The Big Con

Out of the basement and into the spotlight, Comic-Con 2007 is the place to be

What Coachella is to music and what Sundance is to corporate purchasing of independent films, Comic-Con International (informally known as "SDCC," for San Diego Comic Con) is to pop culture. Just as the geeks who played with Mego superhero dolls in the basement have gone on to be in charge of development at major movie studios, so too has the annual San Diego event evolved from 300 comic-book fans getting together in the basement of a hotel back in 1970 to an event with global reach that now sells out the nearly half-mile-long San Diego Convention Center, filling all of its 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space with genre fans from around the world. And lucky us, it's practically at our doorstep.

You don't even have to care a whit about comic books to enjoy the thing. If you like movies that are even vaguely fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or comedy; if you play video games; if you enjoy cartoons, adult-oriented or otherwise; if you collect toys, miniatures, or fantasy card games; if there's some cheesy TV show from the '70s you remember fondly and think no one else does; heck, even if you collect edged weapons, there's something here to please. Not to mention appearances by some of the biggest stars in the world, from cinematic celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger (who's most likely a little too busy to attend this year) to living legends Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury.

People who have never been to Comic-Con have a number of misperceptions about the event. The old stereotype of a hall full of nerds in Spock ears who desperately need to get a life is mercifully dying out, but newbies still frequently underestimate the scope of the thing. Before you go, you check out the Weekly's Comic-Con Survival Guide.

I'll just wait here until you've read it. . . .

So, did you get all that? Think you can handle those simple instructions? Good—because there's a lot to see and do beginning July 25 and wrapping up on the 28th. Here's what's hot and happening for 2007:

MOVIES
Warner Bros. recently disappointed would-be attendees with the news that they're holding back the first look at Christopher Nolan's Batman: The Dark Knight until the Wizard World convention in Chicago. However, they have an ace in the hole for San Diego: the first official word on the long-in-development movie version of Alan Moore's Watchmen, considered by most to be one of the greatest (and most unfilmable) graphic novels of all time. Director Zack Snyder (300) is finally bringing Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan and co. to the big screen. WB will also be bringing along producer Joel Silver to discuss the Nicole Kidman Body Snatchers sorta-remake Invasion and give a glimpse of the Wachowski Brothers' live-action Speed Racer film.

Not to be outdone, Paramount plans on making some announcements about two long-dormant powerhouse franchises: Indiana Jones and Star Trek. The latter, a planned prequel/reboot, will be directed by J.J. Abrams, who'll have to explain to the crowd why Leonard Nimoy's in it but William Shatner isn't; you can also ask him about that mysterious monster-movie trailer of his that's been playing in front of Transformers. And it isn't all nostalgia: Paramount's also got Robert Zemeckis' 3-D, R-rated, animated epic Beowulf, and screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary will be there (rumor has it there'll also be a secret screening sometime during the weekend). Then there's next year's big superhero movie Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr. as the alcoholic superhero; both men will be there, but all we really want to know is whether or not Favreau got the rights to the Black Sabbath song because, c'mon, how can you not use that? No guest is officially scheduled for Indiana Jones, but "a few surprises" are promised. . . .

Lionsgate brings out fanboy fave Jessica Alba, who'll be promoting both the lame-looking Dane Cook comedy Good Luck Chuck and the remake of the Pang brothers' Thai horror movie The Eye, about a woman who sees ghosts following an eye transplant. And how do you follow a bodacious babe like Alba? Why, with a creepy old man, of course! Saw star Tobin Bell will offer cagey non-answers about how his Jigsaw character can appear in Saw IV if he's dead. It's been a tradition at the past two conventions to showcase the first deathtrap of each new Saw movie—expect that to continue.

Twentieth Century Fox seems more restrained than usual this year. The most recognizable product they'll have on hand is footage from the sequel to Alien Versus Predator, similarly and confusingly titled Aliens Versus Predator, in which the familiar monsters trash small-town America, this time with an R-rating that allows for more human victims, none of whom are actors you've heard of. Doug Liman's sci-fi action movie Jumper has had a troubled history of recasting and reshooting, but he'll hope to wow the crowd with what he has; some of the cast, possibly including Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson, are expected to show, as are cast and crew from The Dark Is Rising, based on Susan Cooper's fantasy novel series. Fox also has The Simpsons Movie, but that merits its own separate panel.

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