After two years, the San Diego Comic Convention had returned. For the first time since 2019, downtown San Diego, California was packed to the gills on July 20 through 24, 2022 as over 125,000 from around the world flocked to what has over the decades become the mecca of pop culture. From comic books to films to animation to television to video games and everything in-between, there was no better place to be than in the epicenter of geekdom.

Having first started as the Golden State Comic Book Convention at the U.S. Grant Hotel on March 21, 1970, it would progressively grow into a global entertainment event that now would fill the San Diego Convention Center to capacity and beyond every July. 2020 would have been a majestic affair in celebrating the convention’s 50th anniversary. But the emergence of COVID-19 put those plans on hold and for the first time Comic Con had to be postponed. The ongoing pandemic resulted in two attempts at creating a virtual experience with Comic-Con@Home, but most agreed that it just wasn’t the same as being immersed in a live setting.

The organizers wanted to ensure the time was right to bring the convention back. So instead of straight up opening their doors at full capacity like Los Angeles Comic Con and later Star Wars Celebration, the San Diego Comic Con ran a Special Edition on Thanksgiving weekend in 2021. Heavily scaled down, it was a test run to see how to best approach running the convention through an ongoing pandemic. The back-to-basics approach provided organizers with insightful information while it also gave attendees a positive glimmer of hope that the biggest entertainment event of the summer would return to form in no time. And so it came to be that Comic Con was back.

Gundam: The Witch from Mercury

Mobile Suit Gundam is the premier franchise in the mecha anime and manga genre. Since the debut of the original anime series on April 7, 1979, it was recognized as the first “real robot” title in the genre, exploring the dramatic themes of mobile suits as weapons of destruction and the pilots as regular soldiers. The popularity of Gundam would generate a lucrative line of toys that became prolific with each series introduced being just different enough from one another. Bandai Namco will soon be releasing a new main series title in the franchise that will certainly be different from all the others, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.

The panel for Gundam: The Witch from Mercury primarily consisted of members from the Bandai Namco Toys and Collectibles America team. Justin Cavender (senior marketing manager) served as moderator alongside David Edmundson (marketing director), AJ Velasco (marketing specialist), and David Clarke (brand manager). Added into the panel was cosplayer and Internet personality Linda Le (aka Vampy Bit Me), a noted fan who had hosted Gundam Base events in North America. They were accompanied by a video message from Naohiro Ogata, the franchise executive producer at Sunrise (which was what it was still called even though it was now Bandai Namco Filmworks).

In his video message, Ogata explained that The Witch from Mercury would be taking place in a new century they called Ad Stella. This would set the series even further away from the main Universal Century that the majority of the franchise took place in. Ogata hoped that this would establish the new series as an ideal jumping on point for new viewers to experience Gundam. What was known going into the presentation was that the series would feature the first female main protagonist, Suletta Mercury. There was definitely some positive interest within the room about a Gundam series in which female characters would be at the forefront.

A major appeal to Gundam would obviously be the mobile suits. The presentation included a brief video tour of the Gundam Facotry in Yokohama where the toys (which were nicknamed Gunpla) are manufactured. They then showed off the new series’ mechs with the main three identified as Aerial, Lfrith, and Beguir-Beu. Included were designs for both how they would look in the anime and as toys. But the biggest reason attendees packed the room pretty much to full capacity was that they would be given a full screening of the Prologue. It just had its debut in Japan the week before and Comic Con served as the stage to show it for first time in North America.

Dan’s Review: Watching the Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Prologue ranked very high on my favorite moments from Comic Con this year. The animation was crisp and beautiful, from when characters were just interacting with one another to the thrilling mobile suit battles in space. It did a splendid job of introducing characters, a few sure to be major figures, and managing to develop an emotional investment in them within thirty minutes. The story was fascinating and tragic, which I imagine would set the tone for how the series proper would play. This was an excellent showing and had me more excited than ever for The Witch from Mercury.

Animated Lives: John Musker and Ron Clements

When one would think of the Disney Renaissance in the late 1980s through the 1990s, two names would often stick out as being important figures to the revitalization of Disney Feature Animation: John Musker and Ron Clements. For in that time period and beyond, the two directed some of the most popular and beloved titles in the Disney catalog: The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog, and Moana. So it would be a given that, even in a comparatively medium sized room, fans would fill it up to listen to the two Disney animation greats reflect on their careers for an hour.

Musker and Clements started very briefly on where they came from and their individual paths into animation. Clements brought up his pre-Disney short film Shades of Sherlock Holmes before getting word of the Talent Development Program. They showed off a great picture of young Clements as part of a group of then-upstarts that included Glen Keane, Andy Gaskill, John Pomeroy, Gary Goldman, and Don Bluth. Musker touched upon his being part of the first CalArts character animation program class with John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Henry Selick, and Tim Burton, getting to show off a funny illustration he did of the latter’s living space at the time.

The two glossed over their short run as animators before becoming directors on The Great Mouse Detective with Burny Mattinson and Dave Michener. They noted that they hardly worked together on the film and divided up sequences for each to direct. In talking about The Little Mermaid, Musker got Clements to bring up an anecdote with promoting the film in Denmark. The Danish were initially unhappy with their giving the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale a happy ending and it bothered Clements enough that he apologized to the Queen for it. The Queen laughed it off and said, “[Andersen] never knew how to end his stories. Now it has a proper ending.”

Time forced the duo to be brief on the remaining films, though they accompanied these by being able to show off their little cameos in the films and displaying humorous illustrations Musker drew of interesting situations. A fascinating discussion was Musker noting Treasure Planet being a troubled project from the start largely due to Jeffrey Katzenberg not being fond of the premise, though Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney were much more positive. They were finally able to make the film as a means of keeping them from jumping ship when DreamWorks was being formed and to get Glen Keane back from Paris, where he was staying during production of Tarzan.

While there was a moderator, he became such an afterthought that most forgot there was one within minutes. As soon as Musker and Clements got rolling, there was hardly anything that could be done to stop them. They could have spent multiple hours talking as opposed to the scheduled one hour. Attendees were engrossed throughout, learning about how the directors created their beloved films. There was great warmth in the atmosphere and it was simply a pleasure to hear the two talk about animation so fondly.

Legends Talk Animation

One of the great pleasures of Comic Con would be some of the programs that honored creators of the past. It’s a chance for some to discover and for others to learn from the legends who inspired them. Two names who had been influential in animation were Jane Baer and Floyd Norman. With over 150 credits to their names, and just as many years of experience, Baer and Norman had made unique impacts on the industry. A special presentation was put together to celebrate them with Leslie Combemale (owner ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery) moderating and animation historian Jerry Beck present to provide cultural context to the stories being told.

Both noted that they got their start at the same time on the same film, Sleeping Beauty. Moreover, they managed to work on what Norman knew too well as Sequence 8, where Briar Rose met Phillip in the forest. They each then briefly went over some of the projects they worked on, Norman with Beck’s assistance making special note about I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali as that could have been an opportunity to push animation by black artists along had it not been a bust. Both Baer and Norman eventually managed to work again on the same show in The Smurfs before bringing things back to their respective runs at Disney.

The highlight for me was Baer’s tidbits about Milt Kahl. When asked about the Nine Old Men, Norman said they were mean. Baer responded specifically about Kahl, saying he was mean to the men but nice to the ladies. Norman’s attempt to debate that notion was met with Baer stating Kahl was so nice to the ladies that when he was mean to them they would never take him seriously, relating a time when he did yell at a female employee only for her to laugh it off and walk away, leaving him utterly dumbfounded. Baer would also add that when she was working under him animating on The Rescuers, he designed Madame Medusa almost entirely on his second wife.

