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No ‘Game of Thrones,’ No Marvel, No Problem? 11 Burning Questions For This Year’s San Diego Comic-Con

"Doctor Who," "Breaking Bad," "The Walking Dead," "Star Trek: Discovery," "Castle Rock," "The Good Place," and more panels to keep an eye on.

Kristian Nairn, Isaac Hempstead Wright, John Bradley, Nathalie Emmanuel, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Jacob Anderson, Conleth Hill, Alfie Allen and Gwendoline Christie'Game of Thrones' TV show panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA - 21 Jul 2017

‘Game of Thrones’ panel at 2017 Comic-Con

Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

TV is still king at San Diego Comic-Con International, even though several high-profile titles, including HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Starz’s “Outlander,” are sitting this one out. Nonetheless, plenty of networks and studios are stepping up to the plate to pick up the slack, and there’s plenty of intrigue to be had — including the introduction of Jodie Whittaker as the latest Doctor on “Doctor Who,” a new direction (time jump!) and new moderator (Yvette Nicole Brown!) for “The Walking Dead,” the return of Kurt Sutter via “Mayans M.C.,” and a “Breaking Bad” reunion. Check back all weekend as IndieWire’s West Coast team covers SDCC 2018 on the ground in San Diego; below, here are some of the biggest questions we’ll be tackling.

Can Comic-Con thrive without blockbuster TV shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Westworld’?

To be fair, “The Walking Dead” and its spinoff series “Fear the Walking Dead” are still stumbling into Hall H, as is the best series Marvel TV has yet to produce, “Legion.” But beyond these SDCC signature series, there aren’t a ton of big ticket items. The next biggest draw is a 10th anniversary reunion for “Breaking Bad,” and those folks get together all the time. There’s also a “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” reunion, which shows how far the Con is reaching for panels that justify the number of seats in Hall H. Comic-Con 2018 is busy and undoubtedly filled with news and fun festivities, but whether or not it feels larger-than-life could be determined by what all the unproven shows bring to show fans. Can “Mayans MC” expand beyond the “Sons of Anarchy” faithful? Will the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel drop big news about “Watchmen”? Can “Riverdale” still earn buzz in Season 3? These shows have to fill the gaps left by HBO, so they better bring their best and brightest. — Ben Travers

Read More:  Comic-Con Still Matters, But Networks Seek New Ways To Directly Engage with Fans

Will Comic-Con without Marvel be a Letdown?

In May, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige disclosed that Marvel will this year shelve its signature Saturday night SDCC presentation. The company already released the world’s top grossing films of 2018, “Avengers: Infinity War” ($2 billion) and “Black Panther ($1.3 billion), and has no forthcoming titles in its remaining months.

The no-show has precedence: Marvel skipped Comic-Con just three years ago. Its recent Hall H panels have brought lots of big names, but not much new information. Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Josh Brolin made appearances in 2014 to plug “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” yet the proceedings disappointed some fans for only leaking an already-assumed “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel. The casts of “Black Panther,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” were on hand in 2016. Brie Larson was the final guest, confirming she would play Captain Marvel — a fact the trades had reported weeks before. As for 2017, Marvel used their Hall H time to announce the supporting cast of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and debut a new “Thor: Ragnarok” trailer.

Even without staging a huge spectacle, Marvel will be much-discussed at SDCC 2018. The Avengers are advertising the proceedings on posters around San Diego, and a 91,000-Lego statute of Thanos welcomes guests to the convention center, home to a Marvel merchandise booth. Marvel Television and Marvel Studios have each sent teams, whose members will sit on a plethora panels (18 alone have “Marvel” in the title, including two devoted to the MCU’s 10th birthday). — Jenna Marotta

Andrew Lincoln and Greg Nicotero'The Walking Dead' TV show panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA - 21 Jul 2017

Andrew Lincoln and Greg Nicotero, ‘The Walking Dead’

Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

How will ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ panels address the absence of Chris Hardwick?

Over the coming year, “The Walking Dead” is undergoing its biggest evolution yet: a time jump, a new showrunner (Angela Kang), and the departure of star Andrew Lincoln. Yet the biggest intrigue at this year’s “Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” Comic-Con panels may not be what’s said on stage, but rather who’s on stage: Fan favorite Yvette Nicole Brown will moderate this year’s “Walking Dead” panels, filling in for Chris Hardwick. Hardwick, of course, will be absent from Comic-Con — where he’s usually front and center — following allegations of abuse by his ex-girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra. As AMC investigates the matter, Brown will also fill for Hardwick as host of the network’s “Talking Dead” companion series in the coming weeks. Will Hardwick fans — who have been vocal in their support of the host — make a fuss at the panels? Will anyone on stage acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation? And then of course, beyond that, there’s the question of how much the panel will hint at what’s to come on “Walking Dead,” and Lincoln’s exit. Depending on what happens next year, this may be the last chance for fans to see pals and prankster co-stars Lincoln and Norman Reedus ham it up together on stage. — Michael Schneider

“Star Trek: Discovery” — What about Spock?

