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San Diego Comic-Con 2023: The space fan’s ultimate guide

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is, without a shadow of doubt, the king of conventions, the grandfather of pop culture gatherings and a sacred shrine for all things sci-fi.

Started in the 70s as an annual gathering for all fans of the comic genre, the event slowly but steadily built a loyal following as television and movies began to be incorporated into the festivities.

Would you believe that back in 2006, Marvel‘s main event was in a small room with only a cardboard cut-out of Iron Man. However, this was the last of the calm before the storm and from this moment onwards, the event began to really gather momentum. It’s safe to say that the juggernaut had reached full speed by 2010; in fact, that year is widely regarded as the best SDCC ever.

Tron: Legacy” was among the main events in the legendary Hall H; Kenneth Branagh unveiled the first trailer for “Thor;” Harrison Ford made his first ever convention appearance to promote “Cowboys & Aliens” along with Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde; and Karl Urban confirmed he would be playing Judge Dredd in a substantially darker movie adaptation than the earlier Sylvester Stallone attempt. Unquestionably, a vintage year.

Related: Amazing space cosplay photos from New York Comic Con 2019

Then came the pandemic, which threw a spanner in the works of just about everything. SDCC bounced back, but it now seems that things are different. This year, it will feel like SDCC has taken a step back and re-examined its roots. It seems that a number of factors are now at work, including the fact that everyone and their Pyrithian bat are jumping on the convention bandwagon and have been for the last eight years or so.

In addition, this year, we also have to factor in not only the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, but also the Streaming Wars. We’ve talked before about how Paramount followed Disney’s example and completely removed “Star Trek: Prodigy” from its streaming service purely to save cash, and, as the concept of watching shows made from multiple studios on just one channel — you know, like we have done since the invention of the television in 1920 — seems to evaporate further in front of our eyes in real time, it feels like the notion of actually sharing event space with rival studios is also disappearing.

What does all of this boil down to? Well, this year’s SDCC looks to be a significantly smaller-scale affair than previous years. No Marvel or DC or HBO, and Amazon Prime cancelled a whole bunch of events. Even William Shatner cancelled his Hall H talk. That said, nothing will beat the carnival atmosphere that takes over the whole of downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp District, and local newspapers are reporting that every hotel is filled to capacity as per usual.

To ensure you don’t miss a thing, we’ve scanned the schedule, analyzed the sensor readings and pulled out the can’t-miss panels that you should make your top priority.

Setup of the 2000 AD stand is complete at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con — just waiting on fans now. (Image credit: Rebellion )

Thursday, July 20

Blade Runner Comics: 2039 and Beyond
“Blade Runner” writer Mike Johnson, “Blade Runner Origins” writer Mellow Brown and Alcon Entertainment’s publishing director Jeff Conner join Forbidden Planet TV’s Andrew Sumner to discuss the critically acclaimed comics (“Origins”, “2019,” “2029,” and “2039”) and to reveal secrets about the past, present and future of the “Blade Runner” universe.
Time: 12:30 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 24ABC

Best of 2000 AD: Bringing Britain’s Finest Stateside
Comics journalist Graeme McMillan is joined by Popverse’s Chris Arrant, Gutter Review’s Chloe Maveal, and 2000 AD’s Owen Johnson to explore the key to bringing the best of 2000 AD to the U.S.
Time: 2:00 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 23ABC

FX’s Archer: 14th and Final Season Exclusive Screening
“Archer” returns to San Diego in advance of its upcoming 14th and final season, premiering Aug. 30 on FXX. There’s screening of the season 13 finale followed by an exclusive premiere of the season 14 opening episode. Hopefully star H. Jon Benjamin will be in attendance, because if you’ve ever seen him at a convention, you’ll already know he’s so very, very funny.
Time: 3:15 p.m. PDT
Place: Ballroom 20

Friday, July 21

Official 50th ‘Star Trek’ Animated Celebration
A first look at “Star Trek: The Animated Celebration” — a campaign celebrating 50 years of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”
Time: 10:00 a.m. PDT
Place: Room 25ABC

The Future of Doctor Who: Fan Forum
The popular fan gathering returns for “Doctor Who” as the show celebrates its 60th anniversary with big-budget specials and a new home on Disney Plus. Here’s the chance for fans to discuss and debate all the good things ahead in an interactive talkback with the most outspoken, informed and entertaining group of Whovians.
Time: 10:00 a.m. PDT
Place: Grand 10 & 11, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

Is ‘The Orville’ the Greatest Sci-Fi Show on Television?
While fans slowly grapple with the fact that we probably won’t ever see another season of the Seth MacFarlane’s epic sci-fi show “The Orville,” gathered panelists talk about why the show was so good.
Time: 11:00 a.m. PDT
Place: Grand 10 & 11, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

Rick and Morty’ 10th Anniversary
Join the cast and crew as they celebrate 10 years of Rick and Morty adventures — plus, there will be a first look at the upcoming seventh season.
Time: 2:00 p.m. PDT
Place: Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront

The 501st Legion: ‘Star Wars’ Villainous Costuming
An introduction to the creation of fan-made villain costumes from all “Star Wars” movies. Legion members from the Imperial Sands and Southern California Garrisons will provide an overview of the creative process that brings Stormtroopers, Tusken Raiders, Boba Fett or Kylo Ren from the silver screen into reality. They’ll talk about membership, from initial interest through to final approval and talk about the process for working with armor parts, small prop and soft costume construction, and 3D modeling and printing.
Time: 6:00 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 7AB