I managed to be the last one when it came to audience questions. An earlier question asked about their interactions with Walt Disney, so I jumped off that by asking about their interactions with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Norman answered that they were good guys that he and the other animators respected enough to call Mr. Hanna and Mr. Barbera. He added that he primarily worked under Hanna, noting that while he was very hands on and could be hard-nosed was actually a pretty sweet guy and even treated Norman to lunch on a number of occasions. Norman’s wife, who was in the audience, reminded him that Hanna would sometimes literally eat his lunch.

Beck ended up only speaking at few moments. Otherwise, he was like the rest of us, just sitting back and relishing the hour we had to hear from Baer and Norman. The stories they got to tell were fascinating and informative, leaving us with just a little bit more respect for them and the impact each left on animation. Norman may have had a lot more to say, but Baer was an absolute delight. They didn’t talk too much about challenges they might have encountered based on their diversity, be it Baer as a woman and Norman being black, but instead focused on having achieved fulfilling careers in animation and that was an absolute pleasure to hear.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do Comic-Con

For better or worse, the world changed 30 years ago when Mike Judge introduced two moronic teenagers named Beavis and Butt-Head with an animated short called Frog Baseball. The following year, they had their own animated series on MTV that would become one of the most controversial and yet one of the most impactful programs to ever be broadcast on television. The show’s creative and often clever subversion for social criticism would define the 1990s youth culture and influence adult animation programs to follow. And like cockroaches, the two had reared their ugly mugs back into the spotlight with a new revival courtesy of Paramount+.

Mike Judge returned to Comic Con to discuss his two most iconic characters making another comeback with Paul Scheer serving as moderator. Going back to the duo would just happen for Judge and often to maintain their personalities against the temptation of change. He did note there would be episodes that looked at the different variations introduced in the recently released Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe film including episodes centered on Smart Beavis and Butt-Head as well as episodes centered on Old Beavis and Butt-Head. Nevertheless, he stuck to them as idiotic teenagers as part of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset.

Judge showed off clips from the revival. One set seemed to screen almost in its entirety an episode that explored Beavis’ fascination with fire. The set included a cutaway to the boys commenting on a TikTok video about how to make prison tattoos that had everyone dying with laughter. Another set of clips teased an episode involving the boys wanting to throw a fancy bowl off a roof that, in their idiotic fashion, would get way more complicated than it ever needed to be. The set also included a hilarious cutaway that revealed one of the two was a BTS fan. The clips and the fan reaction made it clear the show had not lost its touch.

Most of the fan questions were about anything else Judge might bring back alongside Beavis and Butt-Head. With regards to the show proper, he noted that there would be returning faces in hippie teacher Mr. Van Driessen and the now very elderly neighbor Tom Anderson. As for his other animated programs, he stated to great fanfare, “There’s a very good chance of King of the Hill returning.” He also added wanting to continue his more recent animated offering in the documentary series Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus for a season focused on early hip-hop. He was merely aware that attempts at reviving Daria were in the works.

Much like with the previous revival more than ten years ago, the Comic Con showing for Beavis and Butt-Head was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Judge often seemed fairly laid back when talking about them, but there’s clear affection for the boys and for his willingness to return to them whenever he felt the time was right. Moreover, the Comic Con showing this time around further cemented how the fanbase for the two idiotic teenagers had continued to thrive after 30 years and would seemingly grow as each new generation got introduced to them. Sorry world, but I’m afraid there’s no getting rid of Beavis and Butt-Head any time soon.

30th Anniversary of X-Men: The Animated Series

On Halloween night 1992, Fox aired the first episode of X-Men: The Animated Series. The series would help usher a 1990s boom in Saturday morning cartoons for the network and, along with Batman: The Animated Series, laid the groundwork for superhero animated programs to follow. It was widely acclaimed for its faithfulness to the comic books it was adapting and incorporating mature storytelling in a show widely watched by children and young adults. 30 years later, the legacy of the series remained so strong to this day that some could point to it as the most recognized iteration of the X-Men, even over the comic books and the feature films.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of X-Men: The Animated Series, Comic Con scheduled multiple events dedicated to the show including two retrospective panels. I just managed to sit in for the first one, finding myself a part of an ever growing line before getting in just a couple minutes after it started. That the room was completely full with anxious fans lined up outside hoping to get in on Day One only cemented the popularity of the show. I could only imagine how much of a hassle it would have been to try to get into the second retrospective panel, which took place at the San Diego Central Library on Day Three.

Present for this panel were producer/director Larry Houston, story artist Dan Veesenmeyer, and writer Steven Melching. Amusing anecdotes attendees enjoyed hearing about included how they slipped in cameos of other Marvel superheroes through listings in the script for a randomly described mutant. Another was mentioning some of the funny notes they received about how a scene should play out, in particular an executive wanting a scene depicting Sabretooth escaping a fight to show him throwing a chair through the window he would leap through as opposed to just breaking through the window himself because he was a villain.

Much of the fan questions included attendees spending time talking about the impact the animated series had on their lives, which caused convention staff to rush things along as they tried to do when I was asking my question about their thoughts on the fairly recent run at honoring the show with the X-Men ’92 comic books. Houston and Melching answered that it only seemed fair that Marvel would try to interpret and adapt the animated series to the comic medium and thought they turned out alright. A question about Rogue did reveal that her voice actress Lenore Zann was in the audience and she got to yell out a “Sugah!” line to fanfare.

That it was hard to get into this presentation was a testament to how beloved X-Men: The Animated Series was and remains to this day. What was also evident was just how passionate Houston, Veesenmeyer, and Melching were about wanting to make the show as faithful as they could and still make it the best show possible. Houston, in particular, was clearly proud of how the show turned out and how it continued to be as lovingly received today as it did 30 years ago. And with the X-Men ’92 comic books and the forthcoming animated series revival X-Men ’97, the original series would surely maintain a lasting legacy for a very long time.

The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows

The Animation Show of Shows first began in 1998 by Acme Filmworks founder Ron Diamond. He curated the most original, funny, and intelligent animated short films he could find and present them to major animation studios as a means of inspiring the influential animators under their employ. Over time, he started taking what became an ever expanding collection of films from around the world on the road and screened them to audiences at film festivals, movie theaters, and schools across the globe annually. It now served as a traveling showcase to inspire and even educate viewers of all kinds to the majestic beauty of the medium.

Comic Con had offered to host the Animation Show of Shows for years and, from what I had seen, the screenings were filled nearly close to capacity with fans who were either curious about the program or excited to watch a new series of shorts they likely never heard of. The films had often garnered the approval of those who watched and had managed to fit in nicely within the convention’s line-up of popular regulars. Ron Diamond would appear to explain what the Animation Show of Shows was an introduction before screening the films. This year, he would be joined by one of the filmmakers and they briefly answered questions after the screening.

The eight films that made up the 22nd Animation Show of Shows were Beyond Noh (2020) by Patrick Smith, Good and Better (2020) by Gil Alkabetz, Rain (2019) by Piotr Milkczerk, Empty Places (2020) by Geoffroy de Crécy, Yes-People (2020) by Gísli Darri Halldórsson, Ties (2019) by Dina Velikovskaya, Aurora (2020) by Jo Meuris, and The Man Who Planted Trees (1987) by Frédéric Back. Yes-People had been nominated for the Best Animated Short Academy Award the previous year while The Man Who Planted Trees won it in 1988. The version of The Man Who Planted Trees screened was with the English narration by Christopher Plummer.

