SDCC 2012: The Most Unusual Panels At Comic-Con!

Part of the joy of SDCC is staying AWAY from Hall H and Ballroom 20 -ad instead, sneaking into the back of an air conditioned room for a little bit, and finding out about something you never even thought of before... And then falling in love with it. Or not! Either way, it’s the corners of Comic-Con that are often the most fun. Here’s a rundown of some of the weirdest and most interesting panels that caught our eye when scanning the full schedule:

THURSDAY

10:00-11:00 The Witty Women of Steampunk— The Victorian era was one marked by constraints on behavior, morals and bosoms. When you add a bit of sci-fi to the mix, however, those corset laces begin to loosen. The steampunk genre has allowed a new wave of female creators and personalities to explore how liberating, sexy, and adventurous the age of steam can be. Robin Blackburn (The League of S.T.E.A.M.), Anina Bennett (Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel), Gail Carriger (The Parasol Protectorate Series), Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius), Robin Thorsen (The Guild), and moderator Dina "Lady Steam" Kampmeyer (Steampunk LA) discuss literature, fashion, romance, adventure, and more. Room 5AB

There’s the “women of Comic-Con” panels, and the “steampunk” panels, but this manages to hit both niches squarely in one room, at the same time. And hey: who doesn’t want to find out how “liberating and sexy steam can be?”

1:15-2:15 Not with a Bang, with a Bite— Great prophets, religious scriptures, and scientific evidence points to an apocalypse in 2012...but these authors envision the end of the world in the form of a zombie pandemic. With their decaying, disintegrating, and sometimes flesh-eating tendencies, zombies have lurched their way into science fiction and fantasy novels and are here to stay. Doomsday takes on a whole new meaning when losing limbs and lumbering across the earth are involved. Learn how to survive everything from zombie invasions to viral zombie infections from panelists Jeyn Roberts (Dark Inside), Michael Spradlin (Blood Riders), Mira Grant (Blackout), Diana Rowland (Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues), Stephen Blackmoore (City of the Lost), Dana Fredsti (Plague Town), Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly), and Max Brooks (World War Z), led by John Hornor Jacobs (This Dark Earth). Room 6A

Given the amount of time we’ve spent creating an exit strategy in case of an actual, real life zombie apocalypse, this is kind of a must-see panel.

3:00-4:00 Hungry for Dystopia— With the skyrocketing popularity of The Hunger Games, dystopian literature has been creating major waves in the media. What attracts these authors to explore the concept of a totalitarian future that possibly awaits us all? Anna North (America Pacifica) leads the discussion with panelists Neal Shusterman (Unwind trilogy), Lissa Price (Starters), Paolo Bacigalupi (The Drowned Cities), Michael Grant (BZRK), Daniel H. Wilson (Amped), Gennifer Albin (Crewel), and Marie Lu (Legend trilogy). Room 25ABC

Fun idea: lock the door to the room, run in, and tell everyone that the bombs have dropped outside, and they’re the only survivors. Then, watch whether this new society crumbles or falls.

5:00-6:00 The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con— Actresses, stuntwomen, creative cosplayers, outspoken bloggers, and groundbreaking comic book creators-which women are the movers and shakers on the convention scene? Who are the innovators breaking barriers in the world of fandom? To discuss these game changers, Action Flick Chick Katrina Hill (GeekNation, MTV Geek) has assembled a team of women dangerous in their own right: Leah Cevoli (Robot Chicken), Holly Conrad (Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope), Adrianne Curry (Stan Lee's World of Heroes), Abbie Heppe (Respawn Entertainment), Clare Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Kristen Nedopak (Skyrim: To Lydia with Love), Milynn Sarley (GeekNation's Lairs), Stephanie Thorpe (ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining), and Patricia Tallman (Night of the Living Dead, Babylon 5). With moderator Bonnie Burton (SFX Magazine). Room 7AB

We actually wouldn’t even call this “unusual,” but we didn’t have any other place to put this panel... Instead, check out some of the awesome contributors to MTV Geek, and other fantastic women as the men in the audience tremble in fear at how badly they could kick our butts.

7:00-8:00 Inside The Batmobile— No vehicle has ever captured fans' imagination like the Batmobile. Be the first to see an exclusive Comic-Con, 22-minute sneak peek at the upcoming documentary The Batmobile, an in-depth examination of its many incarnations and impressive history. A panel discussion will follow the screening featuring distinguished Batman experts George Barris, designer of the famed 1966 Batmobile; Andy Smith, builder of the modern-day Dark Knight "Tumbler"; respected producer/author Michael Uslan (The Boy Who Loved Batman); Ralph Cirella and Jon Hein, hosts of GEEKTIME! Sirius-XM Howard 101; and a few surprise guests. Stay to the end, when a drawing among all panel attendees will determine which lucky five fans can sit in a Batmobile-which is on display all weekend in the "Batcave" between Hall H and the Bayfront Hilton. Room 6DE

Chicks dig the car.

