The Best Of Comic-Con: The Coolest And Most Important Moments In Hall H History

As we prepare for another year at San Diego Comic Con International, I wanted to take a look back at the best moments in Comic Con history. What are the coolest and most eventful things to happen over the last decade while sitting in Hall H? What makes a great Comic Con moment? Lets take a look back at the best comic-con moments of all time.

So before we get started, lets get a few things out of the way: Like any other list ever created, this grouping is completely subjective. This is a list of the best Comic-Con moments according to me.

Who am I to make such a listing? I've been attending and covering San Diego Comic Con International for nine years, which is only a fraction of the 45 years the event has been going on. So yes, this list is heavily based in the last decade of the convention — but it could also be argued that the the event really became mainstream over the last decade even though Hollywood has been coming to the convention since before I was born. (For example, Star Wars had a small presentation at 1977 edition of the con.) So if you want, consider this list The Best Comic-Con Moments From 2006 to Today.

And while I'm sure there are many amazing moments to take place outside of Hall H and the movie presentations, this list is primarily focused on those panels. So if you're looking for a more extensive list that covers comic books, television, video games and cosplay, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Also I decided not to rank these moments but instead present them in chronological order.

The Best Comic-Con Moments of All Time

2006: Kevin Feige Predicts The Avengers

This may have not been a big moment at the time, but the long term impact might be the biggest to ever happen at Comic Con. At the 2006 edition of the convention, Marvel had a presentation in one of the smaller halls, not even Hall H, if you can believe it. During the Q&A, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige was asked about the possibilities of crossovers amongst the Marvel heroes. His answer teased the possibility of a movie version of The Avengers.

Jon Favreau was on the panel talking about Iron Man, and Louis Leterrier was talking about The Incredible Hulk, and Edgar Wright was talking about Ant Man. And somebody asked, "Could the characters cross over? Is this person ever going to meet this person?" I was asked, "Are we ever going to see the Avengers on screen?" And I said, "Who knows. This is a big new experiment for Marvel. But it's no coincidence that we have the rights to Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Cap –" and the whole audience started cheering. That was one of the moments where I went, boy, if only, if only we could actually sort of pull this all together.

And pull it together they did, which is why I think this is one of best moments of Comic Con history.

2007: Dark Knight Viral Takes Over San Diego

Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight were a no show in Hall H in 2007, but the Batman sequel took over the San Diego streets with the beginning of a viral marketing campaign which would become known as the biggest and best of its kind. The viral event involved a clue written in the sky, and a band of players in Joker make-up running around San Diego in a scavenger hunt to reveal a teaser trailer online.The Dark Knight viral continued after the Con ended, leading to some really awesome events and games. (Watch the whole video above which recaps the entire viral.) I think it's a shame that everyone points to Scott Pilgrim and Tron Legacy as examples of how Comic Con fandom doesn't help translate into box office, but many ignore a successful film like The Dark Knight, and viral marketing like this has now been brushed off as nothing more than fan service.

2007: First Iron Man Trailer Debut

Director Jon Favreau showed up at San Diego with his cast and crew and a teaser trailer for the film which had just finished shooting a couple weeks prior. Nowadays, studios plan for Comic Con, sometimes showing footage from films still in production. (Marvel has been known to pay to have visual effects footage done specifically in preparation for the July con.) At the time, however, it was not expected that Marvel would show up at the convention with a full trailer. And not just any trailer, one of the best teaser trailers of all time. It knocked the socks off the packed Hall H crowd.

It's easy to look back and now see how obvious it was that Iron Man was going to be a mega hit, but at the time it wasn't so obvious. Nowadays a film like Iron Man could get its own panel, but Iron Man was only just a small part of Paramount's panel which included eight other films. Actually, Iron Man was not even the headliner of the panel; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Trek followed the short Iron Man segment. Favreau has even credited Comic Con for helping to launch Iron Man into the mainstream.

2008: Twilight Fans Take Over Hall H

Some fanboys might say this belongs on a worst moments in Comic Con list, but the invasion of the Twihards was an important moment for the San Diego convention. Twilight's appearance at the 2009 edition of the convention marked a huge change in what kind of films would appear in Hall H. Not only that, it upped the ante in terms of extreme fandom. Twilight fans lined up over a day in advance to see Summit's New Moon panel the following afternoon.

That extreme was unheard of at the time, but lining up overnight quickly became the norm in the years that followed. Even Comic Con had to respond and started issuing wristbands to try to discourage fans camping out in line overnight. Sure, someone's mom asking Robert Pattinson what kind of underwear he wears might have been painfully embarrassing but Twilight, like it or hate it, helped elevated Hall H to a new level of hype and fandom.

2008: Tron Legacy Announced Via a Surprise Trailer

Disney snuck a surprise at the end of their Race To Witch Mountain presentation: a teaser trailer for a film that wasn't even supposed to be in production. Not only that, it was a sequel to the fan favorite geek film Tron. The audience in Hall H was shocked when Disney offered this "one more thing" surprise at the end of their panel. The Tron: Legacy teaser trailer was actually filmed as a proof of concept to pitch the film to the studio.

