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25 Best Things We Saw at San Diego Comic Con 2018

From ‘Aquaman’ star Jason Momoa wowing the crowd and Jamie Lee Curtis saving a life to the latest in geek couture fashion, these were the genuine SDCC showstoppers

Cast member Jason Momoa participates on stage during the Warner Bros. Theatrical Panel for "Aquaman" at Comic Con in San Diego, July 21, 2018. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Cast member Jason Momoa participates on stage during the Warner Bros. Theatrical Panel for "Aquaman" at Comic Con in San Diego, July 21, 2018.

Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty

We may be a year away from the San Diego Comic Con’s 50th anniversary, which is likely to see a massive blowout for the annual gathering of geek/pop culture I.P’s, creators and fans. Still, there was definitely a void in the SDCC ecosystem in 2018, with traditional heavy hitters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Game of Thrones were AWOL. But that also meant, however, other voices could fill the gap and seize the chance to cut through the usual hype while promoting more forceful messages. The Black Heroes Matter gathering returned to highlight African-American representations in comics; the Eisner Awards saw Marjorie Liu become the first woman ever to win for Best Writer; and panels throughout the event tackled non-commercial topics ranging from Afrofuturism to debunking the idea of “fake geek girls” to how to best battle online trolls.

“We see a surge in peoples’ ability to recognize their own rights,” said Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Chase Masterson, who led an independent rally after the convention immigrant rights advocates and groups like the ACLU. “We see people empowered on a daily basis in the intersection we draw between human rights and pop culture.”

All that said, Comic Con was still Comic Con. On the first day, we picked up a convention bingo card created by Oni Press to promote The Long Con, a new comic about people trapped at a fan convention when the apocalypse happens. By Sunday, we’d crossed 75-percent of it off with sightings of utilikilts, giant vinyl bags, costumed service dogs and by having several of those “Wait, was that … that guy? From that thing? OMG, I think it was!” moments. (No, really, we’re pretty sure that was Navid Negahban who plays the Shadow King on Legion!) So from the socially-minded to the schwifty, we present the 2018 edition of our Top 25 Things We Saw at the San Diego Comic Con.


Syfy Conjures Up a ‘Harry Potter’ Wizarding World

To close out the convention, the Syfy network took over the New Children’s Museum in downtown for a Harry Potter-themed soiree that fit right into the winding building, which can come off to the uninitiated like something out of a Moving Stairs scene. You could catch American Gods‘ Orlando Jones, who was in town working with Syfy on identifying and honoring fan creators during the weekend, mingling with guests as cover band Saved By The ’90s entertained on the main stage. Some visitors tried their luck on the network’s Human Claw Machine, which dipped them into a pit full of surprises for those with the best grip. But the biggest crowd we gathered around a wall with markers, simply writing down what the Potter franchise has meant to them. AG


The ‘Rick and Morty’ Silent Listening Party

Hundreds of Rick and Morty fans were invited to Adult Swim’s faux state park campgrounds on the bay side of the convention center late Saturday night … but they weren’t give any information beyond that. On arrival, they were issued wireless headsets and an assortment of plastic character masks, and were instructed to sit cross-legged in the grass. Then creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, joined by series regular Cassie Steele, got drunk and improvised a morning zoo-style radio show from space while playing through selections from the Sub Pop double-LP soundtrack hitting shelves this fall. Rick, Morty and a slew of randomly booze-generated characters (mostly voiced by Roiland) joined the show until the team couldn’t keep it together anymore. Two hours later, fans still weren’t sure what they’d experienced. But they knew they loved it. DM


The ‘Real Pee Tape’ Trolls Trump

Once you entered the Comic Con bubble, current events drifted away – or at least they did until a giant yellow VHS cassette marked “Real Pee Tape” danced up and gave you a hug. In May, comics website The Nib released a two-minute short animation that imagines the Russians really do have footage of Donald Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a hotel bed once slept in by the Obamas. They commissioned costume designer Yvette Helin (Rugrats Live) to build the outfit, put a professional mascot inside and hired a bodyguard to keep him safe from MAGA thugs. The walking Pee Tape was ubiquitous both inside and outside the convention center, receiving dozens of high fives and posing with multiple groups of small children while their parents took photos. DM

