- Associated Press - Thursday, July 22, 2010

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Movie buffs, comic-book collectors, sci-fi fans and nerds and geeks of all stripes have taken over San Diego for Comic-Con, the city’s annual pop culture convention.

Now in its 41st year, Comic-Con draws more than 120,000 fans to the San Diego Convention Center for a four-day event showcasing upcoming movies, TV shows and video games, along with toys, collectibles, costumes and comic books.

The fan-focused festival promises loads of freebies, exclusive looks at yet-to-be-released fare and colorful costumes galore.

Donna Moore, of San Diego, came prepared with different costumes for each day of the convention. She dressed as Jack Sparrow for opening night and has Klingon and punk-rock costumes ready for later in the week.

A veteran of 12 Comic-Cons, she loves dressing up, but she’s most interested in learning about forthcoming films.

“It’s always a kick to see what’s coming up,” said the 54-year-old. “I love the Con.”

John Lord, 27, likes to check out the movie previews, but his real love is video games.

“I like to see new games and listen to the developers talk about how they did it,” said the San Diego resident, adding that he’s especially excited to experience “Force Unleashed 2.”

A line of fans waiting to claim their Comic-Con passes stretched around the convention center hours before the festival began. Weekend pass holders got a sneak peek at the convention floor Wednesday night. Within minutes of its opening, thousands of fans crowded the giant space, collecting freebies and checking out larger-than-life displays from movie studios, comic-book publishers, video game companies and toy manufacturers.

Lena Chhor, 19, drank in the colorful atmosphere as she waited in a line to collect a free “Tron” figurine.

“I’m more interested in costumes,” she said, confessing that she was unlikely to don one herself. “I’m also excited to see the big Pikachu.”

Oversized movie, video game and comic-book characters dotted the convention floor, including a life-sized Na’vi figure from “Avatar” and Woody and Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” interpreted in Legos.

“This is the place to be to talk about all things pop culture,” said Aaron Archer, who helps develop products for Hasbro. His booth featured Transformers toys, G.I. Joe figurines and a giant pink My Little Pony.

Other attention-getters on the exhibition floor included a glowing alien sleep chamber, Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak and a working prop from the “Green Lantern” film due next year.

Comic-Con is “really about sharing a dialogue with our fans,” said Lisa Gregorian, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros. “Once you understand Comic-Con — and we all came as fans before we came as exhibitors — you love coming.”

Comic-Con officially opens Thursday, when “Tron” and a possible Brangelina appearance are among the main attractions. The event continues through Sunday.

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