The teaser starts off with the camera panning through a strange stylized landscape. At this point, nobody knew what we were watching, so only silence filled the hall. And then, two blue/yellow suit-wearing motorcyclists burst into frame, engaged in a frenzy of a race. Audiences erupted in applause. The race continues to grow heated between the two players until the yellow guy finds a way to swerve in front of the blue, leaving his yellow race trail behind him. The blue guy smashes into it and causes sort of an electric ripple, launching him over the edge of the track. He grabs on a ledge, just barely holding on. We then see a bearded Jeff Bridges in his house, sitting calmly with his legs crossed. Back to the virtual world, we see the yellow guy standing over the blue. His visor lifts up, revealing Bridges underneath. The blue guy shouts, "This is just a game!" Bridges looks down, smiles, and pulls out a glowing yellow circular disc. Looking at the camera, he swings the disc down violently and the title lights up on screen: Tr2n.

Above you can watch a more-refined version of the Tron 2 teaser trailer which shocked Comic Con in 2008. The film went on to enjoy two more years at the convention, and the filmmakers even recorded sound for the arena scene in Hall H — so SDCC is in the movie. The second year in San Diego, Disney returned with a viral game which brought fans inside Flynn's Arcade and into the game itself to hang out in a recreation of the End of Line Club from the film. That viral event might be deserving of its own entry on this list.

Unfortunately Tron: Legacy is the most cited example of movie marketing at Comic Con not having a greater effect in the real world: the sequel grossed only $172 million domestically. (But still, the worldwide total and fan excitement has had Disney mulling another sequel ever since.)

2009: Saying Goodbye to Lost

For a Lost fan like me, this presentation was like heaven. It featured executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse on stage answering fan questions in fantastically cryptic ways (as always), but also featured some great bits from the cast of the series asking questions at the Q&A and an appearance from Paul Scheer which launched the DamonCarltonAndAPolarBear viral, which gave birth to the Lost art show, which had a huge impact on the rise of the pop culture screenprint movement.

The presentation also featured some great videos, including a commercial for Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack featuring Hurley, a short commercial depicting Oceanic Airlines with a perfect safety record and a segment from America's Most Wanted featuring Kate. The presentation was a great emotional send-off to the series, and offered some great teases about the final season of the show. You can find the whole panel on YouTube (sadly without the on screen videos) here.

James Cameron Avatar

2009: James Cameron Previews 25 Minutes of Avatar

James Cameron surprised the packed Hall H crowd of 6,000 fans to screen 25 minutes of footage for his then-upcoming science fiction film Avatar. This wasn't just a long preview but our first real glimpse at the film, which went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time. Many fans at the presentation were wowed by the spectacle, including us.

2010: Scott Pilgrim vs. San Diego

During the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World panel, director Edgar Wright announced that they would be screening the film for lucky attendees shortly after the panel ended. The filmmaker personally walked a massive crowd of attendees to the Balboa Theater, where they were treated to beats laid down by Dan the Automator and Kid Koala before the screening began. After the film ended, the movie screen lifted to reveal Metric, who played a small concert including their contribution to the film. We wrote at the time:

Needless to say, the experience was magical — despite being well aware that it was just a well-played marketing move. I think Time's Lev Grossman described it best by calling it  "pampering on the level that makes you feel like you're some kind of evil ancient god-emperor."

You can get a glimpse of the post screening above. It is still considered by many as one of the best marketing displays at San Diego Comic Con. Sadly, like Tron: Legacy, the film's box office is often pointed as an example of why studios shouldn't invest too much marketing to the Comic Con crowd.

2010: Avengers Cast Has On-Stage Roll Call

At the end of the Captain America and Thor presentation at the 2010 Comic Con, Marvel Studios surprised fans with "one more thing" by revealing the cast of The Avengers. Sure, most of the members were already confirmed, but the speculation on who would play The Hulk came down to the day or two before the presentation. Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson, came on stage to introduce his group of Avengers, including their director Joss Whedon. It was one of those moments that might not read like much more than a photo op on paper, but it turned out to be pure magic on stage. Watch the clip above and relive the moment for yourself.

2011: Andrew Garfield Shows Up In Spider-Man Costume To Give Emotional Speech

Okay so The Amazing Spider-Man didn't turn out as well as we had hoped, but no one in Hall H in 2011 will forget the film's star Andrew Garfield's surprise appearance in a Spider-Man costume during the Sony panel. Garfield showed up in character to read a passionate heartfelt speech from a Spider-man fan, to the Spider-man fans packed in the hall. This is also the first notable time that an actor dressed in character at a Hall H presentation, something that has been emulated in various capacities in the years that followed.