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 18:  Guests attend the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment "Ready Player One" experience during San Diego Comic-Con at the Omni Hotel on July 18, 2018 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

‘Ready Player One’ OASIS Party

Though the movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book has been out since March, Ready Player One still had a footprint in Comic Con country. The Omni hotel near the convention hosted an installation that tested visitors’ 1980s trivia skills and featured The Shining‘s infamous Room 237. And on the Wednesday prior to the con’s opening, the Fluxx nightclub downtown was transformed into its own version of the OASIS, the virtual playground replete with retro geek chic. The crowd enjoyed stepping into Bill & Ted’s phone booth, “mixed reality” gaming offerings and cover sets by L.A. tribute bands the Library Bards and the Flux Capacitors. Plus Farscape star Gigi Edgley marked the U.S. debut of her Wanderland project in a black super-villainesque number alongside her brother Jake Edgley. AG


Black Mask Draws the Resistance

LA-based anti-establishment comics company Black Mask Studios kicked off Comic Con with the announcement they’ll produce an official Mr. Robot prequel penned by the show’s writing team. “I feel like Mr. Robot has that punk vibe to it, so we thought an indie publisher would fit nicely with that,” showrunner Sam Esmail said. But fsociety isn’t the only way the Black Mask is drop-kicking fascism: They ran a voter registration drive on the convention floor and debuted a one-off issue, CALEXIT: All Systems San Diego (a riff on the Rocket from the Crypt album), about a young woman fighting DHS internment camps through pirate radio. The publisher also dedicated precious panel time to amplify brand new work from subversive creators such as Vita Ayala (The Wilds) and Kwanza Osajyefo (Black [AF]). DM


Rallying for Rose

When Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran was harassed online to the point of leaving Instagram, blogger and podcaster Keith Chow and his team organized a rally showing public support toward the actress and her character Rose Tico. The Rally for Rose, as it was called, attracted enough attention online that director Rian Johnson himself sent love on Twitter. “We wanted to show that there is no room for hate in fandom,” Chow said later. Later that day, the eighth annual Super Asian America panel provided an opportunity for fans and creators to discuss the changing pop culture landscape and call out shenanigans like Marvel executive Jeph Loeb’s “Karate Kid” outfit, which drew loud groans from the audience. AG

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 19:  Rachel Bloom (L) and Aline Brosh McKenna from The CW Television Network's 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' pose for a portrait in the Getty Images Portrait Studio powered by Pizza Hut at San Diego 2018 Comic Con at Andaz San Diego on July 19, 2018 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Smallz & Raskind/Getty Images  for Pizza Hut)

‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Prepares for Its Last Song-and-Dance

“We have to protect our voices,” star/co-creator Rachel Bloom told the crowd midway through her show’s live performance at the Balboa Theatre. “Because we’re about to film Season Four.” Still, the 80-minute set didn’t skimp on the fun; the cast took the stage cosplaying as each other’s characters (she donned hunky Josh’s tank top and board shorts; actor Vincent Rodriguez donned a blue pin-up worthy dress as Bloom’s character Rebecca Bunch) before dipping into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s extensive songbook. Though she noted that while the crowd favorite “Let’s Generalize About Men” started out tongue-in-cheek, “[then] last year happened … and it’s not that tongue-in-cheek anymore.” Still, the show whetted fans’ appetite for its 18-episode swan song – and perhaps even more tours to come. AG

Riz Ahmed and Tom Hardy'Venom' film panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA - 20 Jul 2018

