Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Man, vampires are sexy. At least, that was the vibe from the Comic-Con panel for HBO’s upcoming series True Blood (launching Sept. 7). Exec producer Alan Ball and much of the cast, including lead Anna Paquin (pictured with Stephen Moyer), started off by showing a trailer that set up the story for the series, based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries books by Charlaine Harris (who also sat in on the panel): Set in an alternative near-future in which vampires have revealed themselves to humanity after the development of synthetic blood, the story follows Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a young waitress in a Louisiana diner who can read everyone’s thoughts — except those of Bill Compton (Moyer), a 130-year-old vampire who enters the diner one night and swiftly seduces Sookie because, for once, she can’t hear his thoughts. He introduces her to the vampire underworld, including a gothic vampire bar called Fangtasia (which, judging from Sookie’s incredulous reaction, is supposed to sound kinda lame). Of course, not everyone’s thrilled with the idea of vampires suddenly running free and wanting equal rights, including Sookie’s mysterious boss Sam (Sam Trammell) and her misogynist brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who both looked like they could be brothers, save for Kwanten’s Australian accent.

Once we got into the panel, which played to a packed house in the third-largest venue at Comic-Con, there was some talk from Ball about getting hooked on Harris’ books, and how he wants to “keep the magic as mundane as possible.” But after the moderator, EW’s own Lynette Rice (goodness, she was busy!), asked Paquin, Ball, and Harris about how Sookie was, well, “a little sexpot,” things quickly turned to sex. And stayed there. In this world, it seems, vampires’ thirst for blood is tied to their sexuality, and there’s a whole subculture of humans who want to horizontal tango with them — “fangbangers,” they’re called. “Apparently, sex with vampires is really kind of great,” mused Ball. “If you survive,” added Harris, causing Ball to note ruefully that “when you have sex with a vampire, it can be very romantic. It doesn’t have to be violent…. I mean, everybody knows that, right?” One character, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), has a gay porn website, is a male escort, and sells the hottest drug on the market, vampire blood, apparently so potent it can either be a massive aphrodisiac or, you know, drive you insane. Did I mention this show is on HBO?

Speaking of, one attendant — dressed quite convincingly as Mr.Incredible — asked if there really would be a version of TruBlood, thatfaux beer-like beverage that’s been touted in rather realistic ads by the pay-cable network. “Yes,” said Ball with a wicked smile. “It’s V8, valium, vicodin, and Viagra.” The crowd roared.

Of course, that other vampires-really-do-live-among-us sensation, Twilight,came up, but both Ball and Harris were very zen about it, saying therewas plenty room in the world for two vampire sagas. Well, with oneaddendum from Harris: “If it came to a Cullen family/Fangtasia staffsmackdown, I think the Fangtasia staff would win.” Judging from theirapplause, Harris got no argument from the audience, although that wouldbe pretty fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

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