Comic-Con's geek chic fading?

Surprises abound at this year's fanboy fest

SAN DIEGO -- Is Wednesday the new Thursday?

At Comic-Con, Wednesdays traditionally have been "Preview Night," where the San Diego Convention Center opens its floors for only a few hours for professionals and retailers. It's a more sedate affair, a calm before the storm.

But this year, the downtown area already is filled with thousands of Con-goers, with many wearing Batman or Rorschach costumes. The Con tacitly seemed to acknowledge the shift, and for the first time it programmed an event on Wednesday: two preview screenings of Fox's new J.J. Abrams series "Fringe."

Early birds ran toward the giant Owlship, an owl-shaped vehicle seen in Warner Bros.' upcoming "Watchmen" movie. The ship is life-size and is said to weigh 9,000 pounds.

Some attendees expressed disappointment that there were no Marvel Studios presentations or previews of movies. That talk turned around when whispers coursed through the Great Hall that Thursday's Fox panel will have surprise footage or even cast appearances from next summer's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

"Surprises like that are what make Comic-Con," one professional said.

There is talk that despite the high numbers of conventiongoers, or maybe in spite of them, Comic-Con as a measure of geek cool may have reached a tipping point.

Critics are pointing to the scheduled appearances by tabloid mainstays Paris Hilton, who will join Thursday night's panel for Lionsgate's "Repo! The Genetic Opera" as well as host a party, and fellow party girl Kim Kardashian, who is supposed to hit DC Comics' party Friday night before appearing at a "Disaster Movie" panel Saturday. When Comic-Con becomes fodder for the Us Weekly crowd, has the event nuked the fridge? Folks wonder.

"This may be the 2012 of Comic-Cons," said one comic writer-turned-screenwriter, referring to the year on the Mayan calendar that signals the end of the world.
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