Comic-Con 2012 Photo Round-Up: Friday in Ballroom 20

Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston

On the floor of Comic-Con, the everyman is king. But in the panels, celebrities rule supreme, and not just any celebrities. Sure, Comic-Con has plenty of sessions devoted to works of dubious artistic merit — I’m looking at you, Twilight — but for the most part, the convention attracts artists worthy of their fans’ devotion. And to Comic-Con’s credit, that spotlight is often shared not just by the actors from the works we love, but by the writers, directors, and other behind-the-scenes talent as well.

Ballroom 20 struck a good balance between on-air and off-air talent on Friday. In fact, the room had such a stellar lineup of events that we designated it our Friday “campground” in our list of Comic-Con picks for the year. The day kicked off with a panel for the beloved NBC show Community, but it was the following session, the 10-year reunion of the cast of Firefly, that brought the fans out in swarms.

And swarm they did, lining up outside Ballroom 20 at 3 a.m. the night before. By 9 a.m., anyone entering the line was informed that they didn’t have a chance in hell of making it into the room until after the Bones session at 1:45 p.m.

But we showed them, getting into the room slightly before the end of the Bones session. Stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel had an easy-enough rapport, and executive producer Stephen Nathan mostly just let banter or sat respectfully silent while fans snuck in questions for Boreanaz about Angel.

Next, the CW screened the pilot for their new show, Arrow, based on the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow, but minus the “Green” because the kids love brevity and stuff. The lackluster episode fit comfortably in the Smallville vein of not trying too hard, and the result was perfect for fans of medium-budget action and low-budget acting.

From left: Kristin Kreuk, Nikki Reed, Sarah Wayne Callies, Anna Torv, Kristen Bauer van Straten

Next, Entertainment Weekly hosted its annual Powerful Women in Pop session, featuring guests Kristen Bauer van Straten (True Blood), Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), and fan-favorite Anna Torv (Fringe). EW’s Lynette Rice mostly tossed softball questions to the panelists, with the classy Bauer van Straten and Torv acquitting themselves better than younger, starrier-eyed actresses Nikki Reed (Twilight) and Kristin Kreuk (Smallville).

Next up, Joss Whedon took to the stage for a Dark Horse-sponsored panel that was less about the company’s current run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics and spin-offs and more about how awesome Joss Whedon is. Given the cult auteur’s recent success with The Avengers, it was hard to argue with that assessment. Whedon proved himself as witty on stage as he is on paper, effortlessly crafting running gags and responses that kept the adoring crowd amused. It’s great to see a top-shelf artist like Whedon finally get the mainstream respect he deserves, and if the session felt like a victory lap, no one could begrudge him the jog.

Finally, creator Vince Gilligan and the cast of AMC’s Breaking Bad assembled on the Ballroom 20 stage to talk about the show’s latest (and final) season. Breaking Bad might be one of the most intense shows on television, but the cast didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Dean Norris emerged in a Xena costume, his exposed, substantial belly hanging freely. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul came out dressed in signature Walt and Jesse hazmat suits, dropping a fake baby and tossing out blue “meth” to the crowd. Cranston and Paul shared an obvious mutual respect and admiration, so it’s no wonder that they’re able to make viewers care so deeply about the relationship between their characters.

For a guy who created one of the best shows ever made, Gilligan had an low-key, aw-shucks humility to him. He teased plot elements from season five but was careful not to give away too much. Gilligan even keeps his actors in the dark, and no one present seemed to have any idea where the story would go after the season’s first eight episodes.

But without a doubt, the big fish in the room was Cranston. Whenever he spoke, all eyes in the room fixed on him. The actor had a gravitas to him that demanded your attention, and everything he said was steeped in an authoritative intelligence. Cranston at times even seemed to slip into character, folding his arms and glibly defending himself whenever someone would criticize his character’s immoral actions. Even though such moments were played for laughs, it was thrilling to see Walter White appear on stage, if only in passing.

Comic-Con 2012 Photo Round-Up: Friday in Ballroom 20

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