Comic-Con 2014: Cumberbatch, Radcliffe sightings and more in San Diego

July 23, 2014 | 4:54 p.m.
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Christopher Maracha, of San Francisco, salutes on his way up a convention hall escalator. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Elias Meraz, left, poses with cosplayer Alicia Bellamy, dressed as the "Scarlet Witch." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The Gonzalez family of Santa Ana takes a rest on the convention hall floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans pass by BBC America's "Orphan Black" ad on a convention hall wall. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Beasley as the Hobbit's Gandalf makes his way through the crowd. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Kevin Uribe, of Red Bank, NJ, stands quietly, dressed as "Silent Bob." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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John Whitt of Minneapolis spreads his wings as "Batman." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Vick of Los Angeles touches up his makeup during a break from his role as "The Spoon Killer." (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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"Orphan Black" fan Cynthia Perez walks away with a cardboard cutout of the show's character, Cal Morrison. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans pack an elevator to the convention center sky bridge. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Elisa Teague walks the convention center floor in an unconventional gown. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Bugs Mitchell of Westminster finds a quiet cove to check his email during Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Keeleigh West of Reno, Nev. spreads her homemade wings on the convention hall floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chopper the dog moves through the Gaslamp Quarter with his owner Mark Shaffer. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Chris Clarke of San Diego reaches out to touch a macabre mannequin to see if it might be a real human in front of the Zombie Apocalypse Store in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A cosplay group entertains passersby in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter during Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Andrew Knighton, under the gigantic eyeball, heads into the Comic-Con convention center. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Convention attendees gather around a scale model of Star Trek starship USS Reliant. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Convention-goers stop at nothing, even if it means waiting in long lines, to buy Marvel merchandise. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A woman in a period gown takes the stairs after realizing it would be a tight squeeze into the elevator. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The face of fictitious mascot and cover boy Alfred E. Neuman shines through in a compilation of Mad magazine covers. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A pair of Supermen give onlookers a double take as they check out "Star Wars" merchandise at the convention. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Josh Roemele, 10, marvels at "Transformers" merchandise, just one item among a bevy of goodies. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans, dressed up and dressed down, take an escalator to the convention floor. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Cosplayers David Schoelen, left, and Paul Baum work up the right attitude. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Thomas Willeford of Harrisburg, Pa., appears in costume at Comic-Con 2014 as Steampunk Iron Man (circa 1889). (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Attendees enter the San Diego Convention Center as Comic-Con 2014 officially opens its doors for preview night Wednesday at 6 p.m. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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The Marvel booth at Comic-Con 2014 gives away free posters to the early arrivals during preview night Wednesday. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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A.J. Peplinski, 6, and his father, Allen Peplinski, of Las Vegas look up at a Bumbleblee figure from the "Transformers" movies at Comic-Con 2014. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Hannah Collier, right, explains the new video game "The Crew" to Robert Atwater at Comic-Con 2014. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Josh Buonocore of Orlando, Fla., takes a selfie with a zombie at "The Walking Dead" Terminus wall. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Children construct Lego projects during a contest at the Lego booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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San Diego friends Elizabeth Walsh, left, and Traci Haze clown around for a photo with a model of "The Hobbit's" Gollum. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Crys Harm of Langhorne, Pa., sports bright green contact lenses. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Zak Skelly rides on dad David's shoulders through a packed San Diego Convention Center. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A Thorin Oakenshield figurine, part of the Hobbit collection at the Weta booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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A Han Solo in Carbonite. The life-size figure is part of a giveaway at the Sideshow Collectables booth. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Men are reflected in a glass case as they look over a Superman figure. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Adult Swim's master of ceremonies Randall Byers, center, supervises the Wheel of Wonder, which fans spin for prizes. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Kris Keyes as Dive Bomber, right, checks his email as passersby take his photo. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Renee White of Melbourne, Australia, snaps a photo of a giant Godzilla at Comic-Con in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego officially opens Thursday but fans arrive early to pickup credentials on Wednesday. Travis Jackson with 1540 production helps with the construction of Warner Bros.' 24-foot tall sculpture of Godzilla behind Hall H. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Lauren Moyer assembles flowers and billboards for the Interactive Zone at Petco Park as part of Comic-Con. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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SAN DIEGO- July 23 2014: Emily Graham, of Vancouver Canada waits in line for a preview event at Comic Con July 23, 2014 in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Arriving early at Comic-Con, para-olympic runner Blake Leeper of San Diego is the first double leg amputee in America in the Olympic games. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Anna Kegler, left, Rochelle Keyhan and Erin Filson, representing a group called geeksforCONsent at Comic-Con. The trio will be handing out anti-harassment paraphernalia at the convention. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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Docy Elliott of Ottawa, Canada, is already in costume (Goku from "Dragonball Z") as he arrives early to pick up credentials. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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A worker helps assemble a giant billboard for the new NBC show "Constantine" near Petco Park as part of Comic-Con preparation. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Passersby look at a re-branded Hard Rock Cafe -- now the Ascension Cafe -- which is a Comic-Con placeholder touting the Syfy show "Ascension" in San Diego. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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The city of San Diego gets into Comic-Con as trolley cars are wrapped in ads from the CW's new "Gotham" television show. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re planning to spend any time in downtown San Diego this weekend, keep an eye out for Homer Simpson’s head.

