Jane Badler, Laura Vandervoort and Morena Baccarin

After a year and a half hiatus, the New York Comic Con returned this weekend, drawing a reported crowd of 100,000 to the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. The event doesn't quite have the star power of San Diego's Comic-Con International, but it's quickly becoming one of the top fan events for sci-fi related movies and TV as well as video games and, of course, comic books.

 

One of the weekend's biggest draws was a panel for the villainous vixens of ABC's V reboot, hosted by TV Guide Magazine's Damian Holbrook. The session revealed that Season 2 will have an increased focus on action and also introduced younger fans to the alien bad girl who first shocked us with her rat-eating reign 27 years ago in the original V. Taking the stage of the IGN Theatre were Morena Baccarin (Anna), Laura Vandervoort (Lisa), original V queen Jane Badler — who begins guest-starring in November as Diana, the secretly imprisoned mother of Baccarin's bitchy Anna — and executive producer Steve Pearlman, who explained that the new season would be faster, fiercer and, from the looks of the 15-minute clip that kicked things off, lizard-licious. However, "we won't see a full-scale alien invasion [for awhile]," Pearlman said, adding instead that the Fifth Column resistance would expand into a global effort aided by the addition of Three Rivers' Oded Fehr.

 

Baccarin confessed that Anna would face dissent among the ranks following her season-finale declaration of war on mankind. And Vandervoort teased that Lisa was about to enter "a very interesting" form of alien puberty. "It's something she can't understand." Something that was very easy to understand was the crowd's excitement over the return of Badler, who was just as thrilled and grateful to be back playing "an homage" to the role she rocked back in the '80s. "I just want to thank the fans," said the still-ravishing Aussie at the end of the session. "Without them I don't think this would have happened." Say what you will about the ills of human feelings, Anna, but we second that emotion.

 

At the panel for The Vampire Diaries fans learned that Katherine's (Nina Dobrev) reign of terror in Mystic Falls is just a flesh wound right now — there will be more bloodshed. On hand were executive producers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, along with actors Sara Canning (Aunt Jenna), Katerina Graham (Bonnie), Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy) and Zach Roerig (Matt). Evil vamp Katherine is "always one step ahead," according to Williamson, and she'll insert herself into the lives of almost all the characters — Damon, Stefan, and even Matt and Aunt Jenna, perhaps the only two Mystic Falls residents left who have no idea vampires exist. "Katherine goes super game-changer [coming up]," Plec previewed. "She starts wreaking havoc. You think she's topped out, but she's just starting... You ain't seen nothin' yet." Viewers will also learn more about her past, as an upcoming flashback episode delves further into the centuries-old bloodsucker's mysterious origins ("we go way back," Williamson said) and explores the season-long question of why she looks so much like Diaries' central heroine, Elena.

 

There will be plenty of stories for the show's non-fanged characters, too. According to Plec, Bonnie takes on two suitors when she "gets interest from somebody she already knows, and also meets somebody new who strikes her fancy." (That's fine with Graham, who joked that everybody "wants Bonnie to get some.") Romance won't deter the budding teen witch from keeping sworn enemy Damon in check, though she'll soon have some help. Look for Elena's eternally miserable younger brother Jeremy to become more enmeshed in the mythology of the series as he begins to realize his family's destiny as a vampire hunter. "I just want to shoot a crossbow," McQueen told the press after the panel. "I feel like that'd be fun."

 

The CW's other Thursday-night hit, Nikita, also brought a crew to New York: Maggie Q (Nikita), Shane West (Michael) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Alex) and executive producer Craig Silverstein. After screening clips from an upcoming episode titled "Resistance" — in which Fonseca's Alex is tortured for information — they revealed that even harder, tougher fight scenes (and yes, some romance) will be heading to the new show. And the whole cast is feeling the pain. "In the dailies we can see the bruises on Maggie's arms from the real fights!" said Silverstein, who made it sound like no one is safe. "I was on the set a week ago when a shell casing popped off and burned [Fonseca's] leg." It'll only get more intense as the first season continues. "If you think they're good now, it's going up a notch," Silverstein teased. But thanks to Hong Kong action film vet Q, all are well prepared for punches and kicks. "I got access to some of the best people in Hollywood, action-wise," explained the former Jackie Chan protégé, who created a boot camp for the cast. "I think psychologically it's really important." ("Also to be safe," added Fonseca, "because you can get hurt if you're not prepared.")

