40(!) can’t-miss panels when Wizard World invades Philly this week

Shine your boots, grab your tights and don’t forget to pick up your cape at the dry cleaner. Come Thursday, the Pennsylvania Convention center will be packed for four days with thousands of comic fans, cosplayers, and tons — seriously tons — of A-list celebrities.

This year’s Philly Comic Con is a TV and movie buff’s dream, with plenty of space left over for the hardcore comic book fans and gamers alike. With everything from the Avengers assembling to a Back to the Future reunion to the X-Files stars trying convince fans this year’s reboot wasn’t a horrible idea, there will be no shortage of big-ticket panels, but there are also a lot of smaller panels, group discussions, celebrity autograph and photo opportunities and how-to demonstrations from industry experts to fill your entire weekend.

While you have to pay to get your photo taken with Chris Hemsworth or John Cena, get an autograph from or to have your near mint X-Men comics signed by Salvador Larroca, the panels are part of the price of admission. It’s impossible to go to every panel across four days — and some will be so packed you’ll need to find another option — so here are just some of the can’t-miss events at Wizard World this weekend.

THURSDAY, JUNE 2ND

5:00 – 5:45PM BATMAN AND PSYCHOLOGY: A DARK AND STORMY KNIGHT (ROOM 121AB)

The description from Wizard World: Why does Batman really fight crime? Does he have PTSD, MPD, OCD, or some other mental illness? Why the mask, the bat, and the underage partner? Why are his most intimate relationships with “bad girls” he ought to lock up? And why won’t he kill that homicidal clown? 

The best Batman discussions center around Bruce Wayne’s ever-evolving (devolving?) mental state. In this panel, Dr. Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight) will discuss the minds behind the Dark Knight and his biggest enemies.

6:00 – 6:45PM FANDOM AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (ROOM 115)

Wizard World: From comics, TV, film and the web, we are living in a pop culture renaissance. But with too many options and not enough time, how are we to choose what to follow? 

Fun Fact: There are 8,760 hours in a year, and there are 7.4 billion people on the planet, which means there are 64.8 trillion collective annual Earth hours. Nearly 10 percent of that is being spent watching Netflix.

That’s a lot of streaming Daredevils.

7:00 – 7:45PM ODE TO LEADING LADIES (ROOM 121AB)

WW: Women leads and female heroes are rapidly evolving. Rey in Star Wars 7 spurred many discussions! What have creators fought for in the past for their women title characters and what key ingredients do creators pour into their female leads today?

This is one of the hottest topics in the industry today, stemmed from the backlash of Disney not marketing female characters — Rey, Black Widow — because they foolishly thought girls wouldn’t buy merchandise. Genese Davis (The Holder’s Dominion), Evie Manieri (Blood’s Pride), Tiffany D. Jackson (Allegedly) and Shana Figueroa (Spice of Love) lead this panel discussion.

7:30 – 8:00PM IN THE RING WITH WWE SUPERSTAR SETH ROLLINS (ROOM 115)

Moderated by Mo Lightning of WrestlingAudio.com, this is one of a few panel discussions with bigtime rasslers and definitely the most notable star in any men’s division talking this weekend.

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Wizard World

FRIDAY, JUNE 3RD

1:00 – 1:45PM CIVIL WAR PICK A SIDE (ROOM 121AB)

WW: This panel is to gather fans old and new for a political debate over the sides that formed Civil War. The debate will allow both sides to come to the table to talk about the differences as well as to show why each fan picked the side they did.

And here I thought I was the only one who thinks it’s odd that Captain America is the good guy in a movie where he aided and abetted a metal-armed, super-powered terrorist and a mind-bending witch.

1:15 – 2:00PM SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: A 55 YEAR HISTORY (ROOM 115)

WW: The year 2015 marked the first year since 1960 that there are no cartoons being shown on network TV on Saturday Mornings. Come and celebrate the 55 year run of Saturday Morning Cartoons as we explore the scheduling and hundreds of great cartoons that we all grew up with… 

Hanna-Barbera and Filmation Studios Animator/Director Tom Cook runs this walk down cartoon memory lane.