Related: ‘Star Wars’ movies in order: Chronological and release

Saturday, July 22

After a 10-year hiatus, the epic sci-fi animated series “Futurama” has sprung triumphantly from the cryogenic tube, its full original cast and satirical spirit intact. The event will include the world premiere screening of new episodes before they debut on Hulu on July 24. Sadly, no information was available on who, if anyone, from the cast will be attending at the time of going to press.
Time: 11:00 a.m. PDT
Place: Ballroom 20

Star Trek’ Universe
Without a doubt, one of the two biggest sci-fi events at this year’s con: Stars from across the different shows will gather for a panel to talk all things Trek and what’s coming up in “Strange New Worlds,” the final season of “Discovery,” and even “Lower Decks.” Plus, fans will have a chance to watch the highly anticipated “Strange New Worlds” and “Lower Decks” crossover episode with a special Hall H premiere screening before it airs next week. Rumor has it, there will be news on the recently announced “Section 31” spinoff too.
Time: 1:30 p.m. PDT
Place: Hall H

Quantum Leap
A can’t-miss screening of NBC’s “Quantum Leap” season 1 finale, followed by an exclusive season 2 premiere sneak peek. The second season premieres on NBC this fall.
Time: 1:45 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 6A

• EDITOR’S PICK – ‘Babylon 5: The Road Home
The other big sci-fi event at this year’s Comic-Con is this. Legendary writer J. Michael Straczynski makes a rare convention appearance, along with the cast of the brand-new animated adventure “Babylon 5: The Road Home” for a screening followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Hard to believe, though, that this isn’t a Hall H affair.
Time: 6:30 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 6BCF

Boldly Go: The Psychology of ‘Star Trek: Picard
Take a deep dive into the psychology of the “Star Trek: Picard” final season with showrunner Terry Matalas, co-executive producer Christopher Monfette and co-producer Matt Okumura as they talk about powerfully emotive themes such as resilient leadership, family conflict, and finding purpose in the face of failures, risks, and dangers only imagined in the “Star Trek” universe.
Time: 7:00 p.m. PDT
Place: Grand 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

Sunday, July 23

Jack Kirby Tribute Panel
Remember the man some still call, and with good reason, The King of Comics. His life and career will be discussed by folks who knew him or wish they did. They include writer Tom King, Jack’s grandson Jeremy Kirby, Jon Cooke of the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, and the moderator, former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier.
Time: 10:00 a.m. PDT
Place: Room 5AB

Star Trek: Picard’ – Unofficial: Backstage and Between the Cracks
Larry Nemecek moderates a panel presentation by two of the hands-on art directors who brought you the impressive sets from “Picard” Season 3. From the alien worlds to the Enterprise-D bridge recreation, they’re bringing lots of backstage images and answers to your questions.
Time: 1:00 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 24ABC

Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski
Well, you know, if you’ve traveled all the way to San Diego and booked a hotel, you might as well squeeze in another show. Expect announcements, revelations, and lively discussions following the “Babylon 5: The Road Home” debut on Saturday, plus news about Straczynski’s comics work — including “Captain America” — audio dramas and novels.
Time: 1:15 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 5AB

Starship Smackdown XXXVII: The Ship Hits the Fan Edition
Have you ever wondered if the Serenity could defeat a Star Destroyer? Could the USS Enterprise really fly like the Millennium Falcon? Who would win in a race between a Colonial Viper and a T-65 X-wing multi-role starfighter? Mark Altman (“Greatest Geek Year Ever: 1982”) joins Daren Dochterman (“Picard,” “Master & Commander”), Kay Reindl (“Swamp Thing”), Steven Melching (“Star Wars Rebels,” “The Clone Wars”), Ashley Edward Miller (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) and Robert Meyer Burnett for a lively discussion.
Time: 2:45 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 6A

Philip K. Dick: 71 Years of Illusions, Reality, and Humanity in Science Fiction
Legendary science fiction writer Philip K Dick wrote stories that became “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “Man in the High Castle” and “Screamers,” to name just a few. A panel of experts from various scientific fields gather to talk about his visionary work, the themes he explored and how he’s influenced science fiction even today.
Time: 3:15 p.m. PDT
Place: Room 5AB

Tips & tactics

It’s going to be hot in San Diego this week, so be prepared. And if you’re wearing cosplay, please plan ahead and stay cool and hydrated. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your Comic-Con experience:

  • Hand sanitizer: These days, this is essential.
  • Sharpies, black and silver: It is possible that you might run into celebrities and industry icons, so be prepared before the chance to get their autograph slips away.
  • Extra battery for your smartphone: You’ll be relying on your smartphone for a lot — camera, calls, maps, social media — and it will get drained. You might even want to bring two extra batteries.
  • The power of Twitter: News of a celebrity sighting, or really cool cosplay, travels like wildfire at Comic-Con. By keeping a close eye on the #SDCC Twitter hashtag, you can increase your chances of finding celebrities as well as cool parties and awesome giveaways.
  • Finally, wear comfortable shoes and bring both sunscreen and an umbrella or sunshade, plus sunglasses and a poster tube to safely store any artwork you score.
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