 

Coming up on the show will be flashbacks explaining Nikita's rage and Michael's (West) loyalty to the corrupt agency. "You'll see a back story with Michael and Percy, why he's stuck around Division, because he's so indebted to him," West said. And yes, we'll finally learn how Nikita's lover was murdered: "It's coming up in the next episode," says Q. "She's faced with something incredibly devastating."

 

Though it's unclear just how involved Nikita and Michael were back in her Division days, Silverstein did admit that "something went down," which might explain these all passionate battles. Said Q: "My theory is that we fight because we can't have sex."

 

AMC's panel for its upcoming zombie series The Walking Dead was so popular that thousands of fans were turned away after the IGN Theater was filled to capacity. Lucky attendees devoured a six-minute clip of Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) running, chopping and shooting through a mob of rotting, decaying undead. "Do you still have doubts?" asked Robert Kirkman, who wrote the Image Comics series on which the show is based. Judging from the cheering, no-one did.

 

"We follow Rick Grimes as he searches for his family in a zombie apocalypse," explained executive producer Gale Anne Hurd. Joining Kirkman, director Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) and Hurd on stage were cast members Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Jon Bernthal (Shane), Steven Yeun (Glenn) and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon). "It's very hard to be around to be around these actors because I've killed a lot of them [in the comic book]," Kirkman said with a laugh. But while the death rate is high and the gore is intense — "I can't believe it's on television," said Holden — everyone involved was quick to point out this is more than just horror: It's a character-driven drama.

 

"In a maximum sense, this is a survival story," Darabont told TV Guide Magazine earlier. Callies added, "It's about a group of people who are trying not to turn into monsters. Human beings trying desperately to survive against odds that will claim almost everyone." And all agreed that AMC is to thank for allowing them to do create such an adult story, in terms of both blood and complexity. "If it were an R-rated feature," said Darabont, "there isn't anything we would have done differently." After promising that fans won't be disappointed ("It will get even gorier than the internet whiners seem to think!") the director announced at the panel that The Walking Dead will go further than AMC's envelope-pushing series Breaking Bad: "We're going to make them look like p--sies!" We'll find out when the show premieres on Sunday, October 31.

 

A panel for the upcoming Green Lantern: The Animated Series offered an early glimpse at the Cartoon Network series, which is coming late next year following Warner Bros.' live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds. (Last week we gave you the first look at the show's teaser poster.) Character and set designs were revealed, along with a short clip of test footage. "It's a straight-up science fiction show," said executive producer Bruce Timm, a fan-favorite for his work on the Batman and Superman animated series from the 1990s. "Very little of it takes place on Earth." Instead, Hal Jordan and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps will have their power-ringed hands full taking on the rage-filled Red Lantern Corps in deep space. The show will feature computer-generated animation, but Timm says the characters will look more like toys than real people: "We don't want to be one of those CGI shows that's trying to trick you into thinking it's live-action."

 

Airing much sooner on Cartoon Network will be Young Justice, based on DC Comics' sidekick characters — Robin, Superboy, Speedy and Aqualad, among others — coming into their own as full-fledged superheroes. At the show's panel, moderated by TV Guide Magazine's Rich Sands, producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti screened the first few minutes of the pilot — which will air in November as a special event before the series goes weekly in January. The show is set in an alternate universe — on Earth 16 in DC's multiverse — and Weisman promised appearances by "over 150 characters in the first 18 episodes." Among the voice cast are pop star/actor Jesse McCartney as Robin and Dollhouse/Firefly alum Alan Tudyk as Green Arrow.

 

Also in New York were screenings of Disney XD's The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series and the Cartoon Network movie Firebreather (based on an Image Comics title) and news of a Doctor Who comic book series based on the current show with Matt Smith in the title role. IDW Publishing will kick off the book in January.

 

Reporting by Steven Gutierrez, Damian Holbrook, Rich Sands and Scott Sode

 

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