Imagine the ultimate all-star sci-fi/fantasy mash-up epic, where Iron Man forms a power alliance with Superman. Where the heroes of Star Wars team up with Harry Potter, the Ghostbusters, and Gandalf — all of them leading an army of friendly zombies, robots, monsters, and aliens. Their mission: snag a seat inside the jam-packed convention center for Comic-Con 2012.
From July 12 to 15, more than 125,000 fans — so many in costume, it puts Halloween to shame — descended on San Diego to attend the sold-out annual gathering, which began in 1970 as a weekend-long hangout for a few hundred comic-book aficionados and has evolved into the single most important showcase for Hollywood’s biggest (and most expensive) projects.
For several years now, Comic-Con has been mandatory for any film or TV show hoping to capture the attention of fantasy lovers. Not only is the world’s entertainment press there to document every panel and preview, but that’s amplified by the social-media savvy of Comic-Con-goers, who aren’t shy about tweeting, Facebooking, and Tumblring their love — or hate.
Honoring Comic-Con fans for past support can be as important as impressing them with new titles. Joss Whedon’s sci-fi Western Firefly lasted only one season on Fox in 2002 and spawned an underperforming Universal feature film in 2005, but its cult of admirers continues to grow, and the creator and his cast reunited at Comic-Con this year to thank them for their loyalty. (See star Nathan Fillion’s exclusive Comic-Con diary on page 32.) And Marvel Studios opened this year’s presentation in the 6,500-seat Hall H with a reel of footage from its previous earthshaking moments there, which included assembling the Avengers cast in 2010, nearly a year before shooting began. ”We put that piece together because I thought it would do a better job than I could at thanking this crowd, and this hall, and this audience, for everything that’s happened to Marvel Studios in the last five years!” production president Kevin Feige said, warming up the crowd before revealing details on the Thor and Captain America sequels, and their upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man movies. From there, Marvel moved on to Iron Man 3 (out May 3), presenting images of Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, an alien-ring-powered terrorist. This movie will return the focus to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (which is right where both guys like it), so don’t expect much crossover from his Avengers superfriends, who have gone their separate ways. Except for Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk. ”If you remember at the end of Avengers, he jumped into the car with Tony,” Feige said, teasing the cheering crowd before adding: ”And Tony dropped him off at the Port Authority.”
But that’s not all that got the geek hive buzzing. —Anthony Breznican