2012: Hall H Screen Expands Around the Audience

Every year at Comic Con one of the movie studios tries to go bigger than all the others, but nothing yet has topped what Warner Bros. pulled off in 2012. As The Hobbit presentation was about to begin, the huge screen in Hall H began to expand. The curtains on the walls to the left and right began to be pulled back to reveal screens that enveloped most of the audience inside the projection. The video above doesn't do this justice, but shows you how big the expanded screen actually is. While people left the presentation talking about Pacific Rim and that surprise Godzilla teaser trailer, they were also abuzz about the screens. Legendary Pictures has continued to expand the screens in their presentations in Hall H ever since.

2012: Surprise Godzilla Teaser Trailer

Legendary has tried to surprise the Hall H audience year after year, and in 2012 they delivered the goods: another vfx test, kind of like the one Disney had for Tron: Legacy years earlier. This one was for the announced Gareth EdwardsGodzilla reboot.

The teaser (which was shown twice) is fairly brief, with the camera slowly moving through an utterly devastated urban landscape. There's even a building that looks like a monster walked right through it, and we see the suggestion of a six-armed beast lying dead in rubble. Then the money shot: Godzilla, seen from behind, turning his head to the camera in profile before emitting the monster's signature screech. The vision of Godzilla was more a suggestion than a detailed reveal, but the guy is HUGE, with a tail and spines up his back that are very clearly meant to evoke the classic creature design. The head is a bit more elongated than the first couple iterations of the beast, but not to the degree of the version seen in the Emmerich remake.

The teaser trailer had all the buzz of the 2012 convention, with tons of fans at home trying to watch bootlegged versions before the studio quickly removed them.

2013: Loki Shows up

Tom Hiddleston certainly wasn't the first actor to show up on the Hall H stage in costume and in character, but when Loki appeared during the Marvel Studios presentation in 2013, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. For many fans, this was the best thing to happen in Hall H that year. It wasn't footage, it wasn't a reveal of information about an upcoming film, it was just fun. I think sometimes movie studios doubt themselves and put too much value in the footage. Sure, the fans at Comic Con want to see footage, but a once in a lifetime experience like this can be even better.

2013/2014: Batman V Superman Announcement and Dawn of Justice Teaser Footage Screened

I'm going to combine these two just to make things easier. Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has had a great run in San Diego. In 2013, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder invited Harry Lennix on stage to read a passage from the story which inspired Snyder's next Superman film. The passage was from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Russ Fischer wrote:

One of the loudest crowd sounds I've ever heard in my life was the deafening roar that erupted in Hall H at Comic Con this year when Zack Snyder rolled a short video in which Superman's 'S' logo appeared, then was shadowed by Batman's own symbol.

A year later Snyder returned with a reveal of Wonder Woman and a brief clip of Batman in his armored suit looking up in the rain at Superman floating above him. The amazing translation of Frank Miller's comic book imagery brought the Hall H crowd to some of the loudest screams I've ever heard in that room.

Star Wars concert

2015: Surprise Star Wars Concert

Our own Ethan Anderton called it "one of the best Comic Con surprises of all time." The Star Wars: the Force Awakens panel was fun, featuring a good mix of new cast members John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie and Domhnall Gleeson and classic heroes Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. But the big surprise came at the end of the panel when director J.J. Abrams invited the entire crowd of Hall H, about 6,500 people, to a live Star Wars concert behind the convention center. At the impromptu concert venue, fans were given free Hasbro toy lightsabers and took in an evening of Star Wars music followed by fireworks.

I can't imagine how Disney was able to keep this whole thing secret, especially with the amount of people that needed to be involved to pull off this stunt. At the end of the day, it will probably remain most people's best memory from the convention.

Robocop at Comic Con

Conclusions: What Makes the Best of Comic Con?

To be a great moment in Comic Con's Hall H, I think you need to have one of the following things:

  • The Power of Surprise: So many of the great moments in Hall H history have the power of the unexpected. Both Disney/Marvel and Legendary Pictures have emulated Steve Jobs' "One More Thing" to great effect at these events. Sometimes you don't need to have amazing footage to get buzz, you just need a good reveal, a fun unexpected appearance or an announcement.
  • Great or Early Footage: Of course, if a movie studio has great footage they may as well show it. And if you don't have great footage, if you present something cool super-early, the Hall H crowd often is appreciative.
  • Fun Appearances: It's not enough to have your film's star come on stage at Hall H and answer a few questions about the movie — the appearance needs to be fun or  rewarding. Or, in the case of The Avengers roll call, epic.
  • Heartfelt Real Moments: When the creators can connect with the fans on that deeper level, it can be magical. Fans appreciate the more real non-scripted moments that happen on stage at Hall H, and sometimes studios are afraid to let those happen. I almost included Ryan Reynolds reciting the Green Lantern oath to a kid in the crowd on this list but decided it probably wouldn't have lasting power — but it is moments like these that makes it worth it for all those fans who wait in line overnight to get a seat in that convention center hall.
  • What will be the best moment of this year's Comic Con? Lets find out...