The filmmaker to join Diamond was Jo Meuris, director of Aurora. She explained that the film was a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood that went in a different direction than in real life. When asked by an audience member about how she got her film to be selected for the Animation Show of Shows, Meuris said that she was actually surprised when Diamond told her he wanted to include it as she hadn’t even considered the idea. Without specifically naming it, Diamond noted in the introduction that The Man Who Planted Trees was one of the films that inspired him to begin curating the Animation Show of Shows in the first place.

Dan’s Review: The Animation Show of Shows was a wonderful and fascinating showcase that every fan of the medium should experience at least once. There’s a delightful mixture of styles and voices throughout and a good chance that one of the films would warm your heart. For this round, The Man Who Planted Trees was a stunning piece of work that had managed to hold up strong for 35 years and the simple, yet emotionally touching approach to Aurora made it a delight. Even if only some of the films would be able to connect with audiences better than others, seeing them together was still a joyful 90 minutes that I was honored to able to watch.

Marvel Studios

The monumental success of Marvel Studios had made their presentations at Comic Con must-see events. Attendees would camp out over night in order to ensure their place to see what Kevin Feige and company have up their sleeves. On October 2019, Feige was promoted to Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. With it, virtually all multimedia divisions were brought together under one banner for more streamline and cohesive output. Animation had become the one fans were most excited to see grow under Marvel Studios following the successful What If…? [above right] first season. And there’s no better place than Comic Con to see what they had in store.

Serving as moderator was fan favorite actor/comedian Paul F. Tompkins. On the panel were Brad Winderbaum (head of streaming television and animation), Ryan Meinerding (head of visual development), Bryan Andrews (director of What If…? and executive producer of Marvel Zombies), AC Bradley (writer and executive producer of What If…?), Beau DeMayo (writer and executive producer of X-Men ’97), Kirsten Lepore (writer, director, and executive producer of I Am Groot), Jeff Trammell (writer and executive producer of Spider-Man: Freshman Year). But the ones every attendee was most looking forward to were the animated programs themselves.

The presentation started with a video package highlighting Meinerding’s invaluable work and how he’d be helping in animation. First up would be I Am Groot. Lepore noted Vin Diesel would reprise Groot in the series of shorts. They followed with screening a full episode ahead of the premiere the following month. Next up, Trammell showcased production art for Spider-Man: Freshman Year. Among the highlights for this take included Norman Orsborn as Peter’s mentor, his best friend being Nico Minoru from The Runaways, and Charlie Cox would reprise Daredevil. The series was scheduled for 2024 with a second season, Sophomore Year, already in development.

Andrews and Bradley then showed off a video preview of What If…? season two, which featured more Odin versus The Mandarin, Winter Soldier and Red Guardian teaming up, and Captain Carter winding up in 1602. Season two was scheduled for 2023 with season three also in development. Andrews moved onto Marvel Zombies, promising that the series would not be skimping on the violence. He showcased production art with turned heroes to include Captain Marvel, Ghost, and the wild card Ikaris. Those still human included Kamala Khan, Yelena Belova, Kate Bishop, Shang-Chi and Katy, and Jimmy Woo. There’s even a skrull biker gang! A release date was not announced.

Last up was the highly anticipated X-Men ’97 [right]. They first showed a video package paying tribute to the classic 1992 series and many of the cast and crew from the original were coming back. DeMayo displayed production art of the slightly updated look, showcasing returning characters that included the core eight X-Men, a secondary team, and villains. They could only show a scene in animatic as they were entering final animation for Fall 2023 release with a second season already in development. Closing out the presentation was the full screening of the first What If…? second season episode “What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?”

Dan’s Review: Marvel fans were spoiled good with not one, but two full episode screenings. The I Am Groot short was as cute and goofy as one would expect from a misadventure starring Baby Groot. The What If…? episode screened continued the series’ ability to tell an alternate story of an established film in thirty minutes without feeling like it was being rushed or condensed. This take on Captain America: The Winter Soldier went in a unique direction while also further developing Captain Carter as a great character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m now even more excited with where Marvel Studios would be taking animation.

FXX’s Little Demon Exclusive Pre-Series Premiere Sneak Peek Screening and Q&A

It would seem that over the last several years that adult western animation had “matured” as solid programs. While not all adult western animated offerings had been bad per se, the vast majority merely relish the freedom of the medium to be able to do anything, though at the cost of meaningful substance. But thanks to programs like The Venture Bros., Ricky and Morty, Arcane, The Legend of Vox Machina, and Helluva Boss, to name a few, we’re starting to see quality content amidst the sex, violence, and profanity. FX looked to continue that trend, coming to Comic Con to introduce to a curious audience their devilish new series Little Demon.

FX immediately went into screening in full the first episode of the series ahead of its release the following month. The series followed Laura and her teenage daughter Chrissy as they had finished moving again, this time to Delaware. An encounter with bullies at school would cause an unexpected event for Chrissy, forcing Laura to reveal that her biological father was Satan and the constant moving was to keep him from finding her. And now the manifestation of Chrissy’s powers had enabled him to pinpoint her exact location. But while the parents squabbled to her embarrassment, other forces had also been alerted and looked to eliminate the Antichrist.

The screening was wonderfully received by the attendees who packed the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront next door to the Convention Center. There was then a brief, yet rather informative panel. Serving as moderator was Damian Holbrook (TV Guide Magazine senior writer) and the panel consisted of creators, writers, and executive producers Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla, executive producer Dan Harmon, and stars and executive producers Aubrey Plaza (Laura), Danny DeVito (Satan), and DeVito’s daughter Lucy (Chrissy). Given how many there were, it was quite impressive they were able to say as much in fifteen minutes.

Folwer explained that the premise for the show was inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, specifically the notion of a woman with a cursed womb, and then morphed into making the daughter the Antichrist as they thought about what the relationship between mother and daughter would be like. The DeVitos were thrilled to make a show that truly was a family affair in working together (Lucy’s brother Jake was also an executive producer and their mother Rhea Perlman would guest voice). Speaking of guest voices, they listed off quite a line up that was highlighted by Mel Brooks and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the latter eliciting interest of a Twins reunion.

Dan’s Review: Even with the slightly censored broadcast version being screened, Little Demon pulled no punches at just how over-the-top the violence, profanity, and excessive nudity would be present. And it was just so damned funny! With a surprisingly clean animation design and a narrative that was fascinating as it was hilarious, this could be a breakout sleeper hit of the year. Making the show all the more appealing was the unexpected directions they took in character development, further enhanced by the top notch voice acting of Plaza and the DeVitos. If the rest of the series manages to maintain this level of quality, I’ll be in for a helluva ride.

Princess Mononoke 25th Anniversary Screening

On July 12, 1997, Studio Ghibli released Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki. It told the story of an exiled prince who became drawn into a conflict between forest gods and resource consuming humans that resulted in the curse he carried and threatened greater destruction. Princess Mononoke was a critical and commercial blockbuster in Japan, breaking box-office records and becoming the first animated feature to win the Japan Academy Award for Best Picture. It was the first film released in North America under a distribution deal with Walt Disney Studios, garnering success on DVD and blu-ray despite a poor box-office performance.

2022 marked the film’s 25th anniversary and the film was celebrated during Comic Con with a special screening of the English dubbing. The translation was scripted by acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman and featured an ensemble cast that included Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, and Billy Bob Thornton. Hot Topic was the sponsor of the screening, offering freebies to those who received a postcard of the Studio Ghibli Fest that included a unique sticker. Otherwise, attendees merely watched the film following an introduction by content creator Damiar Krogh and his brother Silas. The room the screening was held in was far from full as roughly three dozen sat in to watch. But it was clear that everyone in attendance had such great affection for the film that they would gladly watch Princess Mononoke than go to any other program or even calling it a day.

