From July 18 to 21, San Diego played host to 130,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror — and Hollywood was there to tantalize them with sneak peeks and star-studded panels; we bring you all the buzz from this year's Comic-Con

By Keith Staskiewicz Sara Vilkomerson James Hibberd Lindsey Bahr and Darren Franich
Updated July 26, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Here’s a superpowered miracle: The news out of Comic-Con 2013 was about actual comic-book characters. Not that the vampires, tributes, and meth dealers didn’t get our hearts racing again (they did!), but it was the comic-based projects — complete with spandex, capes, and cowls — that dominated this year’s nerdfest in San Diego. The biggest headline? DC’s movie starring Batman and Superman (BAM!). The best reward for standing in line? A surprise pilot screening so major it needs two apostrophes to describe: ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (SMACK!). Even the official Comic-Con backpacks came with capes. Of course, some noncomic titles popped too. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer featuring Quarter Quell footage was must-see video, and fast-ascending geek royalty Benedict Cumberbatch made a ruckus by not appearing at the Sherlock panel and instead sending a video involving stuffed animals that went insta-viral on Impressing the Comic-Con crowd without even going? Now, that’s a superpower. Here are some more of the Con’s headlines.

Gods and Mutants Dropped By
Humanity, look how far you’ve fallen. Lining up in the sweltering heat for hours. Huddling together in the dark, like beasts!” Only the dastardly Loki, a.k.a. The Avengers actor Tom Hiddleston, could so eloquently insult the 6,500 seated attendees in Hall H — and be met with such rapturous applause. But he wasn’t the only surprise guest. Tom Cruise made his Comic-Con debut at Warner Bros.’ panel to promote his 2014 sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow, exuberantly singing ’80s ballads with moderator Chris Hardwick and quoting Weird Science with costar Bill Paxton. And Fox’s upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past managed to overwhelm through sheer quantity of star power, marching out a squadron of famous mutants including Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and Patrick Stewart, among others, to sit at one very long table. —Keith Staskiewicz

Marvel and DC Squared Off
Marvel Studios usually dominates Saturday, the biggest day at Comic-Con, with a showstopping presentation. But the studio had supersize competition this year from Warner Bros., which had director Zack Snyder announce he was working on another Superman movie…which will also be a Batman movie. Uniting DC’s two most iconic heroes for one megamovie? That was a broadside fired directly at Marvel’s Avenger-verse. Marvel put on quite a show of its own at Comic-Con. It had not just Loki live, but also sneak peeks at the Captain America sequel (which looked amazing), Guardians of the Galaxy (which looked like a hilariously eccentric mash-up of Spaceballs and The Dirty Dozen), and the next Thor (which looked like an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys). Finally, director and Comic-Con god Joss Whedon announced that The Avengers 2 will have the dizzyingly nerdy subtitle Age of Ultron. By the way, Ultron is an indestructible robot determined to take down the whole human race. And you thought Loki was a badass? —Darren Franich

Fans Freaked Over Footage
The most intriguing clip came courtesy of Warner Bros.’ Gravity presentation. Director Alfonso Cuarón showed off a scene — featuring stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock fixing a satellite and dodging space debris — that appeared to be shot in a single, vertigo-inducing take. The studio also shared a trailer for 2014’s Godzilla remake, which looked interesting. Sorry for the faint praise, but seriously: a Godzilla remake? —Darren Franich

Comic-Con Got Mini Theme Parks
The zombie apocalypse is not for the faint of heart, and neither is Comic-Con. Petco Park was transformed into a Walking Dead obstacle course that found participants running, climbing hills and stairs, and crawling every which way to avoid being mauled by those pesky walkers. Over at the ”Godzilla Encounter” warehouse, fans took a leisurely stroll down a sophisticated simulation of a Tokyo street when a deafening siren warned that the lizard was near. The elevator to safety was anything but — it opened to startling close-up concept footage of the giant monster. —Lindsey Bahr

EW Panels Had People Talking
The discussions were often funny and always frank at Entertainment Weekly‘s all-star panels. ”The Visionaries,” moderated by our writer Anthony Breznican, featured first-rate directors — Cuarón, Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and Edgar Wright (The World’s End) — analyzing stunts, long takes, and the challenge of making their imagination a reality. Meanwhile, writer Lynette Rice joined an enthusiastic audience for the ”Brave New Warriors” panel with Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf), and David Giuntoli (Grimm). ”The fan fiction is pretty nuts sometimes,” Posey admitted at one point. ”It’s not a downside, but it gets pretty gnarly.” And there was nothing but admiration (for each other, if not necessarily Hollywood) at our ”Women Who Kick Ass” event. The panel was moderated by writer Sara Vilkomerson — hey, that’s me! — and featured Michelle Rodriguez (Machete Kills), Maggie Q (Nikita), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Katee Sackhoff (Riddick), and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead). ”Men are dumb,” Maggie Q said as talk turned to sexism in the industry. ”They think we fight in heels. It’s such a pain in the ass.” —Sara Vilkomerson

Cool Casts Say Farewell
Dearly beloved, we gathered at Comic-Con to bear witness to the passing of Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, and Breaking Bad, three fan favorites on their final laps. Mother‘s Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hannigan got weepy during a live-stream interview with EW. At the panel for Dexter, which shot its final episode earlier this month, Jennifer Carpenter’s voice cracked as she told fans, ”The most authentic thing about this show is our relationship to you.” Breaking Bad costar Anna Gunn told EW that the cast enjoyed a group hug after their show wrapped, but the hard-boiled meth drama’s team stayed dry-eyed. That’s more like it: There’s no crying at Comic-Con! —James Hibberd