2:00 – 2:45PM THE BIG TWO ON THE BIG SCREEN: DO DC AND MARVEL DO ENOUGH? (ROOM 119AB)

WW: This group of comic book movie fans takes a look at whether Marvel and DC are being progressive enough. Are we getting enough inclusion and diversity in these films?

It doesn’t take 45 minutes to say, “not close.”

2:15 – 3:00PM I’M NOT A SIDEKICK: A DISCUSSION ON DIVERSITY IN POP CULTURE (ROOM 115)

WW: The pop culture explosion through comics, TV and film has opened up new opportunities for cultural diversity; however, many obstacles still exist. In this humorous but poignant discussion, diverse geek experts discuss breaking ethnic stereotypes, current casting decisions and what changes need to happen for us to boldly go into the future.

Let’s be the first to ask why two panels on diversity in TV and film, which is ostensibly diversity in Marvel and DC, are going on at the exact same time. Doesn’t seem too diverse.

3:00 – 3:45PM CAPTAIN AMERICA VS. IRONMAN: FREEDOM, SECURITY, PSYCHOLOGY (ROOM 121AB)

WW: Marvel Comics’ Civil War and the movie Captain America: Civil War explore superheroes’ place in a post-9/11 world where some argue that superhero freedoms conflict with public safety. Captain America leads superheroes fighting for liberty, while Iron Man leads others concerned about national and international security – but why? Dr. Travis Langley (Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology), Danny Fingeroth (Superman on the Couch), Josué Cardona (Geek Psych; The Walking Dead Psychology), Victor Dandridge (Vantage: Inhouse), Dean Haspiel (Batman ’66), and Rusty Gilligan (Captain America: The First Avenger) discuss how character motivations on both sides arise from positive human qualities. Do we really have to choose sides?

Oh, sure, you ask us that now, after we’ve all chosen!

4:00 – 4:45PM (ALMOST) EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT BACK TO THE FUTURE! (ROOM 119AB)

WW: Please join “Back to the Future” Co-creator/Writer/Producer Bob Gale and Michael Klastorin, author of “Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History,” for an intimate fireside chat as they discuss everything “Back to the Future!” 

Grab a Pepsi Free, because, Great Scott, that sounds like fun!

4:30 – 5:15PM GAME OF FANDOM: A ‘GAME OF THRONE’ FAN EXPERIENCE (ROOM 115)

WW: Join Liz and Lindi, creators of PureFandom.com and writers for Entertainment Weekly, to talk about the latest in the land of Westeros. 

Play the new game that’s all the rage in Meereen: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Drogon.

5:00 – 5:45PM OUTATIME: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE DELOREAN TIME MACHINE (ROOM 119AB)

WW: The DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future is the most famous movie car in the world. But decades of harsh weather, souvenir hunters and wild animals nearly sent it to the junkyard. OUTATIME is a new film that chronicles how Bob Gale (Writer/Producer, “Back to the Future”), Universal Studios, and the film’s dedicated fan community worked together to save this cinema icon.

As the filmmakers discuss the documentary, it’s worth asking the question: Is it the most famous movie car in the world?

There have been a lot of great TV cars — General Lee, K.I.T.T., the Mystery Machine, Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari, A-Team van — but is there a better movie car than the Delorean? Smokey and the Bandit’s Trans Am? The Batmobile? Ecto-1? None those were time machines.

6:00 – 6:45PM BATMAN V SUPERMAN (V. WONDER WOMAN): WHAT WENT WRONG? (AND WHAT WENT RIGHT?) with MARVEL UNIVERSE’S PETER SANDERSON, BATMAN & PSYCHOLOGY’S DR. TRAVIS LANGLEY & SPIDER-MAN’S DANNY FINGEROTH (ROOM 121AB)

WW: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has drawn extreme positive and negative reactions from critics and fans alike (although everyone seems to agree that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is awesome), and has been followed by major corporate shakeups. Today (the above panel members) discuss why opinions about the movie are so polarized, why a film that has made close to a billion dollars is seen by some as a failure, and other relevant topics.