Dan’s Review: As Princess Mononoke was my favorite animate feature of all-time, I was not going to miss an opportunity to watch the film at Comic Con. This would be the second time I had done so at the convention, having previously attended the 20th anniversary screening sponsored by Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe. It’s still a beautiful and masterful piece of art rich in detail. Animation that was second to none, a narrative and characters that boldly explored the complexities of whether something could be seen as good or evil, and an emotional music score, I’ll never regret watching Princess Mononoke over anything else that occurred during Comic Con.

The Rocketeer: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Dave Stevens’ Iconic Character

After a stint in animation was ending, San Diego artist Dave Stevens returned to comics in-between storyboard gigs. Drawing inspiration from the pulp stories of his youth, he introduced The Rocketeer in backup features of Mike Grell’s Starslayer in 1982. The Rocketeer proved to be a breakout success to emerge from the burgeoning independent comics movement. 40 years later, Comic Con would pay tribute to the hometown legend and his seminal creation with a presentation that gathered friends, family, and colleagues. With how fondly I was a fan of the character as a kid, primarily through the 1991 Disney film, this became a must attend panel for me.

Serving as moderator was friend and Bongo Comics co-founder Bill Morrison. Participating on the panel would be Stevens’ sister Jennifer Bawcum, studio mate and renowned paleontological artist William Stout, former wife and model turned scream queen icon Brinke Stevens, longtime friend and comics icon Jackie Estrada, and co-screenwriter of the 1991 feature Danny Bilson. It was noted at the start Morrison did a Rocketeer illustration that served as the cover for the Comic Con souvenir book, further establishing the importance the convention gave the celebratory occasion. Furthermore, the room was packed within minutes of the panel starting.

Bawcum said that, because she was sixteen years younger than her brother, she didn’t get to spend enough time with him. She did receive cards growing up with his art of Hanna-Barbera characters he worked on in animation. Brinke Stevens talked about becoming his model, specifically for the Betty character in The Rocketeer, even after they had divorced. This brought up mention of Stevens’ admiration of pin-up model Bettie Page and how he helped revitalize public interest in her. Stout added that Stevens became friends with Page, providing personal assistance and arranging for long overdue financial compensation for the use of her image.

Much of the talk came from Bilson, relating stories from The Rocketeer film. He said when he was working on the screenplay with Stevens and Paul De Meo, “We wrote The Rocketeer as a 1930s film and nobody stopped us.” Bilson felt Joe Johnston becoming director was a blessing as Johnston, a fan of the comic, protected Stevens’ creation. He even found ways for Stevens to be part of the art department so that “The artist was an artist on the film.” This led to an anecdote about Michael Eisner wanting to change the helmet and when he showed Johnston various designs, Johnston replied, “Wow, these are great. Who are you gonna get to direct the film?”

The presentation on The Rocketeer turned out to be quite the lovely affair. Even though a large portion of the discussion was on the 1991 film and not really enough on the comic itself, it was still fun and informative to hear the stories about the classic character and his creator. There was clear affection for the late artist throughout the presentation with everyone often pointing out examples of his being a good person, in particular his efforts to help Bettie Page in her later years. Moreover, all attendees in the room were fully engrossed in every story told. This was one of those pleasant presentations I could sit through for hours.

The Simpsons

When one thought of television, chances were one of the first three shows that came to mind was The Simpsons. Matt Groening’s seminal work had come a long way since first debuting as a sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. As the longest-running scripted program on American television for well over 30 years, The Simpsons had superseded being a pop culture icon and was an entertainment milestone. People still continued to flock to just about anything related to the program, most especially at Comic Con where presentations were packed with fans looking forward to see and hear whatever it was that the animated institution had to offer.

Serving as moderator this year was Gravity Falls creator and self-professed Simpsons superfan Alex Hirsch. Serving on the panel were supervising director David Silverman, showrunners Matt Selman and Al Jean, and writers Carolyn Omine and Brian Kelley. One of the first things brought up was the show’s apparent penchant for predicting the future, such as Donald Trump as President and Disney buying Fox Entertainment. Jean stated that they “took a vow after Trump became President to only make good predictions.” On the subject of now being under the Disney banner, Jean noted that an upcoming Simpsons short for Disney+ would be about Disney princes.

Hirsch pointed out that Silverman had been with The Simpsons since the very beginning on The Tracey Ullman Show and was therefore as essential to the program as Groening. So he had Silverman illustrate live to the delight of attendees. Silverman was prompted, based on a handful of subjects the audience chose from, to draw Homer battling Shrek to the death. He couldn’t remember if Shrek had ears and when a fan yelled out that he didn’t it was too late, so he wrote “Ignore!” above it and signed the artwork as Groening. Out of great interest, Silverman drew Skinner and Chalmers making peace at the Aurora Borealis, complete with steamed hams.

The presentation did eventually show off a sizzle reel of what’s to come in the 34th season. Most notable was that there would be two “Treehouse of Horror” episodes this year. One would be a full episode spoof of Stephen King’s It with Krusty The Clown as Pennwise, as seen in the sizzle reel. They noted that another episode would include a segment that would spoof the popular thriller manga Death Note and Selman further explained that they’re hoping to achieve an “incredibly authentic” Simpsons anime, resulting in a whole different studio animating. The clip that was shown featuring Lisa, Homer, and Marge in their anime designs went over magnificently.

It could be debated on an individual level whether or not The Simpsons had declined in quality since the apparent “golden era” in the 1990s. What hadn’t declined was the genuine love and affection audiences had for the show no matter what condition it might be in. When gathered together, there’s a fabulous time to be had, as exemplified by the delight of watching Silverman draw live and Hirsch selecting recipients to win original illustrations by Groening for seemingly random reasons. It would certainly be quite the day when The Simpsons stopped producing content. Until then, fans would continue relishing every moment the show kept going.

American Dad

It’s not often when a creator’s second television series managed to stay active while the highly successful first series was still running. Yet Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad had been able to do just that. Relying less on cutaway gags and more on character dynamics, the series had soldiered on since debuting after MacFarlane’s Family Guy on February 6, 2005. Even a full network change in 2014 from Fox to TBS, which could’ve spelled instant doom, turned out to be beneficial in allowing the show to take creative chances that had paid off since. American Dad had been a Comic Con regular since the show began and had been a fan favorite ever since.

The presentation kicked off with a sizzle reel of scenes from upcoming episodes to air later in the year. Curiously, there were inconsistencies with the identification of which season the series was on. The panelists were calling it the start of season 18, TBS labeled the sizzle reel on YouTube in the middle of season 17, and websites have it currently in the middle of season 19. After the sizzle reel finished, the panelists were introduced with former series producer Jordan Blum as moderator and featuring co-executive producer Nicole Shabtai, co-creator Matt Weitzman, and stars Jeff Fischer (Jeff Fischer) and Dee Bradley Baker (Klaus).

As they were being introduced, Weitzman, Fischer, and Baker threw out free hats and boxes of goodies to the audience. Once they were settled, they announced that they were celebrating Fischer finally being promoted to series regular. He was then presented with a shirt that simply read “I’m Regular”. Fischer noted he was most excited about a future episode that would parody Scooby-Doo where his character would be Shaggy. The producers noted that Fischer and Baker’s presence on the panel added representation to their characters hanging out together more often in upcoming episodes, in particular the Christmas episode that spoofed How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Going into audience questions, they showed a clip of some of their favorite death scenes with Roger causing a mobster’s head to explode in slow motion garnering heavy laughter from everyone, in particular Baker. This was done to get folks to first identify their favorite death scene before asking a question. One question that stood out was whether or not Klaus’ real family was aware what happened to him. This became an idea the producers seemed to give consideration at exploring, certainly as a follow-up to an upcoming episode where the Smiths would get into a situation requiring them to act out Klaus’ favorite childhood television show.

