Looking Ahead to 2016's Biggest Pop Culture Moments in Comics, Film & TV

We kind of had an inkling of what was in store when 2015 kicked off just under 365 days ago, but we doubt anyone could have predicted just how amazing the year turned out when it came to comics, movies and film. Over the past 12 months, fans saw DC Comics' characters expand and tighten their grip on live-action television, while Marvel Television made its Netflix debut to critical and fan accolades. Meanwhile, Ultron arrived, Ant-Man shrank and won audiences' hearts, "The Hunger Games" concluded and "Jurassic World" made a major box office impact. Then, with mere days left in the calendar, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" arrived in theaters worldwide, rekindling dreams of a galaxy far, far away while breaking virtually every box office record in its path.

Of course, there were the comics, with big events and personal stories testing the limits of what the medium can achieve. CBR is currently taking a look back, as a matter of fact, counting down the Top 100 comics of 2015, but here, we're looking ahead. In addition to 52 Wednesdays of new comics, and the annual pilgrimage made by hundreds of thousands for Comic-Con International and other major conventions around the world, 2016 promises more genre films, television, comics and pop culture events than perhaps any time in our lives. The year's new faces, familiar friends and returning franchises are sure to kick start the heart of even the most jaded fans.

DC's TV Presence Hits Legendary Status

DC is primed to kick off 2016 with a bang, as "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" makes its long-awaited debut in mid-January. The CW's newest DC Comics-based series features a team unlike anything Flarrowverse fans have seen before. Joining "The Flash" and "Arrow," "Legends of Tomorrow" will give audiences the superheroics they crave three nights a week, and that's before we jump networks for CBS's "Supergirl." Add in The CW's "iZombie," Fox's "Gotham" and the January-debuting "Lucifer" and, according to our math, that's seven DC shows set to return or debut in the first quarter of 2016 -- and then there's "Preacher."

AMC's "Preacher" Arrives

Fans have been hoping for a quality adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's hard-hitting Vertigo series "Preacher" for years. AMC, the network that brought fans "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad," is setting its sights on a seminal Vertigo series, undeniably one of the imprint's most important and influential comics. If the series translates as well to the small screen as "The Walking Dead," the network could be looking at its second major comics-based hit. Developed by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and "Breaking Dead" writer/producer Sam Catlin, AMC's "Preacher" will deliver the word at some point next year.

Fox Doubles Down on the X-Men

2015 wasn't Fox's year when it came to the studio's Marvel properties. "Fantastic Four" went over like a lead balloon, both critically and financially, but it's onward and upward for the studio in 2016. In the new year, Fox has a pair of "X-Men" films that are as close to "can't miss" as one can get, with the long-awaited "Deadpool" solo film starring Ryan Reynolds finally arriving, and Bryan Singer's deep dive into mutant lore with "X-Men: Apocalypse." Deadpool drops on February 12, 2016 while "X-Men: Apocalypse" arrives May 27, 2016.

Vertigo Takes Readers to Strange Places

DC's Vertigo imprint, once the most cutting edge publishing house in all of comics, saw its position usurped in recent years by a number of daring publishers. But starting in October 2015, Vertigo debuted a new, refreshed line of innovative titles in a bid to reestablish itself as the place to bring creator-owned concepts that defy definition. Books like "Slash and Burn," "The Clean Room," "Unfollow" and "Twilight Children" are pushing the boundaries of the art form, and in the process have reaffirmed Vertigo as the place to go for daring comic book storytelling. More new books are on the way in 2016, as the imprint is poised to become a major media presence when "Preacher" and "Lucifer" join "iZombie" in making the leap from Vertigo to live-action.

Civil Wars

Marvel's 2015 was all about "Secret Wars," but in 2016, the House of Ideas will fight not one but two Civil Wars. First up is "Captain America: Civil War," Marvel Studios' latest chapter in the life of Steve Rogers featuring a veritable who's who of the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- including the long-anticipated live-action arrival of the Black Panther.

Spider-Man's Homecoming

For years, the big screen Spider-Man has been separated from his Marvel brethren, but with "Captain America: Civil War," Spidey is finally coming home. As if "Civil War" wasn't big enough already, the film is also set to give fans the first glimpse of Tom Holland as Peter Parker. More than that, it should provide the first clues as to how Spider-Man will fit into the fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Justice Dawns

Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment didn't release any new DC-based movies in 2015, but some of its biggest and baddest characters are going to make a major impact in 2016. Between "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad," new versions of Batman, Joker, Alfred and Lex Luthor will all debut, as well as the first film appearances of Wonder Woman, Doomsday, the Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Killer Croc, Kabuki, Captain Boomerang and more. The Zack Snyder-helmed "Batman v Superman" will arrive in theaters on March 25, while David Ayer's "Suicide Squad" takes aim Aug. 5.

"Ghostbusters" Answers the Call

A third "Ghostbusters" film has been the source of speculation since pretty much the day "Ghostbusters II" opened back in 1989. More than 25 years later, it's finally happening, but not in the way fans expected way back when: A reboot starring an all-new cast of four of Hollywood's top female comedic performers. Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have reunited with "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig for the supernatural comedy, with current "Saturday Night Live" standouts Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones rounding out the main four. Though it's always risky to revive a long-dormant franchise, especially one this beloved, the cast and director's track records have ensured the new "Ghostbusters" as one of the most anticipated films of 2016 in any genre.

