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Comic-Con: Even Without Fox, ‘Dark Knight,’ or ‘Star Trek,’ Plenty to See, from Burton and Jackson to ‘Game of Thrones’

Comic-Con: Even Without Fox, 'Dark Knight,' or 'Star Trek,' Plenty to See, from Burton and Jackson to 'Game of Thrones'

Comic-Con is so noisy and logistically energy-draining–they’re expecting 130,000 attendees this year– that it’s tempting to just watch the Hall H panel videos from afar. Isn’t the “Twilight” series over already? (Actually, no, and the sad death of a fan who was struck by a car while trying to join an early “Twilight” Comic-Con line attests to that.)

Indeed, Fox, Universal, DreamWorks and Paramount are sitting this one out, along with Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises,” which has already held its LA press junket. Besides various trouble-plagued or postponed tentpoles facing reshoots, from the “G.I. Joe” sequel to “47 Ronin,” there are good reasons for studios to stay away, as Warners learned with their disastrous preview of “Green Lantern.”

Universal pushed hard on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Battleship” and “Cowboys and Aliens” in the past with little to show at release for their heavy Comic-Con spending. Even “Star Trek 2” isn’t going before the fans, because J.J. Abrams just finished shooting and doesn’t want to swiftly assemble anything that he would later regret. There is something to be said for keeping a little mystery–and it’s not like Paramount needs to do the hard sell at this point. Far better to put your best foot forward than to rush into a mistake.

But Disney is back at the Con after sitting out last year (disastrously unveiling “John Carter” at its own Disney 23 confab, although Marvel’s “The Avengers” did fine without going to San Diego), promoting Marvel product such as “Iron Man 3,” along with Warners (Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and “Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim”), Sony (“Hotel Transylvania,” “Looper”) and Lionsgate/Summit (“The Expendables 2” and the final “Twilight”).

Thus Comic-Con is still a must-attend on the entertainment side for access to the likes of Peter Jackson, who is finally unveiling some material from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” for fans (in case you missed his ongoing production video blogs), his protoge, Neil Blomkamp, on hand for much-anticipated “Elysium,” his follow-up to “District 9,” and Tim Burton, back with “Frankenweenie.”

Even the indies are hitting San Diego: Weinstein Co. is mounting a panel for Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western “Django Unchained,” starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, which isn’t due until Christmas; Focus Features is unveiling its latest stop-action feature, Laika’s “ParaNorman,” and Open Road is paneling and screening actor-director Dax Shepard’s indie road movie “Hit and Run.”

More web series and TV are on display than ever, accompanied by mighty marketing efforts. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s “Walking Dead” will put on panels as well, finally arriving in Hall H. For the fifth time, Warners is creating  limited edition collectible San Diego hotel key cards, this time over 40,000 will promo new fall TV series “666 Park Avenue,” starring Terry O’Quinn (“Lost”) , DC Comics action series “Arrow,” starring Stephen Amell (“Private Practice”) and epic adventure thriller “Revolution,” from Supernatural’s Eric Kripke, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and Jon “Iron Man” Favreau, starring Billy Burke (“Twilight”).

And then there are the parties: YouTube, EW, “Twilight,” “Expendables,” Hitfix and IMAX REMIX (an homage to James Bond) are some must-attends.

Some of the studios not showing at Comic-Con 2012 may turn up at less crowded Cons in San Francisco (March) and Chicago (April), where they have a better chance at standing out from the pack.

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