The American Dad presentation was a rather fun, almost laid back affair. The producers told just enough hints as to what was coming up to satisfy curious interest while the voice actors got to play around with glee. Even attendees were enjoying themselves just listening to the panel talk and watching a series of animated death scenes screen to stomach clenching laughter. It wasn’t a blow away presentation by any stretch of the imagination and certainly not in comparison with anything else that was shown on the same day. It nevertheless provided a pretty good time to be had for everyone in the room and that was all one could ask for.

Family Guy

Family Guy had emerged from a cult classic that overcame cancellation into an unlikely television institution. Seth MacFarlane’s first prime animated comedy managed to successfully follow in the footsteps of The Simpsons into becoming a national icon. And along with The Simpsons and American Dad, Family Guy had been a Saturday Ballroom 20 staple at Comic Con for over a decade. Fans would pack the room to hear from the cast and crew discuss what had passed in the previous season and what to expect in the next. Unfortunately, Family Guy become one of a number of programs that could not deliver on a presentation attendees would have expected.

While the programming guide didn’t specifically notate that there would be any one from the cast or crew appearing, it was generally accepted that this was often done to present surprise guests. However, this ended up not being the case as attendees were provided video messages from MacFarlane and co-star Alex Borstein in presenting an advance screening of an episode from the 21st season along with a sizzle reel of scenes from the forthcoming season. Some fans might have been satisfied enough with what they saw to be content. But it was ultimately a disappointment in comparison to other programs that managed to bring any sort of talent to get attendees interested and excited about their offerings. Certainly with what else was presented on the same day in the same room.

Dan’s Review: The episode screened was called “Oscars Guy” in which three Best Picture Oscar winning films were re-enacted Family Guy-style. The first was The Silence of the Lambs and that turned out pretty decent. The other two, American Beauty and Forrest Gump, weren’t that good to me. Those two featured Peter playing main characters who provided narration. I felt the smart aleck wit got real annoying very quickly and made the segments a chore to get through. The sizzle reel did have a couple interesting moments, though I doubt I’d go out of my way to watch.

Critical Role: Q&A with the Cast

It’s astonishing to imagine that a simple game of Dungeons & Dragons played by well-known animation voice actors would become a global pop culture phenomenon. Since first broadcasting via Geek & Sundry in March 2015, Critical Role had captured the imaginations of fans to such a degree that it helped pioneer a renaissance in tabletop role-playing games. As the years progressed, it spun off into its own multimedia production company with comic books, campaign books officially licensed with Dungeons & Dragons, their own line of unique tabletop games, and more recently a highly successful animated series The Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon Prime.

Since coming to Comic Con, the Critical Role presentation was originally held in Room 6BCF, the third largest room in the Convention Center after Hall H and Ballroom 20. It was inevitable that they would move to a bigger room as they would previously fill the room to capacity with a line of attendees hoping to get in waiting outside. Upgrading to Ballroom 20 had allowed for more fans to have fun interacting with Matthew Mercer, Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, Taliesin Jaffe, Marisha Ray, Travis Willingham, and Sam Riegel, though the latter was absent this year. Serving as moderator this time around was actor and Critical Role fan (or “Critter”) Christian Navarro.

As soon as all of the present cast members had been introduced, they went straight into questions. Navarro did open asking how they had felt since The Legend of Vox Machina was released earlier this year with Ray seeing Comic Con as a chance to properly celebrate with the fans since they couldn’t do so normally due to the pandemic. There was a pleasant mixture of generalized questions for any or all to answer along with those that were specific to one, mainly directed at Mercer, Jaffe, or Willingham. Fans generally avoided spoilers to the current third campaign, but the previous campaigns and the Exandria Unlimited mini-campaigns were seen as fair game to discuss.

Throughout the hour long Q&A session, one thing was very clear. There was a great deal of interest and fascination in the mythology and lore that was being developed through the gaming sessions played by these animation voice actors. Many fans, and even the cast themselves, had become emotionally invested in exploring and learning more about the world and history of the game’s world Exandria with each new broadcast. And it was largely because of this that Critical Role had thrived as gloriously as it had and continued to do so.

The Critical Role: Q&A with the Cast presentation is available to watch below courtesy of Critical Role.

I Hear Voices with Will Friedle and Christy Carlson Romano

Twenty years ago, Kim Possible made its debut on Disney Channel and became one of the top-rated animated programs produced. In voicing main characters Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, stars Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle achieved even greater heights of popularity even after previously garnering stardom in live-action shows. Both would continue to voice act in animation after the show ended. As they worked, they interacted with fellow actors and became fascinated by them. The interest in the other actors and their stories inspired Romano and Friedle to start a podcast this year to celebrate their colleagues called I Hear Voices.

The premise of I Hear Voices would be for Romano and Friedle to bring on a guest and have them tell a bit about themselves and how they ultimately ended up in animation. An added feature would be to run the guest through blind voice acting in being given a fan submitted illustration and bring it to life. Having started just a few months ago, it was quite surprising how well produced the podcast had been. Even after switching to doing the shows virtually for a brief period, it had done very well. For Comic Con, they would be recording an episode live. Weeks before, they recorded shows at FanExpo, so Romano and Friedle were well prepared.

The was an impressively high attendance going into the live recording, which managed to be in Room 6BCF. There was expectation that they would do a 20th anniversary celebration of Kim Possible. Even Comic Con was referring to the program as such in the program guide and by staffers. However, Romano and Friedle already recorded a reunion episode the previous month. So they decided to do something different that would be rather special. Their guest for the recording was Fred Tatasciore. The first half of the program was essentially the podcast in that Romano and Friedle delved into Tatasciore’s background and his becoming a voice actor.

The special surprise they had for the live recording was the announcement of a voice acting talent search contest. The winner would get signed to a one year deal with the voice acting agency CESD and be set up with jobs and auditions. To serve as prep for the contest, they spent the rest of the recording getting the audience to participate in the blind voice acting to fan submitted illustrations, with Tatasciore sneaking in a couple illustrations of his own for kicks. This last half was the most fun and enjoyable as attendees who stepped up to the microphones were really impressive as Romano, Friedle, and Tatsciore cheered them on.

The I Hear Voices live recording is available to watch below courtesy of I Hear Voices Podcast.

An Animated Life

Being a four-to-five day event, there were all sorts of presentations taking place at Comic Con, often many at one time. Filling the schedule with unique programming could be seen as a challenge, trying to figure what would attract the attention of curious attendees who might be interested. Case in point was a panel called An Animated Life. The programming guide described it as an opportunity for fans to hear from well known creators as they explained how their own lives were just as fascinating as their creations. It seemed to me like it was another retrospective presentation, but I was nonetheless intrigued and decided to check it out.

Serving as moderator was film critic Grae Drake. The panel consisted of animator Jane Baer, actor Phil LaMarr, and writer Ezra Claytan Daniels. While there was some retrospective talk about their respective careers, there also was a sense that Drake at least tried to tie things into the described theme of the panel. This would lead into various discussions about creative satisfaction from their work impacting their lives or influences from reality being applied to their creations and vice versa. During this, LaMarr made a great statement that everyone in the room really liked when he said, “Animation is a metaphor for everything else on life.”

Baer did talk about a personal and professional low in her career. She actually brought this up earlier in the Legends Talk Animation presentation, but it seemed to have greater weight in this panel. She related to how her studio was not fond of Richard Williams during Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When Williams intended to make a visit once, the team wanted the producers to make sure he was hands off. Associate producer Don Hahn did his best to keep him occupied, but Williams eventually lost it and verbally unloaded on everyone and their work, going so far as to crumple up layout art for the film. LaMarr and Daniels were shocked at hearing this.