New Spider-Men (and One Woman) Swing Through

Ever since Spider-Man himself was left … indisposed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, speculation has mounted how the upcoming movie Venom would establish a link to him. The footage shown in Hall H didn’t offer any clues on that front – but folks did get their first full-body look at Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, in the grip of the bloodthirsty symbiote. Would the bulky actor himself be willing to tangle with Tom Holland’s Spidey? “I’ll have a go, yeah,” he offered. On the lighter side, Into The Spider-Verse stars Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld were excited to make their animated debuts as Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen, two characters assuming Peter’s mantle in their respective worlds. But fans instantly buzzed when that trailer revealed that John Mulaney would voice Peter Porker – better known as Spider-Ham, a scene-stealer in the making. AG

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 21:  Matt Groening (R) and Allie Goertz attend the Disenchantment panel at Comic-Con International on July 21, 2018 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Daniel Knighton/FilmMagic)

Falling Under the Spell of ‘Disenchantment’

With his new Netflix show Disenchantment, Matt Groening joins the ranks of showrunners breaking free from the shackles of network television; his team can keep those extra jokes and animated vistas that would’ve been cut to make room for a soap commercial. “This show is so visually rich it makes Futurama look like The Simpsons,” Groening told his fans. The series also departs from the usual static sitcom plotlines to pursue an epic two-season story arc following Princess Bean (Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson) as she searches for meaning in the patriarchal kingdom of Dreamland. One thing that hasn’t changed: The TV animation godhead brought the cast of Futurama to Netflix (and to Comic Con) to populate this new world, and the live previews of those voices were as fantastic as the extended clip that was screened. DM

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 22:  (L-R) Norberto Barba, J.D. Pardo, Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, and Sarah Bolger speak onstage at the "Mayans M.C." discussion and Q&A during Comic-Con International 2018 at San Diego Convention Center on July 22, 2018 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

‘Mayans MC’ Junks the Muffler

When we found the cast of FX’s upcoming Mayans MC in their hotel lobby, we mentioned that it was odd to have the Sons of Anarchy spin-off take Hall H on Sunday, i.e. traditionally a children’s day. Actor Raoul Trujillo smiled and answered, “Well, if they’re old enough to smoke and drink …” An hour and a half later, showrunner Kurt Sutter made a road wreck of the kid-friendly policy with his F-bomb fueled panel and 13-minute preview, which revolved around the motorcycle clubs’ operation smuggling drugs in Quinceañera dresses. Sutter’s new drama is out to push envelopes and pursuing authenticity: Almost all of the cast members who joined him on stage acknowledge their performances are driven by personal experience with gang life. DM

'The Purge' Promotion at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2018. San Diego, 20.07.2018 | usage worldwide Photo by: Cindy Robichaud/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Pay Less, ‘Purge’ More

“Welcome. And how do you plan to celebrate Purge Night?” The friendly salesperson greeted folks as they picked up a shopping basket inside what looked like a party supply store – it was actually an elaborate promotion for The Purge film franchise’s move to television. If someone answered that they planned to slaughter their neighbors in accordance with the 28th Amendment, they’d direct customers to a display of bats, masks and blood cleaning supplies. Or if a person wanted to bunker down at home, they’d show folks where they keep the barbed wire and armor for your family dog. With $20 in free “Purge Dollars” to spend on T-shirts, pins and other collectibles, Purge City was widely mentioned among attendees as the best giveaway experience of Comic Con. DM


Meet the New ‘Mad’ Magazine

Legendary co-founder of Bongo Comics Bill Morrison had two missions at Comic-Con: sell his brand new graphic novelization of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and prove to the world that his reboot of Mad Magazine won’t suck. The first task was cake: His Fab Four project is a gorgeous, faithful adaptation of a beloved film. The second goal wasn’t so easy, based on the montage of mean tweets they ran at the beginning of their panel. So the team went full variety show, with editor Allie Goertz grabbing a guitar and singing a satirical response to a planted audience troll. Then long-time contributor Sergio Aragones hit Morrison in the face with a pie. And they previewed the next issue’s true-to-spirit cover where Alfred E. Neuman is whac-a-moling Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Roseanne Barr and Harvey Weinstein. DM