[Editor’s note: Mild spoilers for “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 follow.]

Since the reveal of Anson Mount as Christopher Pike (who commanded the captain’s chair of the U.S.S. Enterprise before James T. Kirk), there’s a lot of speculation surrounding the upcoming season of “Discovery,” especially when it comes to one key cast member whose casting will be a huge deal, should it come to pass.

Episode 2 director Jonathan Frakes (relatively infamous for not particularly caring about spoilers) has already let it slip that young Spock will make an appearance in flashbacks during Season 2, alongside (theoretically) a young version of our own Burnham, who was raised alongside her adopted brother for at least a few years. But what of a more adult Spock, who by our math should also be serving on the Enterprise when the good ship Discovery encounters it at the end of Season 1?

Arguably the most iconic character of the “Trek” franchise, thanks to brilliant portrayals by Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto across the decades, the addition of Spock to “Discovery” in any form is exciting. And the best place to announce that decision is definitely Comic-Con. — Liz Shannon Miller

Amazon Prime — What will be the breakout star of their big panel?

The most exciting panel of Comic-Con, for TV fans, might be the one panel where we don’t know what will happen — but there’s potential for a lot. Amazon Prime is bringing five executive producers from its upcoming and ongoing shows: Carlton Cuse (“Jack Ryan”), Ben Edlund (“The Tick”), Sam Esmail (“Homecoming”), Neil Gaiman (“Good Omens”), Gale Anne Hurd (“Lore”), and Naren Shankar (“The Expanse”). While “Jack Ryan” (which premieres first among the lot) will be making a big splash at the convention overall, the mysterious nature of “Homecoming” — a thriller based on the hit podcast starring Julia Roberts — means any footage seen at Comic-Con will attract a lot of attention. But thanks to its all-star cast of “Good Omens” and the innate star power of Neil Gaiman, the real talk may surround the supernatural drama set for 2019. At least one big name fan has seen seven minutes of the series based on Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel — and he’s raving:

 — Liz Shannon Miller

Will Comic-Con give ‘Castle Rock’ the boost it needs to be the next Hulu hit?

Hulu put itself on the map in every imaginable way with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” earning a slew of Emmy wins (including Outstanding Drama Series) and capturing the zeitgeist in a major way. Though the streaming service had released a number of well-reviewed original series prior to adapting Margaret Atwood’s novel, none were able to break out enough to call any one a bonafide hit — and none have since.

Enter “Castle Rock.” Created by Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, the anthology drama series is set in the Stephen King “multiverse” and alludes to a number of popular franchises, including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Cujo.” With a cast including an Oscar winner (Sissy Spacek), the breakout star of “It” (Bill Skarsgard), and a number of TV favorites (Andre Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Glenn, and Terry O’Quinn), this new drama has a better chance than most to become Hulu’s next hit.

The Comic-Con crowd is arguably key to its success. With a ton of easter eggs related to King’s oeuvre and plenty of horror elements to talk about, the reception in Ballroom 20 could either boost the show’s profile with the reddit crowd or push it under the radar. If the early reviews are any indication, odds favor the former. — Ben Travers

What DC revelations will Warner Bros. bring?

Thousands will congregate for Saturday morning’s Warner Bros. theatrical presentation, yet the studio has announced zero titles or talent comprising the two-hour hypefest. With Marvel absent from Hall H this year, WB — the cinematic partner of DC Films — has the chance to dominate the convention’s superhero discourse.

The Twitter account for “Aquaman” (December 21) confirms director James Wan will unveil his first trailer of Jason Momoa as Atlantis’ heir-apparent (they joined other members of the ensemble at CinemaCon this spring). A behind-the-scenes look at “Shazam!” (April 19) also came from the Vegas showcase; now that the film has wrapped, director David F. Sandberg and star Zachary Levi might also arrive with trailer goods. (Entertainment Weekly had new images Monday.) Last month, repeat collaborators Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins tweeted the first photos from “Wonder Woman 1984” (November 2019), and any related clips or appearances could inspire Marvel-rivaling enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, The Wrap reported this week what characters will appear in “Birds of Prey;” although shooting does not start until January, Comic-Con is a good opportunity for casting announcements beyond Margot Robbie (the star and producer, who championed its director, Cathy Yan). WB has so far revealed neither who will return for next year’s “Suicide Squad 2,” nor its release date, two more Comic-Con-sized scoops.

