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Comic-con 2009

When to be where

July 22, 2009

Passes to Comic-Con sold out months ago, but for those making the trip to San Diego, here's a guide to some must-see panels and programming that will make the lines worth the wait.

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The One: James Cameron and 'Avatar'

Thursday, 3 p.m., Hall H

"The game-changer." That's the nickname in some Hollywood circles for "Avatar," the December alien-planet saga by James Cameron. Cameron is beloved in the fanboy sector for the first two films in the "Terminator" franchise, "Aliens" and the underwater (and underrated) 1989 adventure "The Abyss," and he has been sitting on this project for more than a decade waiting for effects technology to catch up to his story, which is a sort of futuristic "Dances With Wolves" about a tough-guy Marine (Sam Worthington) who goes native on a rain-forest planet populated by big blue creatures. The 3-D technology, the new motion-capture approach (producer Jon Landau calls it "emotion capture" because of its nuance) and the immersive nature of the story led to the whispers that this is game-changing stuff. Cameron will be on the panel with stars (Sigourney Weaver and Worthington among them) and Landau.

Hitting Bikini Bottom: SpongeBob SquarePants

Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Room 6 D/E

It's the 10th anniversary of "SpongeBob SquarePants," that surreal saltwater fantasy about the denizens of Bikini Bottom. Are you ready, kids? The cast, led by the rubber-throated Tom Kenney, will do a live table reading of a classic episode from the first season of the Nickelodeon series. There will also be a Q&A and the screening of a never-before-seen episode titled "Greasy Buffoons."

Do the Vamp: 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon'

Thursday at 1:45 p.m., Hall H

The oh-so-dreamy Robert Pattinson and other cast members will stroll to the microphone on Thursday, and thousands of young girls (and some not-so-young girls and even a few dudes) will scream, swoon and shake in a way that recalls the old 'N Sync concerts. The movie arrives in theaters this November and, we suspect, the shrieking will last until then. This slot of Hall H time will be split with other Summit Entertainment features, among them the promising "Astro Boy."

Star Power: 'Iron Man 2'

Saturday, 4 p.m., Hall H

You want movie stars? Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson are all expected for this panel, which is the first look at director Jon Favreau's follow-up to his summer 2008 hit "Iron Man." It's not clear what Favreau will bring in the way of footage or sneak peeks (the movie just finished principal shooting last week), but the director is the master of working the crowd and, well, if things go slow he can just ask Downey to do one of his trademark riffs on the cosmos, jello, foreign films or whatever else is bouncing around his charmingly nutty noggin.

Killer Comics: Darwyn Cooke's 'The Hunter'

Friday, 2 p.m., Room 4

The coolest graphic novel of the year is "The Hunter," a retro-styled crime tale (it looks like "Mad Men," it reads like "The Grifters") featuring the sublime illustrations of Darwyn Cooke, the star artist behind the stylish Space Age saga "DC: The New Frontier." "The Hunter" is based on Donald E. Westlake's 1962 novel of the same title, which introduced Parker, the scowling, implacable career criminal who was the basis for films such as "Point Blank" with Lee Marvin and "Payback" with Mel Gibson. The heritage of the project is interesting but, really, all that matters is right there on the pages of the graphic novel. Cooke is also on a panel with other noir-minded comics creators (that one is 2 p.m. Thursday, Room 5AB) if you want to learn about more killer comics without capes.

TV Body Count: 'Dexter,' 'True Blood,' 'Bones'

Various times, Ballroom 20

Superheroes? Who said Comic-Con is all about superheroes? Take these panels with the stars of three of the best (and sexiest) shows on television. "True Blood" (5:15 p.m. Saturday, Ballroom 20) is the raunchy, gory and loopy Louisiana-based show about vampires who "come out of the casket" in modern-day America and spend a lot less time posing than the bloodsuckers in "Twilight." The "Bones" panel (3 p.m. Friday, Ballroom 20) features show runner Hart Hanson and stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, who will be making their first big public appearance since rolling around in the sack together on the season finale. The new season of "Dexter" premieres Sept. 27, and everyone's favorite do-good serial killer will be married this time around; star Michael C. Hall leads the panel (5 p.m. Thursday, Ballroom 20), which will be moderated by KROQ-FM (106.7) funnyman Ralph Garman. Also: HBO's "True Blood" is sponsoring this year's Masquerade Ball, which begins at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, also in Ballroom 20.

Unalive and Kicking: Zombie Walk

Thursday, 7:30 p.m., 4th and Broadway

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