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It’s less than two weeks until 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International will host more than 150,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes and other pop culture, and SDCC has now released the entire panel schedule for this year’s big show.  If you haven’t been to the modern-day Greatest Show on Earth, it should at least be on your bucket list, but beware:  if you attend the show once you’ll want to keep going back.

Tickets as usual were sold out months ago, but for those attending this year’s show, we have some quick links to the event list so you can start planning your days now.

This year’s panels prove yet again that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who claim SDCC doesn’t focus on comic book artists and writers.  Even more events are occurring this year focused on the comic book medium, including benchmarks like Batman’s 75th anniversary.  Yet there are also all of those big panels planned full of this summer’s movie blockbusters and big-name casts and the casts and creators of your favorite television series.

Comic-Con image b

First and most importantly you’ll want to download to your smart phone the SDCC handy My Schedule app here.  We’ve used it before and it’s a great help when you’re in the crowd and can’t get into one panel but you want to try the dash for another one or you just get tired of walking the main hall with Artists’ Alley and the dealer booths and you want to sit down and see something new for an hour.

Having trouble choosing from all the panels?  We think the biggest event and best bang for your buck will be the Warner Bros. panel we previewed a few days ago here with pilots and previews of DC Entertainment series The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Arrow.  After the break we pulled some other panels you might like if you follow borg.com regularly.

Here are the quick links to each day’s panel events for SDCC 2014:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Preview Night

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2014 Panel Schedule

Saturday, July 26, 2014 Panel Schedule

Sunday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

SDCC 2014 banner

Here are some panels to consider (after the break):

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Django Unchained trade paperback cover

He’s a unique, visionary filmmaker of his generation.  And he really likes Western comic books.

In the foreword to the graphic novel adaptation of his Academy Award winning film Django Unchained, Quentin Tarentino gives credit where credit is due, and why the comic book format is squarely appropriate for a director’s cut of his screenplay–the screenplay that won him a second Oscar for a screenplay after his win for Pulp Fiction.

Vertigo Comics’ Django Unchained was originally released last year as a six-part comic book adaptation of Tarentino’s four-hour long, first draft of the screenplay, later spread out over seven issues.  It’s a long narrative and by the end of part seven you will understand why editors exist.  That said, it’s a good tool for story writers, as his opening scene, measured pacing, and character development provide a window into the creative process of this singular screenwriter.  It features an adaptation of Tarentino’s work for the medium by Reginald Hudlin and most of the interior art was rendered by Serbian artist R.M. Guéra (who also served as artist on Jason Aaron’s Scalped) providing his own Western style.  Plenty of covers are featured, too, including one of Alex Ross’s best, Django walking from the burning house, which served as the cover to the final issue.

Alex Ross Django Unchained

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Mal and Inara Leaves on the Wind

In the Firefly universe tie-ins are few and far between.  Where other franchises may have had several novels by now, fans wanting more Firefly must turn to Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of the Firefly “expanded universe.”  With the very unlikely hope of more live-action shows, the new stories may very well be considered “canon” one day.  We previously reviewed here at borg.com each of the graphic novels featuring the crew of the Firefly class vessel Serenity,Those Left Behind (2006), Better Days (2008), and The Shepherd’s Tale (2010) featuring scripts by Joss Whedon himself, as well as writers Brett Mathews and Zack Whedon and artists Will Conrad and Chris Samnee.  All are good stories that should satisfy any fan’s need for more Firefly.

Writer Zack Whedon returned to Serenity this year after four years without a new Firefly tale, with his six-issue mini-series Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.  More so than the earlier comic book series, Whedon has captured the relationships of the characters in his story, which takes place after the events in the movie Serenity.

Zoe Leaves on the Wind

We meet up with the crew in hiding, with Zoe pregnant, Mal and Inara are finally a couple, as are Simon and Kaylee.  Jayne Cobb, still wearing his mom’s hat, is off doing his own thing, and River keeps company with Zoe.

Mal & Company are heroes to some, fugitives to others.  When a group wanting Mal to lead them solicits the help of Jayne with a bribe of gold, what can he do but help them?  From the opposite faction a bounty hunter is recruited, and we’re reintroduced to the vilest of original series villains, Jubal Early.  Nathan Fillion’s dialect and inflections for Mal are immediately realized by the reader due to Zack Whedon’s writing, as is the odd sentence construction of Jubal Early.  These characters form just the right bookends to convince you you’re back in a world with Firefly still playing weekly episodes.

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Amell oliver queen emcee

CW Network’s Oliver Queen, Arrow star Stephen Amell will be the emcee for the big Warner Bros./DC Entertainment crossover event at San Diego Comic-Con International, only two weeks away.  Warner Bros. announced their line-up for their Saturday night event and it looks to be a great show.

As master of ceremonies, Amell will be presenting three hours of content in Hall H between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. July 26, 2014.  Called “A Night of DC Entertainment,” Amell will reveal content from three new DC Comics-based TV series and his own Arrow.  Sure to share some of Oliver Queen’s billionaire playboy image, first Amell will present a screening of the world premiere of the new Fall 2014 TV series Gotham for thousands of SDCC attendees in the big hall.

