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The Biggest Winners At 2016 Comic-Con

Wonder Woman, Rihanna, and a request — once more — to hold the door.

1. Rihanna

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Paramount Pictures

Janet Leigh in Psycho

Yes, Bates Motel is coming off of a strong season where — spoiler alert — Norman (Freddie Highmore) finally killed his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), setting the stage for the series to finally re-imagine 1960's Psycho. But in terms of buzzy Comic-Con panels, this one initially looked like it'd barely be a blip on the radar heading into the four-day weekend.

But that all changed on Friday when it was revealed that Rihanna — RIHANNA!!!! — was joining the show's final season as Marion Crane, who was memorably played by Janet Leigh in Alfred Hitchcock's film. This is not only the kind of announcement that sets fans on fire, but it has the potential to bring viewers (yours truly included) back to the series for its swan song.

Unsatisfied with owning the Comic-Con TV news cycle, RiRi also got a huge reaction when she appeared onscreen in the first trailer for Luc Besson's new sci-fi spectacle Valerian, which is a winner in its own right. — Jarett Wieselman

2. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Vikram Gounassegarin / EuropaCorp.

Coming into Comic-Con, one of the biggest question marks was what attendees would make of the big-screen adaptation ofValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: The beloved French sci-fi comic book series is popular in Europe, but remains relatively obscure in the US. The film's writer-director Luc Besson and his producer (and wife) Virginie Besson-Silla first unspooled a bevy of eye-popping concept art that revealed the film's expansive and visually ambitious world. Then they played a series of colorful and fun clips from the film that established Valerian as unlike anything else in the current Hollywood landscape — and instead harkened back to Besson's 1997 sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element.

The clips — which won a standing ovation from the Hall H audience — featured Dane DeHaan as the eponymous "space bro" Valerian (DeHaan's words), Cara Delevingne as his kick-ass partner Laureline, Ethan Hawke in some quite creative nose jewelry, and the briefest of glimpses of Rihanna playing some kind of nightclub performer who is, apparently, more than what she seems. "You don't even know," DeHaan exclaimed in the panel. "Rihanna's part is so crazy." Audiences will get to see what DeHaan means when the film opens on July 21, 2017. —Adam B. Vary

3. Diversity in superhero cinema

Top and bottom: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images; Middle: Eric Charbonneau/Invision / AP

For years, as superhero movies have grown to dominate Hollywood, they have remained almost exclusively the realm of white men, both in front of and behind the camera. But throughout Comic-Con's superhero movie panels on Saturday, both Warner Bros.' DC Films and Disney's Marvel Studios made clear that both companies understand that representation matters for everyone.

Women and people of color were everywhere.

Warner Bros. brought out the directors for its upcoming DC Films slate, which included David Ayer (Suicide Squad), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Rick Famuyiwa (The Flash), and James Wan (Aquaman). For Suicide Squad, the panel lineup included Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, and Karen Fukuhara. Marvel Studios officially debuted the supporting casts of Black Panther (Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, and Danai Gurira) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (Zendaya, Jacob Battalion, Laura Harrier, and Tony Revolori). The Marvel Studios "class photo" featured 11 women who will star in those upcoming films — including Brie Larson, who will take on Marvel Studios' first title role for a female superhero, Captain Marvel.

The success and quality of these movies may vary as wildly as the superhero movies that preceded them, of course; but Hall H featuring some of its most diverse lineups ever at Comic-Con was a heartening sight on its own. —A.B.V.

4. Wonder Woman

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The Warner Bros. panel was full of great moments — Eddie Redmayne handed out wands, we got our first look at the Justice League, and Ezra Miller was dressed as Gandalf the Grey, for instance. But the best part, by far, was finally witnessing Wonder Woman in action. Hall H went crazy when the trailer rolled.

From Gal Gadot striking Diana's iconic pose at a young fan's request to Patty Jenkins saying the world needs "heroes who are strong enough to be loving and forgiving and beautiful and kind," the panel laid to rest any doubt that this movie is going to be...wonderful. —Keely Flaherty

5. Ghostbusters

I have seen so many women and little girls dressed as #Ghostbusters at #SDCC this year ❤️❤️

Forget about the hot takes and the decent but unspectacular box office bow for director Paul Feig's all-female reboot of 1984's Ghostbusters — one of the truest tests of a film's reception is how the fans embrace it. And judging from the sheer volume of women dressed as Ghostbusters at this year's con, the movie is one of 2016's biggest success stories!

