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The best of Comic-Con 2018: 'Doctor Who,' Taco Bell, celebrity cosplay and more

The best of Comic-Con 2018: 'Doctor Who,' Taco Bell, celebrity cosplay and more
(clockwise) Wesley Snipes, Jodie Whitaker, a "Demolition Man" Taco Bell activation, Ruth Negga, Ezra Miller and an activation for NBC's "The Good Place." (Jay L. Cledinen / Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

They came, they saw, they con-quered.

More than 100,000 fans geeked out over superheroes and sneak peeks at some of Hollywood’s most anticipated blockbusters and TV shows at the annual San Diego Comic-Con, but the most memorable moments weren’t limited to the Hall H stage.

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From splashy “Aquaman” footage to the first female Doctor Who to Ezra Miller’s reign as our greatest celebrity cosplayer, the best moments from Comic-Con 2018 had fans buzzing at the biggest pop culture event of the year.

Actor Orlando Jones leads SyFy Marching Band down 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter on the first day of Comic-Con.
Actor Orlando Jones leads SyFy Marching Band down 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter on the first day of Comic-Con. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Syfy makes noise with a marching band (and a karaoke bus)

Don’t tell Syfy that this year’s Comic-Con was any less vital in the absence of brands like HBO and “Star Wars” — they were all in with a scheduled 10 panels and multiple activations.

Some of these promotions were moving targets with a New Orleans-style second-line brass band led by actor Orlando Jones that swung through music from “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” down Fifth Avenue in the center of the Gaslamp Quarter. The area is hard enough to navigate during Comic-Con, but that didn’t stop another promotion a few blocks away in a slow-rolling bus that functioned as a network billboard as fans belted out karaoke from the open top.

What did any these have to do with Syfy’s programming, which tilts toward the genre of the network's name with shows by the Russo Brothers and George R.R. Martin? Only the fans know.

Jodie Whittaker from "Doctor Who" photographed in the L.A. Times Photo and Video Studio at Comic-Con 2018.
Jodie Whittaker from "Doctor Who" photographed in the L.A. Times Photo and Video Studio at Comic-Con 2018. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The new ‘Doctor’ is in

“My name is Amelia and I’ve actually been waiting for a girl Doctor for a very long time,” a young fan said during the panel for the venerable British series "Doctor Who," which will enter a new era this fall as its title character will be portrayed by a woman, Jodie Whittaker, for the first time.

A cheer rippled across Hall H in response to the girl's statement. “You’ll make me cry,” Whittaker said, and the fan went on to ask whether the Doctor would include more "girl stuff" in the new season.

Whittaker responded that her character — in accordance with some 55 years of on-screen existence — is an alien, and thus neither female or male. Or, as she explained with a grin at an earlier press conference, "I've got two hearts, so I can do whatever I want.”

From left to right, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul with baby Story Annabelle Paul, and Bryan Cranston walk onstage at the "Breaking Bad" 10th anniversary celebration during Comic-Con 2018.
From left to right, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul with baby Story Annabelle Paul, and Bryan Cranston walk onstage at the "Breaking Bad" 10th anniversary celebration during Comic-Con 2018. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Reunited and it feels so good (to be ‘Bad’)

“Breaking Bad” brought a touch of 2008 to Comic-Con as the show celebrated its 10th anniversary with a Hall H panel on Thursday.

Although there was talk about how Walter White’s signature blue meth was the actual cause of the zombie outbreak in fellow AMC show “The Walking Dead” — “it’s canon,” according to “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman — the favored topic was bringing the cast and characters back together by any means necessary.

One audience member proposed a “Malcolm in the Middle” reboot with Aaron Paul portraying Bryan Cranston’s character’s son (“I would be so down,” Paul said), and another asked about the possibility for a future movie. Cranston, who confirmed that Walter White is indeed dead, dismissed the idea. However, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan remained less certain. “I love that question,” he said, as surely a few hopes in the hall took flight. “Anything’s possible.”

People hang out in the Demolition Man Taco Bell 2032 activation space during the first day of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International.
People hang out in the Demolition Man Taco Bell 2032 activation space during the first day of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
‘Demolition Man’ and Taco Bell join forces

The biggest and buzziest surprise at this year’s con was born of a marriage made in the future: an immersive collaboration between Warner Bros.’ 1993 cult sci-fi film “Demolition Man” and fast food chain Taco Bell. Re-creating the “only restaurant to survive the franchise wars,” per the Sylvester Stallone-Wesley Snipes film set in 2032, the iconic restaurant scene came to vivid life for lucky fans who stood in line for hours. Inside offered lucky diners cocktails, a four-course meal, robot waiters and yes, the three seashells. The result: Two great geek tastes that tasted great together and raised the bar for the experiential marketing industry that continues to explode into the streets of Comic-Con.

