Crazy for Comic-Con |

TV | Game of Thrones

Crazy for Comic-Con

Get 'em to the geeks! Stars flocked to the annual San Diego gathering — and worked harder than ever to reward faithful fans

Going into Comic-Con last week, the buzz was that the annual pop culture Mardi Gras had lost its freaky fizz. After all, several of Hollywood’s most monumental in-production geek properties — including The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, The Hobbit, and Man of Steel — had chosen to keep their stars at home (or at work) instead of shipping them to San Diego to shake clawed hands, sign Slave Leia cheeks, and kiss grown men in Batman costumes. And yet Comic-Con 2011 was the most jam-packed ever, remarkable for more aggressive, personal efforts to generate word of mouth. The Amazing Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield stood in the crowd and gave a stirring testimonial about his own Spider-Man fandom. The Twilight cast served breakfast to fans who had camped out overnight for their panel. Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde came to town for an unprecedented glitzy red-carpet premiere for Cowboys & Aliens. ”Everyone was ready to give Comic-Con its last rites,” director Jon Favreau tells EW. ”But Steven Spielberg came for the first time. Francis Ford Coppola came. Peter Jackson flew in and surprised people. And there was just more originality given to presenting material and connecting with fans than just waving from a stage and throwing out T-shirts.”

TV shows dominated the confab this year. According to Comic-Con’s website, the events ranked ”most popular” by registered attendees focused on, in order, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones. (Only six movie-related panels ranked in the top 30.) Glee exec producer Brad Falchuk used his panel to announce that stars Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith might not be leaving the series at the end of next season, though their high school characters will be graduating. The cast of Chuck — heading into their last season — used their panel to say goodbye. Fringe, meanwhile, screened a spoof video that had Zachary Quinto, Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, and more auditioning to replace star Joshua Jackson. (”We wanted to give fans an experience that’s not typical,” says exec producer J.H. Wyman, ”something they can go home and say, ‘That was unexpected and awesome.”’) The video was immediately made available on the Web — an example of how Comic-Con has become a made-for-cyberspace event, ideally suited to generating bits and bites of news and neat nonsense for a trending, streaming culture. Says Favreau: ”The big winner of Comic-Con 2011 was the fans. Hollywood worked harder to whip up dishes that could satisfy them.”—Jeff Jensen