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A fantasy fan's dream come true

A guide to Comic-Con's film, television and game highlights.

July 26, 2007|Jevon Phillips | Times Staff Writer

IT may be known for its zoo, its Padres and its back-flipping whales, but this weekend San Diego will once again don the mask of super city as Comic-Con comes to town.

In 2006, the pop culture celebration spawned more than 600 hours of programming on all manner of topics, bringing in 104,000-plus attendees and taking over the San Diego Convention Center. Now in its 38th year, the event is not just for comic book enthusiasts.

Attendance has skyrocketed because of Hollywood's push to promote films and TV, but a broad range of activities also draws diverse conventioneers. A portfolio review for up-andcoming artists, a gaming pavilion for card-playing duelists, an anime schedule and a full-fledged film festival with a slate of 55 movies. That's not to mention Masquerade, an original costumes contest that is the ultimate expression of fandom with choreography and theatrical elements.

And then there are the comic books and their creators. Some of their faces are not very recognizable, but they can inspire the kind of fervent following that actors and directors sometimes get. The iconic Stan Lee, multi-hyphenate Neil Gaiman, bestselling fiction/comics writer Laurell K. Hamilton and Marvel Comics chief Joe Quesada all have their own panels as well, addressing what is still Comic-Con's heart.

As might be expected, events sell out fast, so attendees should plan ahead and get there early. Here are some highlights: Today the biggest buzz surrounds the Paramount/DreamWorks presentation. Trailers and panels involving "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones 4" and "Star Trek" are the main draws. Also noteworthy: The Season 4 presentation for ABC's "Lost" and Lionsgate's lineup featuring Jessica Alba and Dane Cook, costarring in "Good Luck Chuck," and "Ghost Rider's" Peter Fonda talking about the modern take on the classic western.

Other programs to look for include "Celebrating 40 Years of 'Star Trek,' " comic book updates by Marvel and DC, and the world premiere of the animated DVD "Superman: Doomsday." A hidden gem could be "Fanboys," a film about a group of "Star Wars" fans traveling to Skywalker Ranch to see "The Phantom Menace" before its release. The day's star quotient includes Lee, Rosario Dawson, Clive Barker and master of the undead George Romero -- each on separate panels talking about their own projects in the works.

Friday's activities include Clive Owen's appearance for New Line's "Shoot 'Em Up" and Dimension Films bringing in the scary with "The Mist" and Rob Zombie's "Halloween." Warner Bros. presents the much-anticipated "Watchmen," "The Invasion" and "Get Smart." Kate Beckinsale ("Whiteout") and producer Joel Silver ("The Invasion") are among the celebrities scheduled to be present.

Not to be ignored, the DVD market gets involved with a panel for the releases of "300" and "Blade Runner." The casts, and Ridley Scott, are slated to appear. Rounding out the night is Marvel's world premiere of the animated DVD "Doctor Strange" and the Will Eisner Comic Awards. Hidden gems would be graphic novel panels that spotlight the new faces and the overseas hits -- especially the way Hollywood is mining them for the next big idea. Friday is also "Star Wars" day, as evidenced by the six panels planned throughout the day on everything from trivia to upcoming books.

On Saturday, TV takes center stage with panels and screenings of NBC trio "Pushing Daisies," "Bionic Woman" and "Heroes"; also slated are "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica," "Eureka," "Family Guy," "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Smallville," "Supernatural" and "The Sarah Silverman Project." They'll also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and more. Whew!

Film is no slouch, though, with Columbia/ScreenGems presenting the funny "Superbad," the sequel "Resident Evil: Extinction" with first-time Con guest Milla Jovovich, and Marvel Studios' super-powered lineup of "The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man." Kevin Bacon and director James Wan will also be talking about their upcoming vigilante drama, "Death Sentence."

If you want to talk comics, there are also panels dealing with gays in comics, spirituality in comics and even reality in comics. Attendees can cap the night at the Masquerade, a parade of fans dressed in original costumes who perform and compete for prizes. Though this is a Comic-Con can't-miss, some will, because Saturday has already sold out.

Sunday's pace is slower and filled with activities for Kids' Day.

Panels explore how to draw, what's going on in kids' comics, and what it's like to have a dad in the biz. DC Comics takes advantage of the day to present its big-gun writers, while Marvel counters with an "X-Men"-themed panel. The star power on display is with the TV Guide super(natural) women panel (featuring Lucy Lawless, Allison DuBois and others) and a sit-down with Nicolas Cage and his adult son, Weston, as they talk about an illustrated series they've put together, "Voodoo Child."

Two other programs worth checking out are the "Masters of the Web" gathering of online buzzmakers and trendsetters from genre movie websites and the cartoon voices panel. Also, if you missed Masquerade, there's an encore presentation on video.

There are dozens more TV shows, films, comic book creators, booths, discussions and fun opportunities that will sway attendees, so plan accordingly and be flexible. If not, you could be one of the many who shows up to one of the final panels at Comic-Con -- the talkback -- where conventioneers get to express their joy or frustration with the event here to Con officials, and it's not always pretty.

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