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Shawn Bourdo’s Five Most Anticipated San Diego Comic-Con Panels

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Written by Shawn Bourdo

The best laid plans. This time of year is always the most exciting. I read over the Comic-Con program guide and plan the perfect schedule. But then crowds and room access change my itinerary at each turn. There are always a few tent pole panels that I need to plan my weekend around. This year is no different. Here are the panels that I’ll work into my schedule even though some may overlap I make these Sophie Choices on the fly.

Thursday

Legends of TV Land (10:30am – Indigo Ballroom)

Get up close and personal with icons of television! Superstar Betty White (The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland) and other TV celebs will answer questions about their work and making history on television. Plus, get a special sneak peek at the animated episode of TV Land’s original sitcom Hot in Cleveland, airing July 30th.

The lesson from previous Cons is to see the old folks. There are people at the Con with great stories and life history that aren’t likely to make it back again. This proved true as I’ve seen Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, and even Lou Schimer. The appearance of 90-plus-year-old Betty White makes this panel a must see. I’m not too keen on her new show but if I get even a nugget or two about Mary Tyler Moore then it’s also worth it.

Godzilla and the Master of Monsters (11:00am – Room 23ABC)

August Ragone (Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters), David E. Chapple (Famous Monsters of Filmland), and Arian Hinojosa (Monster Attack Team) present a discussion on the man who brought Godzilla and Ultraman to life, establishing the art of Japanese visual effects and creating the genre known as the “kaiju eiga(Japanese monster movies). See rare, behind-the-scenes photographs of how the original Godzilla films were made and the men and women who made them.

My history with Godzilla goes back to my earliest memories. One thing I like to do is explore the behind the scenes and origins or my favorite pop-culture items from my youth. This panel should prove interesting. Very few of the previous panels on Godzilla have delved this far back to his creation. Very few of the original creators are still around so it’s even more important to hear from people who have worked directly with them.

Friday

CBLDF: Dr. Wertham’s War on Comics (1:00pm – Room 30CDE)

How did a pioneering neuroscientist become one of the 20th century’s most notorious censors? In 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published the popular book Seduction of the Innocent, which inspired such moral panic that comics were placed on trial by the U.S. Senate. Wertham’s efforts, although presented as science, were actually carefully manipulated to discredit the medium. The results nearly destroyed the comics artform in the United States. Carol Tilley, the professor whose recent research helped debunk Wertham once and for all, will take you back in time, behind the scenes, as she shares some of the little-known stories of Dr. Wertham’s war on comics.

Every year for a decade, I’ve attended at least one panel on censorship and banned books and comics. This year is no different. It’s still one of the major issues for fans of the First Amendment. Books are still being banned in our schools and libraries. Knowing the history and where we are helps battle the issues for our future.

Marvel Television Presents (3:00pm – Ballroom 20)

Jeph Loeb (Marvel’s head of television) returns with exciting news and fun surprises for fans! Join Jeph and the casts of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s Agent Carter in this can’t-miss panel that will take you behind the scenes and into the future of Marvel’s live-action television series.

I’m going to be here to follow up on one of my favorite new shows of last season. This was a show similar to Arrow that I thought might only last half a season. But it was exactly in the second half of the season that all the pieces seemed to fall together and they found a voice that I really enjoyed. The story arcs and single shot episodes are reminiscent of what I liked about the flow of The X-Files. I’m looking forward to seeing where Jeph Loeb is interested in taking the show. I also have a healthy fear of where it is going because it is a network show and they have very poor second season track records.

Saturday

Snoopy, His Sister Belle and Other Sibling Relationships In Peanuts (10:30am – Room 5AB)

Though he himself was an only child, Charles Schulz recognized the potential for drama and humor inherent in sibling relationships, which are among the most influential and enduring associations in our lives. Over the years, Peanuts portrayed many familial antics, including bossy older sisters, embarrassment caused by a brother’s inept kite-flying or chronic blanket toting, and the petty bickering that can be a staple of brother-sister interactions. However, Schulz’s comic siblings were also capable of tenderhearted softness-help with homework, sage advice, comfort, and understanding. Kelly Osbourne (E!’s Fashion Police), Corry Kanzenberg (curator at The Charles M. Schulz Museum), Lisa Shirai (director of international licensing, Peanuts Worldwide), and Monte Schulz (son of Charles Schulz) discuss the many sibling relationships present in Charles M. Schulz’s classic Peanuts strip with a special focus on Snoopy’s siblings: Spike, Olaf, Andy, Marbles, and, of course, his sister Belle, the breakout fashion darling. Damian Hollbrook (TV Guide) will moderate the discussion and Q&A session.

Not everything at Comic-Con is about robots and vampires and caped heroes. Some of my favorite moments at each Con happen on the outskirts in small rooms like this on a Saturday morning. It’s where we can breathe and talk about the deeper meanings behind what we love. Maybe I examine my pop culture too much? But this is where the real geek in me comes out. It’s not seeing an actor who portrays a character I like. It’s when I can sit with people who have thought about the characters as much as I have.

My schedule is much fuller than these highlights. But it gives you an idea why I’m not worried about panels for Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or Divergent. Like any good menu there are treats for those who look beyond the obvious.

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