That iconic bald pate is expected to take up a noticeable portion of the city’s shoreline in a clever bit of promotion for “The Simpsons,” one of thousands of movies, TV shows, comic books and video game titles vying for attention at the annual pop culture expo that kicks off Thursday.

FULL COVERAGE: Comic-Con 2014

Comic-Con International long ago evolved from its modest origins — it began as an intimate gathering in the basement of San Diego’s U.S. Grant Hotel in 1970 — into an important marketing platform for Hollywood, an opportunity for studios and networks to bring an increasingly broad range of movies and series directly to an enthusiastic audience of roughly 130,000 fans amid a frenzied, carnival-like atmosphere.

But with life-size Lego displays, pop-up arcades and costumed hucksters crowding onto the streets surrounding the San Diego Convention Center during the four official days of the convention, it isn’t always easy to make an impression. Sometimes, only star power will do.

Benedict Cumberbatch

“Sherlock” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” star Benedict Cumberbatch will participate in his first Comic-Con. (Associated Press)

This year’s Comic-Con lineup has no shortage of big names — fan-beloved actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe will journey to the convention for the first time. And the casts of some of the most popular series on television, including HBO’s lavish “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s grisly “The Walking Dead,” will appear.

Both those shows will hold panel presentations in Hall H, Comic-Con’s 6,500-seat marquee arena, joining a TV-heavy lineup that will also include sessions devoted to a raft of other established series: “True Blood,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Following,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Arrow” and more. Among the anticipated newcomers are Fox’s Batman-prequel “Gotham,” Starz’s time-travel drama “Outlander” and the CW’s new comic book-based outing, “The Flash.”

Here’s a look at some of the highlights expected to have fans talking:

The Hobbit takes a bow: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” set to open Dec. 17, will bring to a close Bilbo Baggins’ journey and mark the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s years-long cinematic exploration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth. So it’s likely to be an emotional moment when Jackson brings some of the cast of the last of his “Hobbit” trilogy to Hall H on Saturday morning. The Warner Bros. presentation will also feature Andy and Lana Wachowski’s “Jupiter Ascending” and George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Superheroes take over TV: Costumed heroes have been all the rage at the multiplex for some time now, but with a run of anticipated new shows set to debut, it looks like the super fever that has gripped Hollywood is now migrating in a significant way to the small screen.