Little girls, grown women, and full teams of ladies donning tan coveralls were out in full force this weekend — posing for photos, high-fiving one another on the convention floor, and proving Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon have inspired generations to come. — J.W.

6. The Ravagers of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Kurt Russell's Comic-Con debut — and the news that he's playing Ego, the father of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) — won a warm reception in Hall H. And if it wasn't already clear, baby Groot is going to destroy audiences with cuteness when the second Guardians film debuts on May 5, 2017. But before all that, the Guardians panel was overtaken by the movie's mercenary Ravagers. They were led not by Yondu (Michael Rooker) but by a new character, Taserface, played with perfect comic timing by Chris Sullivan (The Knick). Their antagonistic banter was so funny that they managed to steal the entire panel, and that's even after Rooker walked onstage in full Yondu makeup. —A.B.V.

7. The secret of Blair Witch

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In this spoiler-prone day and age, it’s particularly noteworthy (and all the more impressive) that Lionsgate was able to not only produce a sequel to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, but keep it a secret until Comic-Con! That cloak-and-dagger act ended on Friday when fans learned a mysterious indie horror movie called The Woods was actually Blair Witch and will be coming out this September. —J.W.

8. Nickelodeon

Daniel Knighton / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Nickelodeon brought '90s nostalgia back to Comic-Con in style. They had the best booth on the convention floor (complete with tons of our childhood faves), and some of the best panels. We got a first glimpse of the new character designs for the Hey Arnold reboot, a trailer for the Legends of the Hidden Temple movie, and the All That cast reunited (again).

But most importantly, the Nickelodeon party included a live Double Dare competition. Yes, it included everything any ’90s kid would want and love: the Wringer, the Human Hamster Wheel, the Nose, and — drumroll, please — MARC SUMMERS. —Casey Rackham and Keely Flaherty

9. Chris Hemsworth and Taika Waititi

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images
Michael Bradley / Getty Images

Thor: Ragnarok lead Chris Hemsworth and director Taika Waititi couldn't make an appearance in San Diego this year — they're busy with production in Australia. Instead, Marvel Studios chief debuted a short mockumentary by Waititi that purportedly centers on what Thor got up to during the events of Captain America: Civil War: Apparently, he moved to Australia, into an apartment with a regular office drone named Darrell. His room includes a tiny bed and pillow for his hammer, Mjolnir, and a giant bulletin board speculating on Infinity Stones. (One entry, on baddie Thanos: "Who is the man in the purple chair? He's purple. He has a magic glove. And he doesn't like standing up.") Like almost all of the footage Marvel Studios screened in Hall H, the clip isn't available to the public yet, but it's so funny that hopefully everyone else will have a chance to see it soon. —A.B.V.

10. Benedict Cumberbatch

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

The star of the next film on Marvel Studio's slate, Doctor Strange, enjoyed a rock star entrance to Hall H on Saturday, complete with a fog machine and an eye-popping light show. Cumberbatch spent the rest of the panel visibly reacting to the audience's overwhelming reception to him...and the nearly nine minutes of footage from the film that screened.

The next morning, Cumberbatch was back onstage again, this time making his first Comic-Con stop for Sherlock. The actor regaled the audience with imitations of Donald Trump and Morgan Freeman, and showed his love and appreciation for the fandom that first made him a star. (Oh, and the new trailer for the show's fourth season also played like gangbusters.) —A.B.V. and J.W.

11. Kristian Nairn, aka Hodor

Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

Kristian Nairn was the last person to be announced at the Game of Thrones panel, and he entered to all of Hall H chanting "Hodor!" And yes, he's seen all your "hold the door" jokes, but overall he's just very touched. "I didn't expect the outpouring of emotion — you're going to make me cry," Nairn said.

He gave us as much closure as possible about poor, sweet Hodor's fate. "I think Hodor would be happy [with] the way he died," he said. "I think he enjoyed his time looking after [Bran] — as I did, for the last six years. I'm going to miss him." —Keely Flaherty

12. Rep. John Lewis

SDUSD students marching along side @repjohnlewis @BeKindDreamBig @PamRabin #LoveSDschools #March @andrewaydin

The U.S. congressman and acclaimed civil rights leader appeared at Comic-Con for the third time to promote March, the graphic novel he co-wrote with his aide Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. On Friday night, they won an Eisner Award — the Oscars of the comic book world — for the second volume of the series, which serves as a kind of memoir of Lewis's life within the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Their panel for the third and final volume on Saturday morning culminated with schoolchildren marching with Lewis through the convention to the main floor, an astounding display of peaceful unity amid a month of political tumult. —A.B.V.