosive trailer ran and Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays First Officer Michael Burnham, stepped on stage, it was all Klingon cheers and Vulcan salutes. The new series will ditch the adventure-of-the-week format for an epic, emotional two-part story arc; the big reveal was that Anthony Rapp, who plays science officer Paul Stamets, will be in a romance with his former Rent co-star Wilson Cruz. The highlight of the panel, however, was Doug Jones, who plays the hooved alien Saru, demonstrating his pelvis thrusting walk and defending his refusal to let the costume department pad his butt. DM 

Lion Forge Pushes For a Wider Comics Universe

While DC and Marvel (a.k.a. “the Big Two”) are seemingly addressing questions of diversity on the fly, upstart publishers Lion Forge came to Comic-Con with an inclusive cast of characters already baked in. “Our credo – ‘comics for everyone’ – is not just a line,” said Senior Editor Joseph Illidge. Not only does they include heroes and villains of color, but the company worked with the National Down Syndrome Society for one series, Superb, that will feature a superhero who lives with the disease. “What we want to do is show the abilities of people with Down Syndrome,” Illidge said. AG

(L-R) Actors China Anne McClain, Cress Williams, Chistine Adams and Nafessa Williams from CW's 'Black Lightning' pose for a portrait during Comic-Con 2017 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego on July 22, 2017 in San Diego, California.

Robby Klein/Getty

The CW’s Superhero Forecast: ‘Black Lightning’

While most of the CW’s superhero slate returns in the fall, Cress Williams’ debut as Black Lightning – the network’s first lead superhero of color – won’t premiere until February 2018. But the actor is already aware of what it means to play Jefferson Pierce as both a hero and a dad to two super-powered daughters: “He raised them well, but he raised them in a bubble. And the world outside is changing.” He also described Pierce as being “almost Obama-like” in demeanor. Would that make Black Lightning his own Luther the Anger Translator? “My wife brought that up – he’s close to it.” AG

Orlando Jones’ Mission of Love

Jones went from American Gods to a man of the cloth (ordained by the Universal Life Church, naturally) to fulfill what he called a mission to celebrate fandom without marketing something to them. “I’m not a member of fandom as a celebrity,” the self-described former “nerd kid” explained. “I’m a member of fandom as a fan.” Throughout the weekend, he held non-denominational court at Syfy’s Love Chapel, marrying new couples and helping others renew their vows – like the woman who confessed that her husband won her over “with his knowledge of the Star Wars Holiday Special.” Now that’s amore. AG

(L-R) Actors Matthew Lillard, Everett McGill, Kimmy Robertson, Tim Roth, James Marshall, Kyle MacLachlan, Don Murray, Naomi Watts and Dana Ashbrook from Showtime's 'Twin Peaks' pose for a portrait during Comic-Con 2017 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego on July 21, 2017 in San Diego, California.

Robby Klein/Getty

‘Twin Peaks’ Serves Up A Damn Good Panel

Even if they couldn’t share much about Twin Peaks‘ upcoming episodes thanks to a strict no-spoilers policy, Kyle MacLachlan and his co-stars dished about almost everything else; the Man Who Would Be Dale Cooper recounted the secret meeting that culminated in Lynch asking him to return to the scene of the crime and telling the director, “I never left.” Lynch and writer Mark Frost weren’t on the panel, but the filmmaker sent in a typically cryptic message that involved “O.J’s last golf ball” and delighted moderator Damon Lindelof, who set the tone early by telling the crowd that without Peaks, “There certainly would be no Lost.AG

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