SAN DIEGO - Comic-Con loves the Winchesters. At this point, stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are returning champions in Hall H -- this year filling the 6,000 seat venue to capacity even as their CW series "Supernatural" heads into season eight. Fans thrilled and swooned in equal measure at their characteristically jokey and freewheeling panel discussion.

This year the Winchester brothers were joined on stage by co-stars Misha Collins (Castiel), Mark A. Sheppard (Crowley) and Jim Beaver (Bobby), as well as new showrunner Jeremy Carver (who had a brief hiatus from the show after season five) and executive producer Ben Edlund (who has been a steady presence on the show since season two).

Although much time was spent talking about how they can't talk about anything from the new season -- at one point Collins noted, "This format is very difficult because you ask questions we're not allowed to talk about and then everyone goes home unsatisfied" -- they still wound up giving the crowd a good indication of what to expect when "Supernatural" returns next fall in an upgraded timeslot. (Ackles gave a shout out to the fans to celebrate the show's shift to Wednesday nights: "That's because of you guys. Most shows go to Friday nights to die but..." [An enthusiastic fist pump completed the thought.])

1) First, the big question: How will Dean escape from purgatory?

Well, since he already made it out of hell, Ackles doesn't expect purgatory will be a problem. "It's like Diet Hell. Hell Zero," Ackles joked. But don't ask him for specifics. "I don't know, are you kidding me? I just wait for the scripts to come in. Much like the hell situation Dean can't stay down there forever."

Ben Edlund provided a few more details. "[Dean's] return from purgatory is going to happen quite quickly. What happened in purgatory is going to be a story we track for quite a long time," adding that the audiences will discovered what happened to Dean and how it changed him through a season-long series of flashbacks.

2) Time apart will change the sibling dynamic

"When they were separated at the end of last season it had a profound effect on each of them," Carver allowed, choosing his words carefully to not reveal too much. "They will each carry what happened with them, the relationships they made in their time off will be very important in their lives."

3) But we do know Sam is getting a love interest (played by Liane Balaban)

"Sam is totally getting some action this season," Padalecki revealed enthusiastically. "Jeremy told me something a few years ago, 'Listen man I really love seeing you with your shirt off.' I was like, 'Jeremy that's weird, you have three kids, but OK...'"

But Ackles doesn't expect Dean to be so lucky... "I think the only real romance in Dean's life is the car. So in that regard, absolutely."

4) And it's all part of a plan to make the Winchesters open up

"They're emotional shut-ins who have to learn to deal with other people," Edlund explains. "They've spent a lot of time in that car together with crumpled up snacks. We're trying to get into real human relationships. It's gonna be difficult but good luck to us."

5) Where's Castiel?

He left Dean high and dry in purgatory, and Misha Collins can't say why. "He went out for beer. He'll be back shortly," Collins joked.

6) And what about Bobby?

When Beaver was asked if his appearance on the panel meant more appearances are on tap for his dearly departed character he answered, "You can read anything you want into it. ... Anything's possible!"

Padalecki then teased his co-star about the "Deadwood" cap he was sporting. "Will someone get Jim a 'Supernatural' hat? Does anyone out there have one?" Padalecki asked. "The funny thing is I've been asking for one since season one," Beaver quickly responded.

7) You can only be friendly with the King of Hell for so long

"Crowley is essentially what happens when people aren't paying attention," Sheppard observed of his devious character. "I think the relationship the boys have had with Crowley has been a good one, fruitful and compassionate. But I think we might be in a situation this year where we're kinda chasing after the same thing and that could be a bit of a problem."

"This is a situation where they're really gonna come to a more antagonistic relationship," Edlund teased.

8) The season's overall theme is "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

"A lot of seasons past the boys have been reacting to things at the beginning of the season. This season they're starting on offense. They have a goal and it ties in with the over arching mythology of the show, something very near and dear to their hearts," Carver promises.

"Our logline for this season was 'This time it's personal' except there was a shark movie that used that. 'Jaws 4' I think," Edlund added.

"Supernatural" season eight premieres Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW

Geoff Berkshire lives in Los Angeles and writes about film and television. His work has appeared in Variety, the L.A. Times, and Premiere, among other publications. He is the former national entertainment editor and film critic for