At the end of the panel, Zack Snyder is going to explode the convention center for no reason and somehow Superman will survive despite being hit with a steel beam made of Kryptonite.

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Wizard World/Instagram

6:30 – 7:00PM IN THE RING WITH WWE SUPERSTAR SASHA BANKS (ROOM 115)

Moderated by Mo Lightning of WrestlingAudio.com, the fastest rising star in the industry is stepping out of the photo and autograph line to do a brief Q&A.

6:00 – 7:00PM SCREEN JUNKIES PRESENTS ‘HONEST TRAILERS’ (ROOM 119AB)

WW: An exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at Screen Junkies’ viral series Honest Trailers. Featuring a never-before-seen Honest Trailers and Q&A with creator Andy Signore, writer Spencer Gilbert, and producer Dan Murrell.

Everyone in attendance must only speak in the movie guy’s voice.

SATURDAY, JUNE 4TH

10:00 – 10:45AM STARTING A CIVIL WAR with TEAM CAP’S CHRIS EVANS, SEBASTIAN STAN and ANTHONY MACKIE (TERRACE BALLROOM)

This panel, moderated by Andy Signore of Screen Junkies, is one of the absolute can’t miss discussions on Saturday. Please leave three seats in the front row open if you get there before me.

11:30 – 12:15PM PROTECTING STAR CITY: STEPHEN AMELL (TERRACE BALLROOM)

Stephen Amell is back again this year, not only talking about this season of Arrow and what that mess of a season finale means for the show moving forward, but also what the potential Flashpoint arc in Central City could do for the Arrowverse.

Oh, yeah, he might also plug the TMNT movie he’s too. There’s a chance that might come up.

12:00 – 12:45PM SUPERPOWER TO THE PEOPLE!: CREATING AND PROMOTING DIVERSE VOICES IN THE GEEK CULTURE (ROOM 120AB)

WW: A look at “atypical” fans who turned their geeky passions into their careers. How they broke into the mainstream and found ways to bring others with them.

Ariell Johnson of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, the first black woman to own a comic book/coffeeshop on the East coast. Claire Folkman and Kelly Phillips, creators of the comic anthology series, Dirty Diamonds. Len Webb of the Black Tribbles podcasting group, one of Philadelphia’s best known pop culture-centric podcasts.

This is a locally-run panel, but a great opportunity to meet some of the people who help the industry thrive in Philly.

12:30 – 1:15PM COME OUT AND PLAY with JAMES REMAR (ROOM 115)

James Remar doesn’t get the ballroom, but the Dexter alum’s panel could be a great opportunity to get up close while everyone else is in line for the panel below:

1:00 – 1:45PM BROTHERLY LOVE, ASGARD STYLE with CHRIS HEMSWORTH and TOM HIDDLESTON (TERRACE BALLROOM)

Thor. Loki. The Huntsman. The Night Manager. George Kirk. James Bond…?

Those seats you saved in the front row? Keep them open for this. Also…you never know when this might happen:

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Instagram

1:00 – 1:45PM VILLAINS VERSUS VILLAINS (ROOM 120AB)

WW: A battle royale between villains! What makes a great monster or just plain psycho-antagonist? Creators divulge which characters claim the best villain award. Why do some win our hearts while others creep us out? 

If the room is too packed to sit in on a panel with Marvel’s best cinematic villain, head over to the panel discussion all about villains. Surely, Loki will come up. Surely. (Also, why does Batman have like four of the best five villains?)

2:00 – 2:45PM THE WALKING DEAD PSYCHOLOGY: PSYCH OF THE LIVING DEAD (ROOM 120AB)

WW: Why have zombie stories grown so popular in the 20th century? Why do some people seem to welcome the idea of a zombie apocalypse? And why has one particular zombie apocalypse story grown so popular?

Will lunch be served?

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Wizard World

2:30 – 3:15PM GREAT SCOTT! REVISITING BACK TO THE FUTURE with MICHAEL J. FOX, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD AND LEA THOMPSON (TERRACE BALLROOM)

It’s your “density” to get to this panel. And I will pay anyone who works at the Convention Center $100 if when someone asks how to get to the Terrace Ballroom you flip on your shades and reply, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” and then walk away.

