10 Comic-Con 2011 panels that should grab every geek

With Comic-Con 2011 opening tonight in San Diego, Calif., we figured more than a few of our regular readers might be interested in what this year's conference has in store for fans of sci-fi, fantasy and super heroes.

Happily, it seems that the market for fantastical books, films and television shows has never been stronger, meaning there's no shortage of great panels and sessions for everyone to choose from. While it was tough narrowing things down, these were the 10 Comic-Con events that we found most intriguing at this year's Mecca of geek culture.

TheOneRing.Net: Hobbit Talk (Thursday, 10 a.m. PDT): It's been nearly a decade since director Peter Jackson wrapped up his classic "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy and now he's back to further mine the work of J.R.R. Tolkien with a two-part film based on "The Hobbit." Clifford Broadway and Larry D. Curtis, who have long written for the Tolkien fan site TheOneRing.net, will run down all of the rumors and reports coming from the set of the two Hobbit films, the first of which is due to be released in 2012.

A One on One with Pee-wee Herman (Thursday, 1:15 p.m. PDT): Pee-wee Herman (a.k.a. comedian Paul Reubens) was a household name for both adults and children in the 1980s before a supremely embarrassing arrest set his career back for years. Pee-wee in on the comeback trail, however, and you can catch a preview of his new Broadway musical (yes, you heard that correctly) and ask questions of the manchild himself at this panel. Hopefully, you won't need to recite a Secret Word to attend it.

DC Comics -- The New 52 (Thursday, 2 p.m. PDT; Friday, 11:15 a.m. PDT; Saturday, 11:15 a.m. PDT; Sunday, 2 p.m. PDT): Yes, DC has decided to relaunch all its super hero titles come September, meaning all of your favorite DC heroes will get their own brand-spanking new No. 1 issues. (We suppose that DC figured it had faked killing off its popular characters so many times that it seemed pointless to strive for any continuity, thus necessitating a fresh start for everyone.) Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Flash will thus be reintroduced to the world in this panel that will span the course of four days.

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Game of Thrones Panel and Q&A session (Thursday, 3 p.m. PDT): Any fantasy geeks worth their salt will tell you that George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series is one of the best fantasy sagas on the planet right now and that HBO's television adaptation of the books, called "A Game of Thrones," is one of the most promising new shows on television. This question-and-answer session will be moderated by Martin himself and will feature several key actors from the series, including Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion, and Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Join Us, It Is Your Destiny (Thursday, 3:30 p.m. PDT): No Comic-Con would be complete without some "Star Wars"-related material, would it? This year, acclaimed video game developer BioWare will be showing off its massive multiplayer role-playing game based on the "Star Wars" universe. If you've ever wished that the formula for World of Warcraft could be reproduced in the realm of Jedis, Sith Lords and galactic bounty hunters, then this panel is for you.

AMC's The Walking Dead (Friday, 11:15 a.m. PDT): One of the cooler new shows to make its debut last year, "The Walking Dead" is better than your average post-apocalyptic zombie thriller series, with sharply written characters and first-rate special effects and makeup. This panel will be a Q&A session with series creator Frank Darabont and several actors and will give fans some key insights into where the show is headed (or possibly beheaded?) in its second season on AMC.

Dungeons & Dragons: How to be a Dungeon Master: The Art of the DM (Friday, 6:30 p.m. PDT): If you've ever been asked to serve as dungeon master during a D&D game, you know that it's not initially an easy task: You've got to have a quick wit, a strong imagination and the ability to tell compelling stories. Chris Perkins, the senior producer for the D&D tabletop RPG series, will provide you with some basic lessons to help get your creative juices flowing and to make a story that enthralls your fellow players.

The Science of Zombies: How Possible is a Zombie Virus? (Friday, 7:30 p.m. PDT): The folks at Comic-Con haven't listed specific guests yet but they do promise that "an esteemed medical professional in the field of brain research" will join the creators of the new Dead Island zombie video game to answer the burning question of whether zombies could really walk among us someday. While we're hoping the answer is no, we'll certainly be interested to learn about the science that underpins the concept of undead flesh eaters.

From Buddha to Batman: Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison Discuss the Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes (Saturday, 10 a.m. PDT): Morrison is a renowned comics writer best known for his work in Animal Man, New X-Men, Doom Patrol and The Invisibles. Chopra is a world-famous spiritual physician and figurehead of the alternative medicine movement. Together they're going to discuss the spiritual relevance and symbolism of super heroes, using Chopra's book "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes" as a starting point. This will certainly be one of the most unique Comic-Con panels in recent memory.

Remembering Harvey Pekar (Saturday, 1 p.m. PDT): During his 70 years on this earth, Harvey Pekar created comic book heroes that possessed no super powers. Instead, most of them were cribbed directly from his life working as a file clerk in the Cleveland Veteran's Administration Hospital.

When Pekar died last year, it was a great loss of one of the industry's most unique and beloved voices. This panel will feature his widow (and fellow comics writer) Joyce Brabner, as well as several artists and editors who collaborated with Pekar throughout the past 30 years, who will all pay tribute to Cleveland's most famous file clerk.

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