Characters from the DC stable will feature prominently in “Gotham,” with Benjamin McKenzie as forthright cop James Gordon; “Constantine,” about a paranormal detective with a bad attitude; and “The Flash,” starring Grant Gustin as speedy good guy Barry Allen. Marvel, too, plans to ramp up its TV output with a new ABC series, “Agent Carter,” a spinoff from its “Captain America” movie franchise, and four new shows for Netflix — “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron First” — and a miniseries, “The Defenders,” which could feature those characters in one adventure.

Comic-Con gets animated: A selection of family films will make the trip to San Diego, including the DreamWorks Animation’s “Penguins of Madagascar,” which features the voice talents of Cumberbatch, and “Home,” the human-alien road trip movie starring Rihanna and Jim Parsons. Fox will tout the colorful “The Book of Life,” a fantasy adventure about a conflicted hero named Manolo produced by Guillermo del Toro; Focus will introduce fans to “The Boxtrolls,” the latest stop-motion fantasy from Oregon’s Laika, about an orphaned boy raised by unusual, bug-munching creatures.

Missing in action: Fans expecting J.J. Abrams to turn in an appearance to tout “Star Wars: Episode VII” might prepare to be disappointed. The filmmaker is not expected to attend Comic-Con, nor is the upcoming space opera expected to have any official presence in San Diego. Also absent from the lineup? Zack Snyder’s follow-up to “Man of Steel,” 2016′s “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

That’s not to say that the franchises will be entirely absent. George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away will be represented by the new animated series “Star Wars Rebels,” which is set to debut on Disney Channel this fall before moving to a regular slot on Disney XD.

Spirit

Frank Miller. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

Batman, meanwhile, will be nearly omnipresent at the convention as he commemorates a significant milestone.

Batman celebrates 75 years: As the caped crusader turns 75, he’s as spry — and in demand — as ever. Among the myriad panels devoted to Bruce Wayne’s vigilante, the “Batman 75: Legends of the Dark Knight” session Thursday afternoon is one comics fans won’t want to miss. Frank Miller, who wrote and penciled 1986′s game-changing Batman miniseries “The Dark Knight Returns” (along with “Sin City” and “300,” among many others), will appear at the panel chock-full of Bat-artists and scribes, including Grant Morrison, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, the current “Batman” creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.

Also on the roster are presentations paying homage to the campy TV series starring Adam West — who will be on hand with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar at a Thursday-evening panel — and sessions about “Batman: The Animated Series” and the popular “Batman” video games. Even Batkid will take part, as filmmaker Dana Nachman brings a documentary to the convention on Sunday about Miles Scott, the 5-year-old leukemia survivor who fought villains in “Gotham” (also known as San Francisco) last November courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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Harry Potter himself will finally make his way to San Diego as Daniel Radcliffe makes an appearance to promote his horror movie “Horns.” (Los Angels Times)

Daniel Radcliffe is coming to Hall H: But not to discuss his most famous role as the Boy Who Lived. Rather, the “Harry Potter” star will be on hand to talk up a decidedly different turn in the horror movie “Horns,” which premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on the Joe Hill novel, “Horns” tracks Radcliffe’s Ig, who gains unusual powers after he is accused of murdering his girlfriend and wakes up looking much like the monster he’s suspected of being.

The first rule is… “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk will join director David Fincher in a panel session devoted to the cult novel and its 1999 feature film adaptation. Earlier this week, Palahniuk made headlines by detailing his plans for a “Fight Club” sequel in the shape of a Dark Horse graphic novel that will see the protagonist (played by Edward Norton in the Fincher film) having become a father to a 9-year-old son.

Marvel surprise? Last year, Marvel managed the near impossible, winning the Comic-Con showmanship contest with an in-character appearance from English actor Tom Hiddleston, who turned up in Hall H as his alter ego Loki, the mischievous god from the “Thor” films and “The Avengers,” and was received with a thunderous response. It will be interesting to see if the comic book studio can top itself at this year’s Hall H session, which is set for late Saturday afternoon.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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