During audience questions. I asked if there was any advice they received that helped them through personal career challenges. Baer didn’t mention any, but pointed out how she felt spoiled against prejudice working at Disney as they hired based on talent, not minding one’s gender or ethnicity. LaMarr noted his instructor at The Groundlings Cathy Shambley saying, “Don’t put energy into worrying about what other people are doing. Put that energy into making your stuff better.” Daniels said through working on the Doom Patrol television series, he came upon how “everything about you that you think makes you abnormal… are the exact things that give your voice texture.”

It might have been the most challenging to regard as a memorable presentation as it was seemingly a thrown together type panel that Comic Con would do to fill an otherwise hefty weekend schedule. Yet I still came out remembering enough to feel like it was worthwhile. Hearing from the likes of Baer, LaMarr, and Daniels discussing the impact their work had on their lives and vice versa turned out to be quite informative and very insightful. LaMarr had a lot of really great things to say while Baer continued to impress me even more with her stories and I’m now interested in seeing more from Daniels. A pleasant way to spend an hour.

Other Panels

A proper comic book panel I attended was Legends Lost and Remembered [right], which was a celebration of three of the most beloved comic book artists of the last several decades who passed away within a month of each other this year. Neal Adams, George Pérez, and Tim Sale were honored by half-a-dozen peers and associates influenced by their legendary work including Tim King, Dan Jurgens, Richard Starkings, Daniel Sampere, and others. I even got a chance to share my having gotten a Supergirl sketch from Adams at a price far lower than his usual asking price that the others found surprising and made us wonder if I had caught him at a very generous moment.

I’m generally not one to attend presentations on video games as I would rather play demos, whenever I am able to, either in the Exhibit Hall or somewhere offsite. I made an exception in checking out the Capcom: Street Fighter and Capcom Fighting Collection as I was curious to see if there would be anything fun revealed on the forthcoming Street Fighter 6. The main thing I got out of the presentation was a greater insight to the new gameplay mechanics that would be introduced to the fighter. I was also present to one of the more fascinating giveaways as those who could answer some of the hardest trivia questions asked scored some very exuberant prizes.

A common practice for seasoned attendees like myself would be to sit in on presentations that were scheduled ahead of one that was of interest. This led to me sitting in a many television panels this year. Probably the most enjoyable was The Orville [right], the live-action science fiction spoof of Star Trek from Seth MacFarlane that had managed to build its own unique fanbase. MacFarlane wasn’t present, but did call in live to join the cast and crew who did show up, getting a chance to break down the show’s growth and the creative opportunities the move from Fox to Hulu offered. He also announced that all seasons would be streaming on Disney+ as well.

An intriguing presentation to sit through was Inside Severance. The recently released Apple TV+ series had been garnering universal acclaim and on hand to talk about it were cast and crew, most notably director Ben Stiller. Stiller mentioned that Severance did seem envisioned as a workplace comedy similar to The Office, but it quickly transformed into a dark psychological thriller during preparations. Creator Dan Erickson brought up that reading through some of the fan theories had been fun, but he’s making sure to focus on what was true to the story as they started making the second season. To lighten things up, they showed off a blooper reel.

One panel I was interested in sitting through was Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire [right]. The beloved gothic horror was being made into a television series through AMC. Cast and crew discussed their approach in adapting the novel while remaining faithful. The footage that was shown impressed upon me that they might be able to pull it off as well as the classic 1994 film did. I got to ask how much of the Claudia character they would explore. Actress Bailey Bass, who would play Claudia, and showrunner Rolin Jones answered that they put a lot of thought in developing the character which included delving into her past and her varying relationships with Lestat and Louis.

Prior to the Critical Role presentation was The Players of Mythic Quest. Whereas Severance was a workplace thriller on Apple TV+, Mythic Quest was a workplace comedy on Apple TV+ set in a video game company. Another notable feature to the series was that it was co-created by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stars Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, though only McElhenney featured on the show. McElhenney and fellow co-creator Megan Ganz were joined by the cast to preview the upcoming third season. The banter that was being thrown around by everyone throughout showed what a good time they were having at being able to continue on with their show.

As if to prove one could find just about anything at Comic Con, there had been a rather healthy presence of professional wrestling. Being a wrestling fan myself, I checked out the first year for emerging major promotion All Elite Wrestling to present themselves at the convention. AEW: Heroes and Villains [right] featured long-time fan favorites CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Chris Jericho along with rising stars Britt Baker, Jade Cargill, Darby Allin, and Orange Cassidy talking about wrestling. They also ventured into their various geekdom from comics, with Punk having written Marvel books, to cosplay, Cargill’s longtime hobby.

An interesting panel I ended up sitting in on ahead of the An Animated Life presentation was Concept Artists of Television and Film #2. A collection of top notch concept artists who were working on some upcoming major superhero films gathered to talk about their craft. This was a very fascinating panel for me as it gave some intriguing insight to how quickly and efficiently concept artists had to be able to juggle multiple projects and the varied styles they would often be challenged to deal with, leaving them extremely exhausted only to have to do it again without rest. I came away wanting to sit in on another like it in the future.


Part of the excitement of Comic Con would be the celebrity encounters. Often there would be plenty of opportunities to partake in signings either in the Exhibit Hall or in the Sails Pavilion. But there would also be unique moments where one could simply sit beside someone during a panel. The latter was roughly the case for many when Lenore Zann [right], voice of Rogue in X-Men: The Animated Series, sat with the audience for the Day One presentation. I was looking to catch her at one of her signings at Sails Pavilion, but this turned out to be a fun opportunity and managed to get a picture and a brief chat before she was too crowded with adoring fans.

I realized I had forgotten stuff in the room The Rocketeer presentation was after it ended. This occurring after having walked all the way from one end of the convention center to the other and had to walk all the way back to retrieve them. After picking my items, I noticed Danny Bilson and Jennifer Bawcum were still hanging out with fans outside the room. I joined in as we chatted about all things The Rocketeer, in particular Bawcum’s work as trustee of The Rocketeer Trust and our shared admiration for products we found in the Exhibit Hall like a lanyard Bilson really wanted to get his hands on. Absolute pleasant folks to hang out with.

I remembered almost too late I wanted to try to catch Jennie Kwan [right] at the We Can Be Heroes booth. The voice actress was best known for voicing Suki in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but she was on the cusp of getting a big boost becoming the new English language voice of Chun-Li in the forthcoming Street Fighter 6. As soon as I met her, Kwan noticed my mask said “got adobo!”, which she enjoyed a great deal being Filipino herself. We got into chatting briefly about her becoming Chun-Li and she got very excited when I noted that the Capcom booth had a life-size Chun-Li bust she definitely wanted to see before show’s end. Kwan was a lot of fun to hang out with.

Streamily had been turning into a fun service to use this year, offering unique fan interactions and participation for personalized autograph signings. They ended up having a presence at Comic Con, holding sessions at the Roddenberry Entertainment booth. A signing I managed to get into was one of the ones for Maggie Robertson, who exploded in popularity portraying the villainess Alcina Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. As part of Streamily, Robertson was streaming her sessions live through her Instagram account. Meeting her in person was quite lovely and a joy to see how much fun she was having with her newfound adoration.

Seeing Jane Baer [right] participating in presentations throughout the weekend raised my admiration a great deal for her. The legendary animator was a Comic Con Special Guest this year and was being celebrated throughout. I decided to chat with her following the An Animated Life panel and she appeared to be graciously enjoying the whole experience this year as I told her how appreciative I was to have heard her stories and she answered with how much fun she was having. We both noted our shared amusement in her Milt Kahl anecdotes, in particular his having based Madame Medusa on his second wife. Baer was just a wonderful lady to have met.