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Wizard World

4:00 – 4:45PM THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE WITH THE X-FILES’ DAVID DUCHOVNY, MITCH PILEGGI, AND WILLIAM B. DAVIS (TERRACE BALLROOM)

Let’s hope they have a frank discussion about this recent season, and what the hell happened at the end of the last episode. Most likely the panel will be full of adoring fans, but if there is one major panel with the potential to turn ugly, it’s this one. The finale, and really, all the episodes done by Chris Carter, were just that bad.

5:00 – 5:45PM THE MARVEL LEGACY: THE 77-YEAR HISTORY OF THE HOUSE OF IDEAS, FROM THE BEGINNING TO DEADPOOL TO CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR with SPIDER-MAN’S DANNY FINGEROTH & MARVEL UNIVERSE’S PETER SANDERSON (ROOM 120AB)

WW: In 1939, Marvel Comics #1 debuted, unleashing The Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch on the world, and launching what would come to be known as the Marvel Universe. 

Danny Fingeroth and Peter Sanderson will go through the history of the Marvel Universe, from comics to TV to movies. Which character has changed the most? The least? Is anyone else an American hero who has secretly been a Hydra operative for decades?

5:00 – 5:45PM COMMUNITIES OF COLOR: WHY PEOPLE OF COLOR NEED OUR OWN SPACE IN GEEK COMMUNITIES AND HOW TO FIND OR CREATE THESE SPACES (ROOM 115)

WW: In this panel, leading voices of color from the geek community discuss why it’s important for geeks of color to have their own spaces, who should be included, and what they’ve learned from being a part of these spaces.

I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve seen the term “geeks of color” in print. Geeks are people too!

5:15 – 6:00PM BEHIND THE SCENES OF AGENT CARTER with HAYLEY ATWELL and DOMINIC COOPER (TERRACE BALLROOM)

A panel about a show that ABC cancelled, which features a character that just died in Captain America: Civil War! Methinks much of this conversation will be about Hayley Atwell’s new ABC show Conviction, as well as Cooper’s titular role in Preacher on AMC.

6:15 – 7:00PM WIZARD WORLD CONCERT: PERFORMED BY WORLD OF WARCRAFT COMPOSER JASON HAYES AND VIDEO GAME BAND “CRITICAL HIT” (TERRACE BALLROOM)

WW: Embark on a rediscovery of timeless pieces from The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, Super Mario, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, Tetris, Pokemon, Halo, Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and more! Featuring Jason Hayes, lead composer on the original release of World of Warcraft…

That might actually be kind of awesome.

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Dan Levy

7:30 – 9:30PM WIZARD WORLD COSTUME CONTEST SPONSORED BY BANDAI NAMCO (TERRACE BALLROOM)

This will definitely be kind of awesome. It’s also for ages 13 and over and is set for serious cosplay participants only. Don’t show up in your PJs and expect to win.

SUNDAY, JUNE 5TH

All the notable panels are over by Saturday, but most of the biggest stars will be hanging around to make money by standing still while people pay to fawn all over them. No lie, a Chris Hemsworth VIP package (one of the only not sold out yet) will cost $535.

There are, however, some very interesting and potentially meaningful panels to see on Sunday, which is also “kids get in free day” for those with kids older than 10. (Those younger than 10 get in free the whole time.)

11:30 – 12:15PM ISRAELI DEFENSE COMICS (ROOM 115)

WW: Israeli Defense Comics was founded by Joshua H. Stulman in 2012 to create Jewish Super-Hero stories. Join him and veteran comic creator Al Wiesner (Shaloman) as they discuss their Jewish Super-Hero team up in the upcoming issue of Israeli Defense Comics # 3.

Guys, call me because I have got one whopper of a King Ahasuerus arc that’s sure to be a hit with the Haman haters.

12:00 – 12:45PM ADVENTURES IN MIDDLE EARTH WITH BILLY BOYD (ROOM 120AB)

There’s a Pippin ain’t easy joke in here somewhere. Surely the panel’s moderator, Mike Gregorek – host of Man Interviews Audience and Drunk Restoration Comedy – can find it.

