DIG THIS, BURY THAT: “Fan participation” takes on a different meaning at Comic-Con, which is expected to draw a sold-out crowd of roughly 126,000 people. At 6 p.m. Saturday, for instance, there’s the fourth annual Zombie Walk, where the undead (or just people wearing undead makeup) will gather near Horton Plaza to shamble through downtown San Diego. To promote the film “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” meanwhile, Universal is staging an “immersive experience” at the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter Hotel where DJs will spin music and cast members will sign autographs and make T-shirts for fans. From 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Fox will park a taco truck at 5th Avenue and J Street to promote Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete”; later that evening, the first 500 fans at the site who are 21 or older will be able to view advance footage from the film on a special outdoor screen. At the Lionsgate booth in the Convention Center, meanwhile, the upcoming film “Buried” will try the captive-audience approach: Willing participants will be filmed while they’re “trapped” in a coffin-like confined space for 30 seconds, and the video will be posted in a virtual cemetery online.
STAR TRACK: The biggest room at the Con is Hall H — it doesn’t stand for Hollywood, but it really should, considering it’s the place where the studios parade their stars and filmmakers to win the hearts of the audience (and the world, which plugs in via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.). The stars in Hall H this year include Angelina Jolie for “Salt,” Will Ferrell for “Megamind,” Jeff Bridges for “Tron: Legacy,” Ryan Reynolds for “Green Lantern,” Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone for “The Expendables” and Helen Mirren (!) and Willis for “Red.” What about rumors that Brad Pitt, who is the good guy opposite Ferrell’s evil-genius in the animated November release “Megamind,” will make his Comic-Con debut on Friday, the same day Jolie is scheduled to appear? Pitt wasn’t listed in the Con’s first official lineup announcement and Ferrell was slippery on the topic: “Oh, yeah, yeah, the other guy… there’s an outside chance that someone with that name will be there. Or not. Maybe.”
“IT’S ABOUT THE COMICS, MAN!”: Four decades ago, the first Comic-Con in San Diego was staged in a hotel basement, and there was nobody in attendance that looked like Jolie. It was pretty much all about comic books back then, and though they’re now second fiddle (or third), there is some strong comic-book programming. Neal Adams, the comics titan whose sleek and shadowy version of Batman in the late 1960s and early ’70s reclaimed the character from the Adam West camp, will join old writing partner Denny O’Neil for a Saturday panel that might make some middle-aged fans swoon with Gotham City nostalgia. More of the moment: Marvel Comics writer Matt Fraction has a Sunday spoken-word performance keyed to comics history (think “Swimming to Cambodia” meets superheroes), and his Saturday summit with Marvel writers Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid and Chris Claremont will be analyzed for secret meanings and hints. There’s the annual tribute to the King of Comics, the late Jack Kirby, on Sunday, and there also will be some last-minute programming additions, no doubt, to mark the recent passing of the late, great Harvey Pekar, the crankiest voice in underground comics.
FIRST CONTACT: How important is it to win over Hall H fans? Jon Favreau just started filming “Cowboys & Aliens” in the New Mexico desert with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, but he persuaded the film’s producers (including Steven Spielberg) that it was worth his time to fly to San Diego to talk to fans about the movie — about space invaders who land in the Old West — even without footage to show them. Other 2011 films looking to make a mark include “Battle: Los Angeles” (Aaron Eckhart leads urban war against aliens); “Drive Angry,” a body-count vendetta film with Nicolas Cage; and Zack Snyder’s insane-asylum fantasy “Sucker Punch.” Says Snyder: “It’s absolutely important to start a conversation with the fans, and Comic-Con is the place to do it.”
SPECIAL AGENTS: On Saturday, there’s a paranormal TV showdown as the federal agents in charge of weirdness from “Warehouse 13” start their panel 15 minutes after the federal agents in charge of weirdness from the Fox hit “Fringe” begin theirs. If you’re old-school spooky, go see “Californication” star David Duchovny (formerly of “The X-Files”) on Thursday on the Showtime panel, which also features the stars of “Weeds” and “Dexter.” Since when is “Weeds” a Comic-Con television property? The real question is what isn’t a Comic-Con property anymore? The cast and creators of “Glee,” “Castle,” “Bones” and “White Collar” are all going to the ever-expanding expo.
INK TOURISTS: Sam Worthington is headed to San Diego, but it’s not to hype next month’s “Avatar” theatrical re-release. Instead he’s following in the footsteps of Cage, Guy Ritchie, Michael Chiklis and other celebrities who have launched comic book ventures. If Worthington, who appears Saturday to promote his Full Clip imprint, is looking for a role model, we suggest he drop by Saturday’s session with Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, whose award-winning “The Umbrella Academy” for Dark Horse Comics is an oddball epic of the highest order.
THE HOME TEAM: The Hero Complex will be part of Comic-Con 2010 in a big way. In the big room, Hall H, I’ll be moderating the Saturday cast and creator panels for Warner Bros (“Green Lantern,” “Sucker Punch,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“) from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and then, also on Saturday, I have the same duty for Marvel Studios at 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (the announced films are “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger“). On Thursday, I’m guiding a panel titled “Spark of Imagination” with “The Spiderwick Chronicles” co-author Tony DiTerlizzi , “Coraline” lead animator Travis Knight , “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola and “Kung Fu Panda“ director John Stevenson and “Earthworm Jim” artist Doug TenNapel. On Friday, I’ll be sitting with Ronald D. Moore, David Eick and cast members of “Caprica” for a panel on that SyFy series. And, yes, when you add it up, it’s clearly a case of excessive moderation.
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— Geoff Boucher
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