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The best San Diego Comic-Con panels ever

San Diego Comic-Con has a long history, but it’s only in more recent years that the event has become fodder for such extensive media coverage. At its core, Comic-Con is all about finding ways for the people behind nerd culture to connect with the genre’s many fans. Naturally, this has led to a number of truly excellent panels over the long history of the event.

Even so, though, some Comic-Con moments live forever in a way that others don’t. These are the panels that rise above the rest as the best in the history of Comic-Con.

Star Wars makes its debut

MidAmeriCon (1976) Worldcon - Star Wars Q&A

Decades before Comic-Con was covered breathlessly by a huge number of culture writers, it was a much smaller fan event that allowed dedicated nerds to connect with the properties they loved the most. The first domino that set Comic-Con on its path to becoming the blockbuster event that it is today was the arrival of Star Wars at the convention in 1976.

The event was so low-key that none of the major creative forces behind the movie even showed up to promote it. During the presentation, though, fans did get a sneak peek at the movie of the kind that would become increasingly common in the decades that followed.

Tron: Legacy drops a surprise trailer

Tron Legacy Panel Comic Con 2010 Recording Audios

Disney’s 2008 panel concluded with a trailer for Race to Witch Mountain, just as everyone had anticipated. Just when attendees assumed that the panel was over, though, a teaser for the long-awaited sequel began playing. The teaser was actually created as a proof of concept to sell Disney on the film, but it was so effective that it wound up being an enticing teaser for fans at the conclusion of Disney’s panel.

Harrison Ford joins a panel in handcuffs

Comic-Con 2010: Cowboys & Aliens Cast Intro

As part of the promotion for Cowboys and Aliens, the plan had long been for Harrison Ford to be escorted to the stage of Hall H in handcuffs — the joke being that Ford had to be dragged on stage for the panel. After a violent episode broke out in Hall H, though, with a man ultimately being stabbed through the eye with a pen, Ford’s onstage antics read very differently. Thankfully, it was just what the doctor ordered to ease the tension in Hall H, even if the movie he was there to promote didn’t ultimately live up to expectations.

Ryan Reynolds recites the Green Lantern oath


Ryan Reynolds’ time as the Green Lantern didn’t turn out all that well, but there was a time when there was still plenty of excitement around his casting. Before everyone could be disappointed by the finished product, though, Reynolds got to have a sweet moment with a young boy who asked him what it felt like to recite the Green Lantern oath.

Reynolds then proceeded to recite the oath from memory, and the boy who had asked the question was visibly moved by his recitation. He showed off his child-sized Green Lantern ring, and Ryan Reynolds then showed his movie prop counterpart.

The Ravagers invade Hall H

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Panel Highlights

The 2016 Marvel panel included the first footage from Spiderman: Homecoming and Brie Larson’s debut as a member of the MCU, but the panel is best remembered today because of the introduction of the Ravagers, who came from the back of the hall and proceeded to mock the panel’s moderator.

They then came up to the dais and proceeded to answer questions from fans in character. It was a supremely funny bit, and the kind of thing that Marvel has become so great at as they’ve come to dominate Comic-Con.

Andrew Garfield asks a question in a Spider-Man costume

Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone Comic-Con - "The Amazing Spider-Man" Panel Highlight

Whatever you might think about Andrew Garfield’s run as Spider-Man, it’s hard to deny the amount of evident enthusiasm he had for taking on the role. During the 2011 Comic-Con, he even crashed a panel to ask a question dressed as Spider-Man, and took off his mask in dramatic fashion to reveal that he wasn’t just any average fan.

After that bit was over, Andrew read an emotional speech that explained how much it meant to him that he had been cast in the role. It was a beautiful moment, even if the movies that followed it didn’t live up to all that excitement.

An extended Iron Man trailer debuts

Iron Man comic-con trailer

Before the cinematic universe was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, there was Iron Man, which debuted a 4-minute trailer exclusively for those assembled in Hall H. The audience in attendance was clearly gripped by the trailer, and suddenly, it seemed clear that something different was happening around Iron Man.

This would be the launch of an entire universe, and the rapt attention the crowds gave to this footage suggested what was coming, even if they didn’t know for sure.

Avatar and Twilight duke it out

Comic Con 2009: Avatar Part 1

In 2008, both James Cameron and Twilight fans were eagerly anticipating new films, and the panels for those movies were scheduled to be held back to back. The panels were switched so that Twilight: New Moon would come first, in part so that the Cameron devotees wouldn’t be forced out of Hall H but Twilight fans just waiting for their panel to start.

Cameron wound up showing the first 25 minutes of the movie in Hall H, so of the two panels, the Avatar one certainly had a more lasting legacy.

Loki emerges in character

Loki Takes Hall H SDCC 2013 Comic Con FULL appearance!

Tom Hiddleston has clearly enjoyed his time playing the trickster god Loki, and that may never have been more true than in 2013 when he appeared at the Marvel panel in character. Giving a speech similar to the one he had delivered in The Avengers, Hiddleston demanded that the audience in Hall H bow before him if they wanted to see what Marvel had in store for them.

It was a thrilling moment and one that is still talked about today. Other panels would try to replicate in the years that followed, but none could quite match Hiddleston’s commitment to the endeavor.

Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams sit on a joint panel

Comic-Con 2010 Joss Whedon & J. J. Abrams Panel Part 1

Joss Whedon’s pop culture legacy is unquestionable, even if he’s not the universally beloved figure that he once was. The cloud of the allegations against Whedon certainly hung over the panel he sat for with fellow nerd god J.J. Abrams, but it’s hard to deny that the chance to hear the two of them discuss their history of fandom was a rare treat.

They talked about first meeting when Abrams was working on Felicity and Whedon on Buffy, and there was also some news coming out of the panel: Abrams confirmed he was working on a Star Trek sequel, and Whedon said he would be directing The Avengers.

Godzilla is coming back to the big screen

Godzilla: Comic Con 2012 Teaser HD

Comic-Con panels can break news sometimes, but most of the time fans have speculated about what’s going to happen, at least to some extent. Legendary’s 2012 panel was somewhat unusual, then, because they completely surprised audiences with an announcement that Gareth Edwards would be working on a reboot of the Godzilla franchise. What’s more, they already had a teaser trailer, which they proceeded to show not once, but twice.

Batman will be fighting Superman

Batman v Superman SDCC 2013 Announcement Reaction

After Man of Steel debuted, many were curious whether DC had plans in the works to create its own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was already in full effect by 2013. Although Man of Steel had just hit theaters, director Zack Snyder took to the stage to announce that Batman’s battle with Superman would be featured in the Man of Steel sequel.

Snyder didn’t even need any footage to accompany the announcement. All he had was a logo, and that’s all that fans needed to lose their minds.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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