Gotham TV series

Next up will be the complete pilot screening of The Flash starring Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.  The Flash will be followed by exclusive footage from Constantine.

Flash at SDCC 2014

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Sharknado 2 poster

Sharks in New York City?  Sharks in the subway?

The crazy phenomenon from last July that took America by storm, of the shark-filled tornado variety, is back (already?).  Sharknado, the latest of the over-the-top mash-ups that have helped define the lowest common denominator of the Syfy Channel, was so absurd and yet fun for all of us to laugh at, that it “darned near broke the Internet,” jumping to a trending Twitter topic and the stuff of non-stop posts by tweeters and bloggers like Wil Wheaton.

By now almost everyone has seen it who has cable or a streaming service–it’s hard to avoid, and even harder to turn away.  The scene of Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame, taking his chainsaw into the mouth of a shark diving on him from a tornado is the stuff of legend in the annals of campy TV.  It just brings tears to the eyes.

'Sharknado 2: The Second One' TV on set filming, New York, America - 19 Feb 2014

And in only two weeks we’ll meet Ziering and Tara Reid again in–wait for it–Sharknado 2: The Second One.  How will it fare against the original, or against past Syfy Channel original movies, like Alien Apocalypse, Snowmageddon, Mega Paranha, Sharktopus, Pteradactyl, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Piranhaconda, Frankenfish, Swamp Shark, Dinocroc, Supergator, Megasnake, or Triassic Attack?

Co-starring Judd Hirsch from Taxi and Independence Day and Mark McGrath from the band Sugar Ray.   Say what?

McGrath and Ziering Sharknado 2

After the break check out a sneak peek of Sharknado 2:

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Scarlet Witch by Frank Cho

As part of its programming for San Diego Comic-Con International 2014, Marvel Entertainment is offering a new online video series about cosplay.  Providing a beginner’s guide for one way to put together a superhero costume, the episodic series of approximately 6 minute segments launched yesterday at Marvel.com and on Marvel’s YouTube channel.

Similar in concept to the Syfy Channel’s Heroes of Cosplay, the Marvel series is slowing things down a bit and going step-by-step, beginning with selection of character by a cosplayer heading to SDCC later this month.  That character is the Scarlet Witch, and cosplayer Lorraine Cink, host of Marvel’s online series The Watcher is the cosplayer who will wear the final costume.  The show is put together by Judy Stephens, associate producer of The Watcher.

Episode 1 sets up the series and has Cink and Stephens enlisting the work of a professional Broadway production costumer, Carly Bradt, to design the costume.  Her method may be more or less elaborate than those used by some cosplayers, beginning with a design sketch and translating that to a dress form and creating the costume from a pattern.  A lot of cosplayers may get the same effect by using a commercial pattern as a starting point and adjusting for the character requirements from there.  Still, with two episodes per week leading up to SDCC 2014, the show is bound to contain some tips cosplayers may find useful.

Future episodes will feature wig expert, Katie Hondrogen and professional cosplayer, Yaya Han, one of the stars of Heroes of Cosplay.

After the break we have the first episode of the new series, titled Marvel Method: Cosplay:

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Mauro Cascioli Ray Palmer The Atom

DC Entertainment released yesterday the news that Brandon Routh will be portraying Ray Palmer, and his alter ego The Atom, in season three of CW Network’s Arrow TV series, adding one more Justice Leaguer into the current live-action DC universe.  Since Routh previously played Superman in Superman Returns, the continuation of Christopher Reeves’ 1970s Superman role, it also seems unlikely The Atom will appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice two summers from now.

But it’s not the first time a movie star has played two roles in the same superhero universe.  Chris Evans played Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch in Marvel’s two Fantastic Four films, then came back to headline The Avengers as Steve Rogers AKA Captain America in three big-budget Marvel Universe movies.  He was great in both roles.  Fans accepted it and never even questioned Evans playing both roles.

Chris Evans Human Torch Captain America

DC Entertainment previously released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice casting decisions for the Justice League with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman from Man of Steel, Ben Affleck will dawn the cowl as Batman, Gal Gadot will handle the golden lasso as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa will wield the scepter as Aquaman AKA Arthur Curry, and Ray Fisher will play the next live-action borg as Justice Leaguer Cyborg.

CW Network already features Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen aka the (Green) Arrow, and introduced Grant Gustin as Barry Allen aka The Flash to be spun off in a Fall 2014 TV series.

Brandon Routh in Chuck

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Masters Spike Into the Light TPB cover

The vampire William the Bloody or “Spike” as he became known on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of those characters in television history that could have fizzled depending on the casting of the role.  Spike could have been one of those characters killed off after a few episodes, but James Marsters’ unique voice for the character and his own take on the dark and brooding opposite David Boreanaz’s own dark and brooding character Angel was a standout that allowed him to survive all seven seasons of the series, and reprise the role on Angel.  Plus, Spike’s Brit-punk style was always just plain cool.