12:00 – 12:45PM U CRE-8 COMICS PRESENTS: CHARACTER CRAFTERS (ROOM 117)

WW: Are you the next GREAT comic creator?! Take the Raconteur’s challenge and design your own character from start to finish! Establish powers, design costume ideas, create an origin story and more with U Cre-8 Comics — the PERFECT jumpstart to YOUR comic universe! Hosted by the dreamy Victor Dandridge.

This is a great panel for ‘kids get in free’ day. Any aspiring comic writer or illustrator should check that panel out.

12:30 – 1:15PM BACK TO THE FUTURE: ADVENTURES IN A DELOREAN TIME MACHINE (ROOM 115)

WW: “How to: Build a Time Machine, Fall in Love, Become Rich and Famous, Travel the World, and Cure PD -in 5 Easy Steps.”

Pfft. Five steps? Couldn’t get all that done in four?

Terry and Oliver Holler built their own DeLorean “time machine.” They’ve also help raise awareness and money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Pretty awesome.

1:00 – 1:45PM BEHIND THE ROLES: STANLEY TUCCI (ROOM 120AB)

Stanley Tucci is one of the great characters actors of his time, and he’s worked on several big-budget superhero, fantasy and sci-fi movies, even beyond Captain America and the Hunger Games. Who can forget his groundbreaking work in the Space Chimp franchise?

1:00 – 1:45PM YOU CAN LEARN TO DRAW IN 30 MINUTES! (ROOM 122AB)

WW: Join Emmy award winner Mark Kistler for an inspiring FUNTASTIC interactive family ART ATTACK! This “How to draw in 3-D Workshop With Mark Kistler” is an AWESOME FUN FAMILY EVENT! 

This does sound awesome and funtastic, actually.

2:00 – 2:45PM ONE ON ONE WITH A BOONDOCK SAINT: SEAN PATRICK FLANERY (ROOM 120AB)

This cult classic has a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91% fan rating. That’s incredible.

2:30 – 3:15PM BATTLE OF THE MOVIES (ROOM 115)

WW: Battle of the Movies is a show where we take two films and decide if both were playing in a theater at the same time time but you could only see one which one would you go see. For Example Captain America: Civil War vs Deadpool, which film would you go see over the other?

I will be thinking about this question for the rest of the day. Nay, the week.

3:00 – 3:45PM FROM CONCEPT TO MASTER CHIEF: VIDEO GAME CREATION (ROOM 120AB)

WW: How do your favorite video games come to be? Hear from special guest speakers including Genese Davis (The Holder’s Dominion) and Eric Kieron Davis (Star Citizen) about the game creation process, what questions developers and writers ask, and what key ingredients they pour into each segment of the game.

How did Qbert come to be? No, seriously. How?

3:00 – 3:45PM STAR WARS PSYCHOLOGY: DARK SIDE OF THE MIND (ROOM 122AB)

WW: Why do some follow the ways of the Jedi and the light side of the Force while others turn to the dark? Jedi Council members Dr. Travis Langley (Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind), Josué Cardona (Geek Psych, Game of Thrones Psychology), and Kyle Williamson (Captain Kyle’s Cosplay) shine a light on the hidden side of the psyche and also looks at why Star Wars is simply so much fun. 

I’m less interested in Kylo Ren’s psychology than I am in Chewbacca’s. He’s been the sidekick to a smuggler for 40 years. Now what’s he going to do?

4:15 – 5:00PM WIZARD WORLD KID’S COSTUME CONTEST (ROOM 120AB)

Costumes! Kids! Prizes! The Under-13 costume contest. Plus a warning from Wizard World:

(Serious competitors please note: This is a light hearted event for all skill levels. The Wizard World Adult Costume Contest should be considered for more professional-seeking participants.)

Enjoy the weekend. And if you can’t get in to see all the big stars because it’s too expensive or the lines are too long, there is still plenty to do. And if you want to meet a Marvel hero without waiting in line, send me a Tweet Saturday or Sunday, as I’ll have one with me.

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