There are also many questions surrounding two just-announced Joker features: one revisiting Jared Leto’s “Suicide Squad” alter-ego, and another led by Joaquin Phoenix. Only the latter has a writer-director attached: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover” trilogy), who will kickstart a new DC cinematic subset fans would also like explained.

Finally, WB brought the “Justice League” actors and trailer to San Diego in 2017; after that film’s $658 million worldwide box office performance, a sequel is forthcoming, although it is unknown when or with whom. Same goes for “The Batman,” which willreportedly not star the previous Bruce Wayne, Ben Affleck. — Jenna Marotta

Actors Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul attend AMC's 'Breaking Bad' panel, on in San Diego, Calif2013 Comic-Con - AMC's Breaking Bad, San Diego, USA - 21 Jul 2013

Aaron Paul makes out with a Bryan Cranston mask at a 2013 Comic-Con panel

John Shearer/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Will Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reveal any future “Better Call Saul” appearances?

Comic-Con, bitch! To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the landmark series, “Breaking Bad” returns to San Diego with all of its key cast members: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, Bob Odenkirk and Giancarlo Esposito, along with series creator Vince Gilligan. Comedian Bill Burr, who was also a part of the show, will moderate. The panel will take place right after the one for “Better Call Saul,” featuring Odenkirk, Esposito, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian and Michael Mando. Will Cranston and Paul finally confirm an eventual appearance on “Saul”? Will there be any surprise appearances? Will lingering fan questions and theories about “Breaking Bad” be explained? Grab some Los Pollos Hermanos and dig in! — Michael Schneider

What will be the new cosplay favorites from TV this past year?

Of course the staples are great, but we’re always wowed by the innovative fans who are able to put together fairly elaborate costumes for the newer characters. In particular, we’re curious about:

“Atlanta” – Teddy Perkins would be completely frightening.

“Cobra Kai” – Danielsannnnnn!

“Doctor Who” – Thirteen, of course.

“Game of Thrones” – We’d love to also see the javelin-throwing Night King with an Ice Dragon. And someone very brave could also cosplay as Ed Sheeran.

“Killing Eve” – Villanelle has the best clothes, but a sweater-shirt thing for Eve would be fun.

“Legion” – Syd with her cat; all the Lennys (including the one with blue eyes)

“The Magicians”  – The Great Cock and Margo with one of her many fabulous eye patches

“Star Trek: Disco” – Towering Kelpians, the Mirror Universe’s flamboyant Emperor Georgiou and Tilly, and of course those new Klingons.

“The Terror” – Tuunbaq, natch.

“Twin Peaks”  – New characters could include Wally Brando, Diane (Fuck you!), Freddie with the green fist, the eyeless Naido, the Firemen, Candie, Sandie, et al. — Hanh Nguyen

Will “The Good Place” crew be able to dance around Season 3 spoilers?

When it comes to people involved with “The Good Place,” you don’t necessarily need them to talk about “The Good Place” for it to be time well spent. That said, Comic-Con is a place notoriously thirsty for details, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of noteworthy info their Saturday panel yields. Our money’s on an illuminating look back on a dense, fascinating Season 2, which still has plenty left to unpack, even if that unpacking doesn’t center on the ramifications for new episodes in the fall. Having the main cast and Michael Schur there will definitely prompt questions from a legendarily tight-lipped bunch that’s been great at keeping any future surprises under wraps. (Well, all except one.) Either way, it’s a group that knows how to put on a quality show — it’s one that just probably won’t have many hints about what’s to come. — Steve Greene

Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole during Doctor Who Filming near Monmouth, South Wales.'Doctor Who' on set filming, Monmouth, Wales - 28 Feb 2018

Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole during “Doctor Who” filming in February

Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock

What will the sonic screwdriver and interior of the TARDIS look like for the new Doctor?

With Jodie Whittaker as the first-ever actress to take on the regenerating mantle of the Timelord, the panel for “Doctor Who” will be the first opportunity to assess what  kind of Doctor she’ll be. Although BBC America has already released a look at her attire and her three companions, it would be great to get a full-fledged trailer beyond the hints of what we saw in the World Cup teaser.

In particular, we’re wondering how the interior of the TARDIS will be reconfigured for Thirteen and if she’ll have a traditional sonic screwdriver or a new-fangled one. Fans may recall that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor abandoned his traditional screwdriver for the sonic sunglasses. These looked cool on him, but frankly we missed the kitsch of the hand-held screwdriver. — Hanh Nguyen

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