Classic horror villain Michael Myers returns to stalk small town Haddonfield, Ill. — and old foil Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) — in "Halloween." USA TODAY
No Marvel, no “Star Wars,” no problem?
When annual geek-culture extravaganza Comic-Con kicks off this week in San Diego (Thursday through Sunday) for more than 125,000 attendees, it’s doing so without the heaviest hitters: Disney is staying home with the two biggest movie franchises, while HBO hits "Game of Thrones" and "Westworld" are skipping the event as well.
But without those huge properties sucking up the nerd news cycle, Comic-Con’s biggest stage — the cavernous 6,500-seat Hall H in the San Diego Convention Center — features the return of Hollywood players (Disney is the only major studio without a panel), welcome reunions (Bryan Cranston and company are back for "Breaking Bad"s 10th anniversary) and fresh discussions (RZA of Wu-Tang Clan talking about movies, music and martial arts).
Here are our burning questions going into this year’s show:
Question: Where the heck are Marvel and 'Star Wars' anyway?
Answer: Studios and TV networks hit up Comic-Con to promote their shiniest wares, and honestly, Disney just doesn't need the publicity. "Star Wars" is quiet until "Episode IX" hits in a year and half, and people will get their fill of that when Star Wars Celebration rolls around in April. Marvel's next project is "Captain Marvel" (in theaters March 8, 2019) and they'd probably rather not get into the spoilery aftermath of "Avengers: Infinity War" just yet. Thanks, Thanos.
Q: Without the Avengers around, will Aquaman and his superfriends shine?
A: Here’s how Saturday at Comic-Con usually goes: Warner Bros. has a morning presentation touting its DC superhero films, but by the end of the day, whatever Marvel revealed is on everyone's lips (and social media feeds). With director James Wan unveiling the first trailer for “Aquaman" (Dec. 21) — probably with an appearance from king of the seas Jason Momoa — plus a sneak peek of "Shazam!" (April 5) and perhaps a surprise appearance from new Joker Joaquin Phoenix and/or Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, DC could go a long way in bouncing back from “Justice League’s” so-so reception.
Q: Can the first female Doctor steal the whole shebang?
A: New "Doctor Who" star Jodie Whittaker is the next to wield the Sonic Screwdriver and the keys to the time-traveling TARDIS when the cult sci-fi show returns for Season 11 this fall. And she’s making her Comic-Con debut on Thursday with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements going strong, so fans can expect a whole lot of cheering as they get to know this new version of an iconic character.
Q: Is the biggest 'Walking Dead' star exiting stage left?
A: The panel for AMC’s zombie-filled drama is always a hot ticket, and Friday’s appearance by cast and creative types will be no different for two major reasons. The upcoming ninth season arriving this fall will feature a time jump, so fans will want to know what’s up with favorites like Danai Gurira’s Michonne and Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon. The other undead elephant in the room? Andrew Lincoln is rumored to be ending his run on the show, which means this could be the Comic-Con swan song for Rick Grimes.
Q: Who’s scarier: Samuel L. Jackson or Michael Myers?
A: Universal is bringing all the chills on Friday for a thriller double feature. M. Night Shyamalan will show off a first look at next year’s "Glass" (Jan. 18), the "Unbreakable" (and "Split") sequel featuring the return of Jackson’s supervillain Mr. Glass vs. Bruce Willis’ indestructible hero David Dunn. And Jamie Lee Curtis will be on hand to talk about taking on masked maniac Michael Myers, 40 years later, in the new "Halloween" (Oct 19). Also on tap for horror hounds: The second annual “ScareDiego” (part of Wednesday's preview night) will give fans a look at "The Conjuring" spinoff "The Nun" (Sept. 7) and the now-shooting sequel "It: Chapter Two" (Sept. 6, 2019).
Q: Can 'Supernatural' top its own rock concert?
A: Last summer, the seemingly never-ending CW show kicked off its panel by rolling out the band Kansas to play the unofficial "Supernatural" theme song “Carry On Wayward Son.” That’s a pretty hard act to follow, yet a ferociously loyal fan base will be all ears on Sunday about what’s coming this fall with its monster-hunting brothers (one of whom is now possessed by the archangel Michael) and a historic 300th episode in the series’ 14th season.
Q: How lovably naughty will Deadpool be?
A: The contingent that lives for Ryan Reynolds’ masked, motormouthed mercenary are getting double the fun on Saturday with a Hall H panel for "Deadpool 2" (now in theaters) featuring Reynolds and co-stars Karan Soni, Zazie Beetz and Brianna Hildebrand, as well as director David Leitch. Later that night is the premiere of the "Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut" with 15 extra minutes of footage. Somewhere in there, there might even be some "Deadpool 3" or "X-Force" movie news, but for sure a whole bunch of cursing.
Q: Can fandom get its groove back?
A: Hollywood has fought back against sexual harassment and geek culture is following suit. Chris Hardwick, who annually emcees Comic-Con’s biggest panels, was replaced by two women after sexual assault allegations: Yvette Nicole Brown is on "Walking Dead" duty, while Aisha Tyler is taking Warner Bros. It’s a positive sign of the times, even as negativity (example: “Star Wars” fans bickering about Luke Skywalker's life choices in "The Last Jedi") seems to be infesting the event’s core community.
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3 June 2018