There were some friends and acquaintances I tried to visit whenever possible. Normally I would be able to make time, but this year my schedule was so heavily booked that I was barely able to see any of them. A few were in Artist Alley and when I finally managed to get there I remembered Dan Veesenmeyer had a table and decided to quick “Hi!” and to thank him for retweeting our Twitter post about the X-Men: The Animated Series presentation. He said that he wanted to Tweet something about the event and our post just happened to catch his eye. A really nice guy to meet from our very brief chat and one I’d like to meet again more properly.


It just wouldn’t be Comic Con, or any convention for that matter, without Cosplay. Hundreds of attendees roaming the floors, or indeed roaming the streets outside, dressed as characters from all across the pop culture spectrum would always be a sight to behold. Because part of the beauty would be the creativity being put into making the costumes that much more personal and unique. Be it a motorcycle riding Captain America showing a young Rey that he too was attuned with the Force [above] or Hera with a female humanoid variation of Chopper, it’s the biggest expression of one’s fandom and their passion for the arts to dress up so wonderfully.

Curiously, I had a feeling that I did not run into as many cosplayers this year as I would normally. That could be a mixture of my schedule being so packed that I was spending more time in presentations than wandering the floors as well as some folks probably being cautious enough in the middle of a pandemic to just not wear costumes. With regards to the latter, there were still many who dressed up. And while a lot of cosplayers simply removed their face masks when having their pictures taken, a few others got a little creative and figured ways to incorporate them, such as a Rapunzel having the sky lanterns added to her pink face mask.

Being a fan of Arcane, I was pleasantly satisfied that there was a nice number of such cosplayers out and about. While most were dressed as Jinx, I did come across one Mel and a few pairings of the sisters Vi and Jinx [right]. Of course, the Critical Role fandom was in full force around the time of their panel with so many characters to choose from. The most impressive were the ones dressed as Ashley Johnson’s current campaign character the faun druid/rogue Fearne. I was quite delighted to see a number of costumes for The Owl House such as a lovely Amity and an unplanned grouping of Luz, Eda, and the house with King and Hooty accessories.

Of course one of the most popular events at Comic Con would be the world famous Masquerade. A celebration showcase as much as a costume contest, fans filled Ballroom 20 on Day Three in the evening to watch the spectacle of cosplayers performing. Comic Con would simulcast the Masquerade from one of the other rooms and in the Sails Pavilion with snacks and a dance party afterwards. The Sails Pavilion simulcast wasn’t mentioned in the program guide for this year, but I did see that were setting up for it in the afternoon, so I got to check out a bit of the Masquerade there. I found a Vi with animatronic gauntlets and a Lydia from Beetlejuice to be the most impressive.

Offsite Events

Adding to the appeal of Comic Con would be the activities taking place in downtown San Diego throughout the weekend. These offsite events were extensions of the convention experience and were open to the public without need of a badge, so long as they were willing to wait through long lines under the summer sun. There were openings in my schedule to check out a couple of these. The first was the Mooby’s Pop-Up [right]. Taking over the Tin Roof Bar & Grill, it was slightly redressed to be the McDonald’s knock-off from the films of Kevin Smith. Mooby’s was the primary setting for Clerks II and the pop-up was set up to promote the forthcoming Clerks III.

I ended up being among the first in line for the pop-up’s opening on Day One. As such, I was present for when Smith dropped by to perform the opening ceremonies, which was loads of fun to witness. I merely said “Hi!” to him as he ended up being occupied with an admirer who had just finished making her own film and wanted to thank him directly for being influential. Inside there were a bunch of neat displays such as a merchandise table, arcade machines with the Jay and Silent Bob video games, and a stage that would be used for sold out presentations and podcasts in the evening. Oh, and the food turned out to be some pretty good eats as well!

There was one offsite event I really wanted to check out that I was concerned would have been too difficult to get into, the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Tavern Experience [right]. Set up to promote the forthcoming feature film, it offered an immersive experience that sounded like a dream come true for those into Dungeons & Dragons like myself. I managed to get in line during the evening on Day One, which I later understood was not as hectic as any other time over the weekend. While waiting in line, they gave out color specific wristbands which would designate those who could drink alcohol and those who didn’t want to. Somehow I got both.

After less then an hour in line, I got inside and was blown away with how much work went into redressing the Nova SD Nightclub into a tavern. Every one was treated to a mug of Dragon Brew, thus the wristbands, and checked out the various props and looping character videos displayed. The barkeep welcomed everyone with a speech, followed by a barmaid leading a singing chant. They then went into the cool finale where the tavern was attacked by a black dragon. All of this was an absolute blast. As I was leaving, I caught sight of Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo‘s Shaggy and celebrity Dungeons & Dragons player) taking over the gelatinous cube photo op with glee.

Watch exclusive footage from the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Tavern Experience below.

Random Sightings

It had become a tradition of mine to always swing by and visit in the Exhibit Hall Chris Sanders [right]. The Lilo & Stitch creator had a table every year selling off artwork and merchandise of his own. As far as I knew, there was no new update on the Rescue Sirens novels he was co-writing with his wife Jessica and didn’t have a new sketchbook. But he was selling off unique prints, in particular a Lilo & Stitch piece he did in watercolor. There were many copies available, but he also had the line drawing and the original watercolor sheet itself for sale. Only the originals were certainly not cheap and the watercolor sheet cost a pretty penny.

While cancellations were nothing new to Comic Con, this year saw a wave of programs and appearances that were called off leading up to and during the convention. A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir presentation getting cancelled just a day or two after program schedules were announced set the tone for how this was going to go. Before any one knew it, major names scheduled to appear like Wesley Snipes and J. Michael Straczynski had suddenly bowed out. Strangely, George R.R. Martin did show up for the presentation on the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, but everything else he was scheduled for was cancelled.

The curious absence of DC and Dark Horse from the Exhibit Hall would result in some new faces as the other, more established booths like Marvel and Image didn’t seem fit to increase the floor space they generally covered in years past. Probably the only one to take advantage was Capcom [right], being slightly bigger than I remember them being previously. They were going big on promoting Street Fighter 6 with numerous opportunities for attendees to demo the exciting fighter all weekend long. The increased space also allowed for demos of Monster Hunter and Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. They even got to display an impressive life-size bust of Chun-Li.

Interestingly enough, there were not too many merchandise items I tried to get this year. The only one I had to put a little effort into getting was the Hercules 25th Anniversary Pin at the Disney+ booth, but only because they wouldn’t put it on sale during Preview Night. Otherwise, I got my shopping out of the way as early as possible. This included the Dungeons & Dragons: The Lost Wave figures at the NECA booth and at the UDON Entertainment booth both variant covers of the Street Fighter Swimsuit Special 2022 comic book and the Street Fighter 6 Chun-Li T-Shirt, which was the first officially licensed merchandise for the upcoming fighter.

Because of the pandemic, Comic Con enforced some mandates attendees were required to follow. The most obvious being that they keep masks on pretty much at all times and to be verified of vaccination or negative testing. With regards to the latter, everyone had to go to an outdoor station [right] from which they would receive a wristband confirming verification. These wristbands were to be worn at all times, so it was kind of interesting seeing folks in costume having to wear this orange wristband that would crumple and fade as the weekend went on. They were indeed waterproof, but it still felt funny to have to wear them to sleep and in the shower.