Danai Gurira, right, and from left, Robert Kirkman and Angela Kang, hug Andrew Lincoln at a panel for "The Walking Dead" during Comic-Con International on Friday, July 20, 2018, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Danai Gurira, right, and from left, Robert Kirkman and Angela Kang, hug Andrew Lincoln at a panel for "The Walking Dead" during Comic-Con International on Friday, July 20, 2018, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP) (Richard Shotwell/ Invision/Associated Press)
A family affair for ‘The Walking Dead’

At “The Walking Dead” panel inside Hall H, star Andrew Lincoln confirmed to a chorus of disappointment that this would be his final run as Rick Grimes. “Now hear me out, please,” he went on. “I love this show; it means everything to me — I promise not to cry. I’ve done enough crying on the screen.”

After speaking more about how much “The Walking Dead” and its fans have meant to him, Lincoln paused and asked the crowd, “I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” The fans assured him he was not.

Lincoln wasn’t the only emotional one as costar Norman Reedus pulled the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation for Lincoln, which culminated in a cast group hug. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown, left, with "Halloween" star Jamie Lee Curtis and director David Gordon Green at Universal Pictures' "Glass" and "Halloween" panels during Comic-Con International 2018.
Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown, left, with "Halloween" star Jamie Lee Curtis and director David Gordon Green at Universal Pictures' "Glass" and "Halloween" panels during Comic-Con International 2018. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Tears, no fear, for Jamie Lee Curtis at ‘Halloween’ panel

Universal’s “Halloween” presentation for the upcoming sequel got unexpectedly emotional when one fan stepped up to the microphone during the panel Q&A to tell star Jamie Lee Curtis how her Laurie Strode helped him escape an attacker in real life.

“I’m here today because of the way that you portrayed Laurie Strode,” he said, breaking down in tears before Curtis ran offstage in front of thousands of applauding fans to embrace him. “I’m a victor and not a victim.”

Along with his "Fantastic Beasts" costars Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne and Callum Turner, Ezra Miller is photographed in full costume at the L.A. Times Photo and Video Studio at Comic-Con 2018.
Along with his "Fantastic Beasts" costars Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne and Callum Turner, Ezra Miller is photographed in full costume at the L.A. Times Photo and Video Studio at Comic-Con 2018. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Ezra Miller’s Toadette cosplay wins Comic-Con

Fans in incredible costumes abound each year at Comic-Con, where Storm Troopers, X-Men and a lot of Spideys and Deadpools were spotted strolling the convention halls and Gaslamp streets last week.

While WWE superstar John Cena scored huge nerd points for roaming the con in a bright yellow “Bumblebee” outfit, it was “Fantastic Beasts” star Ezra Miller who — once again — took home the crown as the No. 1 celeb cosplayer of Comic-Con. In 2016, he dressed as Gandalf for his first Hall H panel. Last year, he showed up in a “Fullmetal Alchemist” Edward Elric outfit. This year, Miller worked it in pink and white Toadette cosplay — and wore it all day as he did the press rounds. As the saying goes: Not all heroes wear capes.

The cast of "Aquaman," from left, director James Wan and actors Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard and Jason Momoa pose before an autograph session at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International.
The cast of "Aquaman," from left, director James Wan and actors Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard and Jason Momoa pose before an autograph session at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Aquaman passes the Hall H test with flying colors

From “Iron Man” to “Man of Steel,” many a superhero franchise has been launched from the hallowed Hall H stage. This year it was “Aquaman”’s turn to make a splash.

Warner Bros. handily dominated Hall H this year with panels for “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and more at Comic-Con’s biggest arena, where the studio unspooled innovative visuals on its exclusive wraparound screens and brought interactive light-up bracelets for all 6,500 fans in attendance.

“Aquaman” director James Wan came packing a new trailer for the December blockbuster and treated the hardcore fans to an extended version with even more action and a coveted reveal of Jason Momoa in the iconic Aquaman suit — a special reward for the Comic-Con fans, some of whom had lined up overnight for a first glimpse at the superhero standalone.

Rally for Rose Tico unites ‘Star Wars’ fans

“Star Wars” fans showed up for “Last Jedi” star Kelly Marie Tran, who deleted her social media posts in June after being harassed online by trolls. That meant that the Rose Tico cosplay at this year’s Comic-Con was a particularly meaningful show of support for the actress — even more so Saturday, when Tran fans in “Rose for Hope” T-shirts and a squadron of Tico cosplayers gathered to stage an empowering Rally for Rose on the convention’s busiest day.

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Using the hashtags #ForceOutHate and #RallyForRose, the moment organized by the Nerds of Color blog visibly rallied around not just Tran but also diverse representation in the “Star Wars” galaxy and beyond. Even “Star Wars” star Mark Hamill tweeted his support.

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