Comic-Con 2014: 10 Must-See Comic Panels From the First 2 Days

Evaluating the comic panel schedule for Thursday and Friday at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
Evaluating the comic panel schedule for Thursday and Friday at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

Comic-Con International has unveiled the official programming for the first couple of days at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and —well, as ever, it’s slightly overwhelming, with countless panels that overlap in terms of topics, guests and occasionally time periods.

Visitors are pretty much guaranteed to find at least one panel of interest during the convention, but for those just looking for something interesting and comic-related, below are some suggestions of five panels each from both Thursday and Friday programming on July 24 and 25.

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Spotlight on Bill Finger, the Co-Creator of Batman
Officially, Bob Kane created Batman solo — or, at least, that’s what the contractual terms declare. The reality is far more complicated, as this panel celebrating the relatively-unsung hero of the early years of the Dark Knight sets out to reveal. Guests include writers Marc Tyler Nobleman and Mark Evanier, as well as Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman movies. (11:30am – 12:30pm, Room 4)

Color Me RADD
Comic book coloring may be getting a lot more attention now than in the past—something helped by both Marvel and DC Comics adding colorists’ names to covers and ensuring they get added into participation pools for incentives—but the hows and wherefores of the art is still a quasi-mysterious, unrecognized subject and skill. This panel, moderated by Oni Press editor-in-chief James Lucas Jones and featuring colorists including Lee Loughridge and Ryan Hill, will reveal all (or, at least, more). (12:00pm — 1:00pm, Room 9)

DC Comics: Batman 75: Legends of the Dark Knight
By now, the fact that Batman celebrates his 75th birthday isn’t much of a surprise. But the line-up of creators on this panel is so great that it’s worth attending even if you have no interest in the Dark Knight whatsoever. Where else would you get Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, current Batman team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and classic creators Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams together in one room? (3:30pm – 4:30pm, Room 6BCF)

Pitch Your Comic to Mark Waid and Thrillbent
Even if you don’t want to break into comics, this panel — in which attendees really will get to pick a one-off digital comic to Thrillbent founder Mark Waid, as well as writers James Tynion IV, Christina Blanch and general manager Lori Matsumoto amongst others—promises to be worth attending, if only because Waid is not only very smart and very funny, but also very honest. Fun times ahead. (5:30pm – 6:30pm, Room 8)

The Lost 1978 Comic Book Documentary
Waid re-appears as one of the two hosts (Word Balloon podcaster John Siuntres being the other) of this little-seen documentary about Marvel and DC Comics shot in 1978. A fascinating look at an industry (and a world) long gone. (7:30pm – 8:30pm, Room 26AB)

Gender in Comics
Even though female readers are the fastest-growing demographic in the contemporary comic industry, comic culture still finds gender issues difficult to discuss, never mind come to terms with. This one-hour panel features an impressive line-up of commentators on the subject, including former Comics Alliance editor-in-chief Laura Hudson, Image Comics director of trade sales Jennifer de Guzman and critic and former DC editor Janelle Asselin. It’s guaranteed to be thought-provoking at the very least. (10:00am – 11:00am, Room 4)

Milestone @ 21
Even more than two decades later, Milestone Media remains unparalleled in its attempts to bring diversity to the super hero mainstream. Surviving founders (The great Dwayne McDuffie died in 2011) Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis talk about the group’s legacy and future in this panel produced by Reginald Hudlin and hosted by Phil LaMarr. (11:30am – 12:30pm, Room 5AB)

Secret Origins: How the Industry’s Best and Brightest Began
Members of the comics industry, including ComiXology founder David Steinberger, Marvel’s X-Men group editor Mike Marts and THR’s very own Marc Bernardin talk about their beginnings in the industry, and what brought them in in the first place. (2:30pm – 3:30pm, Room 8)

Walking the Line: An Investigation into Alternative vs. Mainstream Comics and Beyond
The line between “mainstream” and “independent” comics is a blurry one, with creators and audiences slipping back and forth with increasing ease. With “independent” titles occasionally reaching audiences far greater than “mainstream” books, it’s not a distinction of sales, nor necessarily one of ownership or distribution, so what is the current state of both schools? Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid leads a panel of guests including Gene Luen Yang (who has worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender and his own Boxers & Saints) and Nick Abadzis (The Cigar That Fell in Love with a Pipe and Titan’s new Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor) to discuss. (3:00pm – 4:00pm, Room 28DE)

Comic Book Entrepreneurs: The Business of Comics There’s a lot of talk about the creative side of comics at conventions, but this panel goes into the business aspect of the industry, with ComiXology founder David Steinberger, Dark Horse Comics co-founder Mike Richardson, Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani and cartoonist Noelle Stevenson talking about the realities of working in comics today. (6:00pm – 7:00pm, Room 9)

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Not necessarily a recommendation—they really are like the Oscars, especially in their tendency to overrun—but it’s also worth noting that the annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards take place Friday night at 8pm in the Indigo Ballroom of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. This year’s ceremony, sponsored by Showtime, features appearances from Orlando Jones, Jamie Bamber and other non-comics celebrities.

The full list of scheduling for Thursday and Friday can be found at the San Diego Comic-Con website. Saturday and Sunday schedules will be posted on the site over the weekend, and you can expect some suggestions for those days here on Monday.