Dark Horse Comics signed Marsters to pen his own take on Spike and the result is Spike: Into the Light, a graphic novel to be released July 16, 2014.  With nicely rendered images of Marsters as Spike by artist Derlis Santacruz, inks by Andy Owens and colors by Dan Jackson, Spike fans will find Spike: Into the Light as a lost episode that never otherwise could have been–since no single episode told a solo story with no other cast members.  Marsters and Santacruz paint a trip through familiar lanscape during the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Marsters gives us a voice and story only he could provide, considering he spent more time than anyone literally in the boots of the character.  The problem?  Vampire Spike has a soul, and he’s trying to make good on it by being a good guy, despite the pull toward killing to get blood or to break into an old store where he once buried loot from a past heist.  Spike also wants a girlfriend, but can he keep from turning vampire long enough to get to know her?

Here’s a preview of Spike: Into the Light courtesy of Dark Horse Comics:

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Jaws movie poster

ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE–On the Fourth of July weekend, you have to include a summer blockbuster in your planning, and there’s not much better you could ask for than a Fourth of July screening of Jaws, which features a small coastal town in the days leading up to the holiday back in 1975.  Thirty-nine years later and the entire film still stands strong, dated only by some clothing of the locals, which–let’s face it–could still be the fashion in beach communities up and down both coasts.  This weekend the Alamo Drafthouse offered up the opportunity to see Jaws on the big screen again or for the first time.  Unlike screenings of some other classic films at other theaters, this screening had what looked like an original reel of Jaws with flickers and pops.  In an age of widely available, digitally-re-mastered cuts of classic movies like Jaws, it was surprisingly fun to see the film just as audiences would have seen it in 1975.

I first saw Jaws at the S.E. 14th Street Drive-in theater in its initial summer run.  I was about the age of Scheider’s youngest son in the movie.  Knowing I would fall asleep in the back seat likely before the film started, my folks hadn’t figured I would actually manage to see the entire introduction.  Luckily the film was darkly lit and I didn’t know what I was watching.  I took away no memory of the film beyond dark images of a girl swimming.  My sister didn’t fare as well, and what made the film the blockbuster it was sunk in with her–that great white shark keeping us all out of the water–a summer when beaches across the country must have had lower attendances–and it certainly kept her away for a while.  Not having seen Jaws straight through in several years, but instead viewing it probably hundreds of times in bits and pieces over those intervening years, I couldn’t have been happier that it was as good as I remembered and even more engaging on the big screen.

Jaws crew

Take star Roy Scheider, for instance.  Today you might cast Eddie McClintock or Colin Ferguson for his role as everyman on his first gig as new chief of police in a new town.  Scheider has many funny lines to break the tension, beyond the many quotable lines.  His wife played by Lorraine Gary carries on as the supporter of her husband perfectly.  Richard Dreyfuss is, of course, Richard Dreyfuss, always holding back a laugh even in the most desperate of circumstances.  Jaws is without a doubt Dreyfuss’s best role–a great feat considering his many big roles over the decades (American Graffiti, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Always, The American President, R.E.D.).

But what is no surprise is the powerhouse performance by character actor Robert Shaw as Quint.  I think this was the first time I ever intended to order a drink or snack from the dine-in seating theater but was so transfixed, mostly due to Shaw, that I walked out having never ordered anything.  It’s not just the Indianapolis speech he is known so well for.  There’s also his introduction at the city council meeting.  His mouthiness when his boat is being loaded to go after the shark.  His taking the time to teach the chief how to tie knots on the boat.  Shaw, who died young resulting from problems with alcoholism, created the quintessential (pun intended) old salty sea captain in Jaws.  His performance is full of nuance.  Sure, he is part Captain Ahab, but he is so much more.

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Cavill in new Superman Batman

We now have had a first look at director Zack Snyder’s Batman, and as of this weekend, his Superman, above, from the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Beginning with its wordy, clunky title, SvBDoJ has the cards stacked against it, if Snyder’s Man of Steel is any indication.  Man of Steel proved a cast of distinguished character actors can’t save a movie from a bad idea and bad direction.  We know Ben Affleck, the new Batman, can be very good, and we all hope Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred can save this film, or at least give us some fun scenes to pass the time.  But fans should demand more from DC Entertainment.

It starts with Snyder.  It’s difficult to list all the reasons Man of Steel was such a horrible superhero movie.  But we can sure try.  Maybe Snyder will review what he did with Man of Steel and realize that superhero movies can do so much better.  We can hope.  The elements of a good superhero flick?  Heart and gravity.  Heroism and compassion.  Passion and perseverance.  Man of Steel had none of this.  Even the poorly miscast Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle Green Lantern ran circles around Man of Steel.  It can’t be that hard to make a good movie for the DC Comics universe.  If Snyder is going to do better with the first big budget Justice League movie, he must learn from his mistakes with Man of Steel.

Affleck as Batman and new Batmobile

So let’s get it all out in the open, why Man of Steel is on my worst movies list, and should be on yours, too.

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