Sci-Fi Goes Mainstream

In terms of television, there's no bigger sci-fi event bigger than the six-episode "The X-Files" revival coming to Fox in January. But that's really just the tip of what's becoming a very mainstream iceberg when you look at the broader landscape. On broadcast TV, Fox will debut its modern day take on the Frankenstein story in "Second Chance" (assuming the name sticks this time) and "Limitless" has been a solid performer for CBS in its freshman season, and a show that is not afraid to get weird. Turning to the cable realm, Syfy has built on the success of "12 Monkeys" with new additions like "Killjoys," Dark Matter" and "The Expanse," giving it a veritable stable of quality genre programming. BBC's cult hit "Orphan Black" returns for its fourth season this April and USA's paranoid hacker thriller "Mr. Robot," the surprise hit of the summer, will also return for its second season in 2016. It seems like wherever you turn, there's bound to be a compelling sci-fi story somewhere on TV these days.

"Warcraft" Waged in Theaters

Warcraft has been a hugely successful franchise of video games for more than two decades, with its addictive, epic-scale adventures also spilling out into comic books and novels. It's the kind of thing that makes it a natural fit for a feature film adaptation, and in 2016, the long in-development "Warcraft" movie will hit theaters. Directed by Duncan Jones (of "Moon" and "Source Code"), "Warcraft" will take the battle on Azeroth between humans and orcs to live-action, in in a co-production from Legendary Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment. Starring a large cast including Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton and Dominic Cooper, "Warcraft" is scheduled to debut in theaters on June 10.

The Wizarding World Before Harry Potter

2015 was highlighted by returns for some of the most beloved franchises in film history with "Jurassic Park" and "Star Wars," and 2016 will see the return of the magic kindled in J.K. Rowling's wizarding world of Harry Potter in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" in November. "Deathly Hallows" director David Yates is back, working from an original screenplay by Rowling, to tell the story of Newt Scamender 70 years before Harry enrolled at Hogwarts. Assuming this film captures the same magic (and audience) as the "Potter" films, fans could be treated to many more excursions into the nooks and crannies of Rowling's boundless imagination on the big screen.

Coates & Stelfreeze Launch "Back Panther"

It's been a few years since Marvel's last "Black Panther" solo series, but that's set to change in April 2016 -- and in noteworthy fashion. Ta-Nehisi Coates -- one of the biggest names in journalism as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, and a National Book Award winner for "Between the World and Me" -- will make his comic book-writing debut with a new "Black Panther" ongoing, illustrated by acclaimed industry veteran Brian Stelfreeze. Already one of 2016's most anticipated comic book releases, this might be Marvel's most high-profile industry-transcending creative team since Joss Whedon & John Cassaday launched "Astonishing X-Men." The book is set to debut a month before Chadwick Boseman debuts as the live-action Black Panther in "Captain America: Civil War," so it looks like a very big year all around for the first Black superhero.

A Faster, Furiouser "Star Trek"

Just because J.J. Abrams traded one iconic franchise for another, that doesn't mean the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is going to sit idly by and let "Star Wars" win all the sci-fi glory. Captain James T. Kirk and the rest of the rebooted crew return in 2016 for their third adventure in "Star Trek Beyond." Their boldest mission yet will be directed by "Fast and Furious" alum Justin Lin and, if the first trailer is any indication, could be the most high-octane "Trek" installment ever. This film should give "Star Trek" fans an idea of where the Enterprise and the franchise are headed as CBS prepares a new series for 2016. "Star Trek Beyond" beams into theaters July 22, 2016.

More Marvel/Netflix Magic

2015 will go down as the year Marvel conquered Netflix. "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones" were both major hits for the Marvel/Netflix partnership, and 2016 promises to be even bigger and better. Fans have been clamoring for more info and more looks at Jon Bernthal's Punisher and Elodie Yung's Elektra on the second season of "Daredevil" since they were cast, and we don't expect that to die down any time soon. Speaking of chomping at the bit, Marvel loyalists have been waiting decades to see Luke Cage step into A-lister status. He seems to be in good hands at Marvel Studios as Mike Colter's Luke Cage was arguably the breakout character of "Jessica Jones," and his solo series can't get here soon enough. "Daredevil" is rumored to hit Netflix around April while the "Luke Cage" premiere date has yet to be announced.

A New, Uncertain Winter is Coming

With George R.R. Martin not yet done with his next novel, HBO's hit fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" is about to enter uncharted territory. The previous saw the show catch up to the novels, and everything headed our way in Season Six will be a creation of the show's writing stuff. Literally anything can happen next, something that makes the return of one of TV's most surprising shows even more anticipated than usual. "Game of Thrones" returns to HBO on April 24.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Gets Magical

While "Captain America: Civil War" will introduce its fair share of characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme is ready to take center stage without the help of any A-list Marvel heroes surrounding him. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, "Doctor Strange" arrives Nov. 4, 2016, and with it, a whole new realm of wonders -- and plenty of magic -- will enter the MCU. With Cumberbatch looking spot on as the Doctor and horror maven Scott Derrickson directing, Marvel's second film of 2016 could be pure magic.

Who Will Be the New Doctor?

No matter how much fans may love them, even Time Lords always run out of time. While we were already looking forward to Peter Capaldi's third year as the Doctor on BBC's "Doctor Who," the fan-favorite actor recently said he might not make it to year four. How the Twelfth Doctor's run will wrap up and who will succeed him when the character next regenerates are sure to have fans buzzing.

Star Wars Fever May Never Die

Fans are barely coming down from the thrill ride that was "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but in one year's time they get to do it all over again. On Dec. 16, 2016, Disney and Lucasfilm will present "Rogue One," the first in a series of "Star Wars Anthology" films that explore some of the more unique corners of the "Star Wars" galaxy. Helmed by "Godzilla" director Gareth Edwards, "Rogue One" takes place before the events of "A New Hope" and examines the struggle against the Empire from a ground-war perspective.

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