SAN DIEGO (Hollywood Reporter) - Thanks to NBC's "Heroes"
presentation, the annual Comic-Con International gathering of
comic-book fans, which wrapped in San Diego on Sunday, will be
remembered as the Con at which TV shows eclipsed feature films.
The "Heroes" panel, which started at 12:45 p.m. Saturday,
hit maximum capacity of about 4,000 people almost as soon as
the doors opened at 10 a.m. Fans arrived early and sat through
two other presentations -- for NBC's "Bionic Woman" and a TV
Guide panel on TV heroes -- just to hear the "Heroes" creators
and to offer their love to the cast. Thousands more waited in
line for hours in case, by chance, some room opened up.
When it was announced that Kevin Smith would direct the
first episode of spinoff show "Heroes: Origins," an already
electric room amped off the charts.
Television's presence was the strongest it's ever been at
the Con, where the small screen's influence has been slowly
growing since ABC launched "Lost" in 2004, previewing the pilot
in a half-full hall. But it was those early fans that helped
the show become a buzzworthy hit, and when an unknown show
called "Heroes" previewed in 2006 and went on to become one of
the biggest new dramas of the season, the Con's launching pad
status was solidified.
Shows that lined up in hopes of blasting off this year
included ABC's "Pushing Daisies," CBS' "Moonlight," NBC's
"Chuck" and CW's "Reaper." Underscoring the importance of the
Con, even Fox's "24," heading into its seventh season, made its
first trip to San Diego, perhaps to shore up geek support after
a less-than-stellar year.
Also whipping geeks into a frenzy was word of "Xena" star
Lucy Lawless returning to Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica," and
Sam Jones, who played "Flash Gordon" in the 1980 movie, set to
appear as a guest star on the channel's upcoming "Flash Gordon"
This year, the film contingents at the Con didn't offer
many standouts. The exceptions were Warner Bros. Pictures' "Get
Smart," with its cast in tow; Paramount Pictures' orchestration
of the dual Spock casting of Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto
in its next "Star Trek" movie; and Marvel Studios' "Iron Man."
Marvel's efforts were almost a textbook example of how to
make an impression at the Con. The company stoked the flames
with a large mysterious crate with the words "Stark Industries"
sitting on the convention floor. It was finally unpacked in a
ceremony by the "Iron Man" crew, including director Jon
Favreau, Tony Stark/Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. and
creature creator Stan Winston. Fans jostled for prime camera
position when the contents of the box were revealed to be a
life-size replica of an armor costume that will be seen in the
"It's a great place to celebrate all the big films of the
summer, since most of them have been released, and it's an
introduction for next year's films," said Kevin Feige,
president of production at Marvel. "In one convention, all our
audience is there, and those that aren't are reading the hourly
updates on Web sites."
Marvel's presentation for "The Incredible Hulk" included Ed
Norton, Liv Tyler and director Louis Leterrier, who had jumped
on the plane from Toronto that same morning. That was followed
by the "Iron Man" panel, at which a made-for-the-Con trailer
was shown twice by popular demand, and at which Downey, Gwyneth
Paltrow and Terrence Howard, all making their first appearance
at the convention, took part.
Norton, known for heavy-duty dramatic roles, said that when
he apprehensively told close friends he was taking on the Hulk
role, he was surprised to learn how many people are secretly
comic book fans.
"It sounds like a lark in the beginning, but there is a
really big responsibility," he told the crowd. "People are
really invested in this character and in this story and in the
spirit of it. And you go from it being a whim to something that
you need to make sure you take seriously and bring all the
stuff you would bring to any other film to it."
Other notable presentations included New Line Cinema's
"Shoot 'Em Up," Sony's "30 Days of Night" and the hilarious
presentation of "Walk Hard" and "Superbad."
More than ever, the convention found itself groaning under
the bulging weight of its status as a pop culture mecca. With
sold-out days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- a first for the
Con -- and with more than 125,000 people in one confined place,
getting from one event to another was never harder.
"When you walk around the hall, it smells like a fart a lot
of the time," observed first-time attendee Judd Apatow,
director of the recent comedy hit "Knocked Up." "Like just
'cause you're dressed as a storm trooper doesn't mean you can
fart at will."
Lines were everywhere -- to meet artists, for swag, even to
get a ticket to get in another line to get a wristband to get a
poster. And it's in those instances where anti-Hollywood
sentiments crept up.
"Comic-Con used to be egalitarian, but it's starting to
favor the privileged," said one high-level studio executive who
declined to be identified. "I know I can bypass the geeks who
drove from Kansas City and stood in line for hours."
Part of the problem is the media's over-coverage of the
Con. More than 3,000 media registered for the event, with
outlets from comic-book sites like Comic Book Resources to
mainstream outlets like Entertainment Weekly sending teams of
bloggers and reporters. MTV had three people dedicated to
following "Watchmen" director Zach Snyder for one day.
While the organizers say that Hollywood isn't taking over
from a cubic feet standpoint, the studios have the marketing
muscle that others don't. Blocks before even reaching the
convention, attendees were bombarded by free Hollywood
giveaways such as "Dexter" stickers, "Halloween" posters and
"I may have a 10-by-10 booth and may do great business, but
I don't have the resources to advertise my presence at the show
as, say, a top movie studio would," said David Glanzer,
Comic-Con's director of marketing and publcity. "The perception
is that Hollywood has taken over the event, but I would ask
anybody to look at the guest list, look at the programs we
have, and they would be very surprised at how comic-centric
this really continues to be."
At the end of the day, the Comic-Con experience remains a
personal one, as attendees indulge in their inner geek.
"Sundance is like a museum, and this is like an amusement
park," said Michael Davis, director of "Shoot 'Em Up." "I like
museums, but I prefer amusement parks."