San Diego Comic Con is the biggest pop-culture event in the world. From parties and panels to secret events and surprise moments, the con is pure magic, and no written description will do it justice—you have to experience it for yourself.
We decided to look back at some of our favorite moments in recent convention history. Without further ado…
Stan Lee Crashes the Iron Man Panel
In 2007, the MCU was barely a glimmer in Kevin Feige’s eye. Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Avi Arad, and others took to the SDCC stage to premiere the very first trailer for Iron Man, wowing the crowd. As they answered questions from the audience, Favreau announced that they had a special surprise guest who had a “small” part in the movie. Suddenly, Stan Lee bounded out onto the stage, astonishing the fans. Stan quipped that he just came to watch the panel when they pulled him up onstage. He reminisced with RDJ about their first lunch together, while Favreau explained how Stan’s Iron Man comics pushed the envelope by featuring a weapons manufacturer who was somehow a lovable character. It was a rollicking kickoff to what would become the massively successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Scott Pilgrim Surprise Screening
In 2010, Edgar Wright was riding high after directing the back-to-back critical and box office successes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. He came to San Diego Comic Con to hold a panel on his newest film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. During the panel Wright declared that he was holding a surprise early screening of the movie, nearly a month before its theatrical release. The director personally walked the entire horde of attendees over to a local theater where they were treated to free popcorn and soda while Dan the Automator and Kid Koala played a set for them. After the movie ended the screen lifted up, revealing the band Metric who played a free concert. For fans who were just expecting a panel, this was one SDCC experience they would never forget.
The Avengers Assemble for the First Time
Not to be outdone by Scott Pilgrim in 2010, Marvel Studios had something exceptional up their sleeve for their Hall H panel. While Kevin Feige and company were finishing up presenting their panels for Thor and Captain America, they mentioned that they had one more thing to show the fans. Suddenly, Nick Fury himself (Samuel L. Jackson) strutted out onto the stage. One by one, Fury went through the roster of Avengers and like magic they each walked onto the stage to raucous applause: SHIELD agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and finally capping it off with a few words from The Avenger’s director, Joss Whedon. It was the first time the iconic team ever appeared together, and the rest is history.
Loki Takes Control of Hall H
During the 2013 Marvel Studios presentation in Hall H fans got something they couldn’t predict: They were conscripted into Loki’s army. Kevin Feige was speaking on stage about the postproduction process on Thor: The Dark World when his microphone suddenly cut out and the lights shut down, plunging Hall H into complete blackness. Suddenly, Loki’s voice echoed through the cavernous room. At first the fans stayed silent, unsure of what was happening, but they soon caught on and erupted into applause. With a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning the lights were restored, and Tom Hiddleston was standing on the stage in full Loki costume. He marched back and forth, hamming it up and demanding the crowd pledge allegiance and kneel before him. When the all-too willing mob obliged, Loki agreed to show them footage of the new Thor movie. And just like that, Loki had a brand-new legion of followers.
Secret Star Wars Concert
In 2015 the world was on the verge of a brand-new Star Wars trilogy produced by Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios. Director J.J. Abrams hosted a packed panel with the entire casts of both the new movie and the original trilogy, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. When the topic moved toward the films’ music, Abrams casually announced that the entire audience of 6,500 people would now be attending a live Star Wars Concert behind the convention center. First Order Stormtroopers suddenly appeared to escort the massive and shocked crowd to the impromptu performance. Along the way everyone was given free toy lightsabers. Once inside the venue, the completely awed mass was treated to a spectacular concert by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. The sea of fans with multicolored lightsabers created a magically charged atmosphere. As the concert climaxed with the Star Wars theme, a stunning firework show erupted out over the San Diego Bay. Of all the exceptional moments at SDCC over the years, this is the one to beat.
The Biggest Superhero Selfie
Way back in 2015, before Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, there was a Fox/Marvel Cinematic Universe. The continuity wasn’t as tightly managed as the MCU, but it loosely consisted of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool franchises. At the Fox panel in Hall H that year, host Chris Hardwick decided that he wanted to see how many superheroes he could cram into one epic selfie. The sweet pic included all three casts with such mega stars as Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Channing Tatum, Oscar Isaac, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Olivia Munn, just to name a few. And who popped into the panel to top off the monumental selfie? Stan “The Man” Lee of course! After the picture was snapped, he quipped, “Now that’s a way to end a panel!” And an article. Nuff’said.