FRIDAY

10:30-11:20 Retail Optimism— How are retailers responding to the growing market in 2012, and how can they use the momentum to carry their stores into the next year? ComicsPhRO president Joe Field (Flying Colors Comics, Concord, CA), executive director Amanda Emmert (Muse Comics + Games, Colorado Springs, CO), and directors Carr D'Angelo (Earth-2 Comics, Sherman Oaks, CA), Thomas Gaul (Corner Store Comics, Anaheim, CA), and Calum Johnston (Strange Adventures Bookshop, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) discuss ideas for capitalizing on the current market upswing. Room 18

Also known as the “oxymoron” panel. Seriously though, this was the saddest title we saw for a panel on the entire list, but it might still be an interesting discussion about an important comic book issue.

11:30-12:30 Remixed Fairy Tales and Superhero Lore— Between this year's Mirror Mask and Snow White and the Huntsman and forthcoming retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Hansel and Gretel -- not to mention recent reexaminations such as Soon I Shall Be Invincible and The Magicians -- the mythology of fairy tales and superheroes is embedded in our popular culture. But some of the characters aren't quite what they used to be. Discuss the enduring power of these archetypes and how they can also be reinterpreted with panelists Sarah Maas (Throne of Glass), Marissa Meyer (Cinder), Rae Carson (The Girl of Fire and Thorns), Paul Tobin (Prepare to Die), Tom King (A Once Crowded Sky), Michael Scott (The Enchantress), Tracy Hickman (Wayne of Gotham), and Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts). Moderated by David Mariotte of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 5AB

We were all prepared to make fun of this, until we saw the great line-up, including Tobin and Castellucci. Like it or not, the remixed fairy tale is here to stay... So at least find out WHY.

3:30-4:30 The Need for a "Serious Comics" Community of Interest: Lessons Learned From "Serious Games"— Constance Steinkuehler Squire (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), Alan Gershenfeld (founder and president, E-Line Media), and Zander Cannon (owner, Big Time Attic; freelance artist and writer for DC Comics) discuss the need for an organized Community of Interest for "Serious Comics" similar to the successful "Serious Games" movement which has focused on health, education, and social awareness while building a market for "Serious Games." Join this discussion and Q&A session moderated by Capt. Russell Shilling (Information Innovations Office, DARPA). Room 26AB

This will definitely be the most serious panel at Comic-Con.

6:00-7:00 Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal— The incomparable Larry King, one of the most recognized broadcast interviewers in the world, goes one-on-one with voice actor Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), a talent who is practically synonymous with Comic-Con itself. In this panel, "The King of Interviews" salutes the beloved Cullen and takes attendees through the actor's early days on the original 1984 animated TV series Transformers Generation One, the three box office smash Transformers movies, and his current work on The Hub TV network's Daytime Emmy Award-winning animated series Transformers Prime from Hasbro Studios. Audience Q&A to follow. Room 23ABC

Talk about bizarre: an hour of Larry King talking to the voice of Optimus Prime? We’d say, “Only at Comic-Con,” but this is strange even for comic-con’s standards, and we once saw Kevin Smith interview a garbage can for five hours (not true).

SATURDAY

12:00-1:00 Twilight Fan Fiction Group— This year writers Sweetlolapops (We Were Here, Summer of Salt), Conversed (Twinned), Tkegl (Cutless), MeraNaamJoker (Miror Quaenam Sis Tam Bella), Shoefreak37 (A Light Exists in Spring), WriteOnTime (Breaking News), and moderator Kimpy0464 (The Nightingale Journals) are on hand for laughs and fun at the Twilight Fan Fiction Group. They'll answer questions about the challenges and joys of writing derivative fiction in the Twilight fandom and how to keep it fun. Room 28E

You remember how ’50 Shades of Grey’ started as Twilight fan-fic? Every single person on this panel thinks they can write the next hit series. They are probably wrong.

SUNDAY

10:00-11:00 Stunted Fools, Scary-Ass Clowns, Enlightened Orangutans, and Other Devilish Charmers: Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy— "The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp." And these authors' pens are...very sharp. But, as The Hitchhiker's Guide so sagely advises, DON'T PANIC. Humor is everywhere you look in science fiction and fantasy. So wrap your towel around your head to ward off noxious fumes, and join in for an irreverent hour celebrating sly wit and unholy humor with some of the most devilish quipsters, wisecrackers, and satirists writing today. Warning: you will snicker. And you may just laugh out loud. John Scalzi (Redshirts) plays ringmaster to panelists Richard Kadrey (Devil Said Bang), Doyce Testerman (Hidden Things), Rob Reid (Year Zero), Ned Vizzini (The Other Normals), Gini Koch (Alien Diplomacy), Nathan Long (Jane Carver of Waar), and Nick Hurwitch (co-author of So You Created a Wormhole).  Room 25ABC

Easily the best titled panel at Comic-Con this year. Congrats!

1:45-2:45 Foes Beyond Fur and Fangs— Vampires have staked their claim on readers, and werewolves have certainly taken a bite out of pop fiction. But these paranormal creatures aren't the only ones that run havoc in the pages of science fiction and fantasy novels. Authors discuss the villains and vixens-from witches to zombies and beyond-in their action-packed adventures. Moderator Kim Alexander (Fiction Nation on Sirius XM radio) interviews participants Amber Benson (Calliope-Reaper Jones novels), Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires series), Tom Sniegoski (Remy Chandler series), Kiersten White (Paranormalcy series), Gail Carriger (Timeless), Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Poison Tree), and Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races). Room 5AB

There’s a nice line-up for this panel, and a good idea behind it: why does EVERYTHING have to be about vampires? They think they’re so cool, those jerks.