Minutes before the start of the Critical Role presentation in Ballroom 20, which happened to be running at the exact same time as the big Marvel Studios presentation in Hall H, a sudden announcement was made. From what we gathered, there was suspicious tampering of the alarms and it was being investigated. I imagine if the alarms were to have been legitimate, it would have forced a complete evacuation of the convention center. Fortunately, an update was announced shortly that all was fine and everything could continue as normal. Critical Role‘s Sam Riegel, who was unable to attend, offered a suggestion to the show’s fans in response to our Twitter post.

Sam Riegel wasn’t the only one to interact with our Twitter posts. Our coverage of the event throughout the weekend was watched, liked, and retweeted by others. This included story artist Dan Veesenmeyer liking and retweeting our post of the X-Men: The Animated Series 30th anniversary presentation and animation studio Atomic Cartoons liking and retweeting our post of the Little Demon presentation, adding that they were excited to be working on the show. But our most popular post was for David Silverman illustrating live during The Simpsons presentation and I dare say a big part of the popularity was due to a response from moderator Alex Hirsch.

Below are exclusive pictures from the 2022 San Diego Comic Con.


No Comic Con attendee was complete without their badge, lanyard, program guides, and carrying bag.
Shuttle buses being decked out to promote Amazon Prime shows such as The Legend of Vox Machina.
The Exhibit Hall on Preview Night before it really filled up with attendees.
The original watercolor sheet of Chris Sanders’ Lilo & Stitch piece costing a pretty penny.
A very happy young fan getting to meet SpongeBob SquarePants at the Nickelodeon booth.
Kevin Smith with Mooby The Cow conducting the opening ceremonies of the Mooby’s Pop-Up.
“I feel overdressed… and under-tattooed!” John Musker showing off his birthday card illustration for Lin-Manuel Miranda during the Animated Lives: John Musker and Ron Clements panel.
We all knew who really wore the pants in Batman and Catwoman’s relationship.
“In each and every one of you, there is a light, a spirit, that cannot be snuffed out.” (Supergirl)
Fans lining up hoping to get into the 30th Anniversary of X-Men: The Animated Series panel.
Writer/Aritst Dan Jurgens reminiscing on working with the late George Pérez at the Legends Lost and Remembered panel.
Matthew Lillard enjoying the gelatinous cube photo op at the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Tavern Experience.
Attendees lining up as early as 6 am to get into the convention center on Day Two.
The infamous Hall H line going out and through San Diego Bay Harbor by 7 am on Day Two.
Writer/Executive Producer Beau DeMayo talking about X-Men ’97 at the Marvel Studios panel.
“Make it there alive and he’ll find you.” (Quorra, TRON: Legacy)
“I recognize that any worthwhile venture involves risk.” (Mel Medarda, Arcane)
“And today, I’ll show Luz that I am an awesome girlfriend.” (Amity Blight, The Owl House)
Just keep walking, sir. No need to keep looking at the weirdo (Deadpool) wearing a Disney princess dress and wig over his costume holding a gun.
“Wherever I go, he goes.” (Din Djarin, The Mandalorian)
Executive Producers/Stars Aubrey Plaza (Laura), Lucy DeVito (Chrissy), and Danny DeVito (Satan) talking after the first episode screening at the FXX’s Little Demon Exclusive Pre-Series Premiere Sneak Peek Screening and Q&A panel.
“How can you know what you’re capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown?” (Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
The Scarlet Witch and Hela were not messing around.
Harley Quinn being quite happy that Weasel was alive.
“You are a scholar, are you not? Judging from your diminished physique and large forehead you are suited for nothing else.” (Kidagakash Nedakh, Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
A beautiful life-size bust of Chun-Li on display at the Capcom booth.
“I’m not afraid to die! I’d do anything to get you humans out of my forest!” (San, Princess Mononoke)
The weirdos Luz Noceda, Hooty, Eda Clawthorne, and King sticking together.
Shego not quite as thrilled as Dr. Drakken to look like a conventional pair.
Kylo Ren seemingly not adapting well in The Lands Between from Elden Ring.
“Yo! I should let ya know I get torked when people ignore me!” (Jubilee, X-Men)
Jane Lane and Daria Morgendorffer, the most feared duo wandering around the convention.
Model/Ex-Wife Brinke Stevens, Colleague/Friend Jackie Estrada, and Colleague/Screenwriter Danny Bilson reminiscing on Dave Stevens and The Rocketeer during The Rocketeer: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Dave Stevens’ Iconic Character panel.
“This could be a quick ticket to hell… or the wildest ride of my life!” (Cliff Secord, The Rocketeer)
“Too weak to handle myself out there, huh, Mother? Well… tell that to my frying pa–” (Rapunzel, Tangled)
Supervising Director David Silverman illustrating live Homer versus Shrek in a battle to the death during The Simpsons panel.
Stars Dee Bradley Baker (Klaus Heisler) and Jeff Fischer (Jeff Fischer) talking what’s in store for their characters during the American Dad panel.
Stars Bailey Bass (Claudia), Sam Reid (Lestat de Lioncourt), and Jacob Anderson (Louis de Pointe du Lac) talking about their interpretation of their characters during the Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire panel.
Creator/Executive Producer/Star Seth MacFarlane (Captain Edward Mercer) calling in live for The Orville panel.
Creator/Executive Producer/Star Rob McElhenney (Ian Grimm), Creator/Executive Producer Megan Ganz, and Executive Producer/Star David Harnsby (David Brittlesbee) talking about the new season during The Players of Mythic Quest panel.
“Time is a weird soup.” (Fearne Calloway, Critical Role)
Fans lining up to ask questions at the Critical Role: Q&A with the Cast panel.
“Keep it up, Cloud! Work it!” (Aerith Gainsborough, Final Fantasy VII)
“Let me make this as… monosyllabic as possible.” (Captain Amelia Smollet, Treasure Planet)
“Ready? Then show me!” (Chun-Li, Street Fighter)
“Do you want to build a snowman?” (Anna, Frozen)
Jade Cargill, Chris Jericho, and Britt Baker talking about wrestling and geekdom during the AEW: Heroes and Villains panel.
Will Friedle, Christy Carlson Romano, and Fred Tatasciore hearing an audience member voice the displayed illustration during the I Hear Voices with Will Friedle and Christy Carlson Romano panel.
Hera Syndulla might have modified Chopper to be… sassier.
“Uh… sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface. … Far beneath… in some cases. But I’m sure there’s more to Hei Hei than meets the eye.” (Moana Waialiki, Moana)
Concept Artists Maybelle Pineda (Black Adam), Oksana Nedavniaya (Shazam! Fury of the Gods), Constantine Sekeris (Guadians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), Phillip Boutte Jr. (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Jen Hancock (American Horror Stories), and David Masson (Thor: Love and Thunder) making up the Concept Artists of Television and Film #2 panel.
Resident Evil fans lining up at the Roddenberry Entertainment booth for Streamily autograph sessions with Stephanie Panisello (Claire Redfield) and Maggie Robertson (Alcina Dimitrescu).
The Comic Con Exclusive Hercules 25th Anniversary Pin from the Disney+ booth.
Maggie Robertson (Alcina Dimitrescu, Resident Evil Village) and Jennie Kwan (Chun-Li, Street Fighter 6) autographs.
The Comic Con Exclusive Street Fighter Swimsuit Special 2022 Variant Cover Comic Books and Street Fighter 6 Chun-Li T-Shirt from the UDON Entertainment booth.
The Comic Con Exclusive AEW Brodie Lee Action Figure from the Gentle Giant Studios/Jazwares booth and Dungeons & Dragons: The Lost Wave Action Figure Set from the NECA booth.
The Stitch and Toothless Print and The Lilo, Nani, and Stitch Surfboard Watercolor Print from Chris Sanders’ booth.