Comic-Con 2013: Bigger than ever, as buzz builds

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 15: General Atmosphere during Comic-Con International 2012 at San Diego Convention Center on July 15, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) Frazer Harrison

Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif., is no longer just for comic book "geeks." The 44th annual event, which officially begins Thursday, is 130,000-attendees-strong and is sure to be a star-studded affair this year, with several celebrities expected to attend.

"It's now so big it's in the hotels in the area. There's also the party scene at night," Variety senior editor Marc Graser said about the upcoming four-day event.

"It's really about gathering around a property that fans love and getting to see a new poster, a new trailer and the first footage," said Graser, who noted he will be holed up in Hall H (the largest hall at the San Diego Convention Center), taking in the new trailers, posters, footage and everything in between this week.

Comic-Con has come a long way since its birth as a small comic book and art convention in 1970, drawing just 300 visitors. And as the number of attendees grows each year, so, too, does the demographical layout.

"When 'Twilight' started coming out, that changed the makeup of the Comic-Con audience," said Graser. "Suddenly you saw more women there. It was noticeable...And they've been coming back ever since."

Although Thursday marks the official start of Comic-Con, there are quite a few events planned in the days leading up to it. Legendary Entertainment is hosting a party Tuesday night to hype the new "Godzilla" movie, for example.

Then the real fun begins, with previews for the upcoming "RoboCop" reboot, along with footage from follow-ups to "Thor," "Captain America," ''The Amazing Spider-Man," ''Rise of the Planet of the Apes," ''The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2."

But it's not just the film industry; TV will play a major role, too. "TV has really taken over the show. Every TV show you can imagine is going to be there," said Graser. Comic-Con will feature casts, producers and creators of "The Walking Dead," ''Game of Thrones," ''True Blood," The Vampire Diaries," "Once Upon a Time," "The Originals" "Sleepy Hollow," "Almost Human" and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

"Definitely keep an eye out for 'Godzilla,'" added Graser. "That's going to be a really big one. It's really all the superhero stuff. The video games they have a big presence this year --- anything that fans love is going to be represented. DC Entertainment is going to have a huge presence there because of the 70th anniversary, which is going to be good timing because of 'Man of Steel' and all of the comic books it has coming out... Marvel may announce one of the movies they dated already, but that they haven't released the title of -- they've done that in the past."

Metallica will be on hand on Friday to perform a set, coinciding with the release of its 3D film, "Through the Never." The band will also debut the new theatrical trailer along with exclusive footage from the movie.

Whether it's good old-fashioned comic books or the latest new film trailer, Comic-Con is poised to generate a lot of buzz.

Actor Hugh Jackman will pay a visit to the convention to drum up excitement for his new movie, "The Wolverine." "It's gold," Jackman told The Associated Press. "I love being with the fans. I'm excited to show them some stuff at the presentation. It's gonna be fun."

Robert Kirkman, creator of "The Walking Dead" comic book series, said he's looking forward to this year's Comic-Con, telling The AP, "Bigger is always better," he said. "I know some people say, 'Hey! It used to be this quaint little convention where you could buy back issues, but damn it, now Samuel L. Jackson is walking around, and it's annoying.' I think Comic-Con casts a huge spotlight on the comic industry. It only seems to get bigger, and I think that's good for everybody."

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