Studio superheroes rub elbows in superfan stew

Disney first teased “Tron: Legacy” by showing a secret trailer during the studio’s 2008 Comic-Con presentation.

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“New Moon” brought new energy to San Diego Comic-Con in 2009, further broadening the appeal of the once-fanboy-centric showcase.

So, in a year with no “Twilight” panel, will it be back to business as usual at the annual event, where film, TV, vidgame and publishing companies come to court eager crowds of early adopters?

Truth be told, though “New Moon” drew record numbers of females (including a surprising number of over-25 Twihards), overall attendance grew less than 1%, inching just above 2008’s 125,000.

The reason? “We’ve had to cap our attendance, so we’ll always be around that number from here on out,” explains longtime Comic-Con marketing director David Glanzer.

As the confab threatens to outgrow its digs at the San Diego Convention Center (with rumors circulating of a possible move after its contract expires in 2012), organizers have expanded programming to the nearby Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

This year’s most anticipated panels hail from repeat visitors: After a teaser trailer became the buzz of the Con in 2008, “Tron: Legacy” returns for its third year. Marvel will tout “Thor” and “Green Lantern,” WB has “Harry Potter” and director Edgar Wright (who launched the “Shaun of the Dead” cult campaign in San Diego) unveils U’s cult comic adaptation “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” starring Michael Cera.

Major new players include Nintendo and DreamWorks Animation. Though animation has always had a home at Comic-Con, DWA felt this was the first time one of their toons fit, kicking off Thursday’s Hall H schedule with a panel for “Megamind,” about a supervillain forced to become the hero after vanquishing his spandex-clad rival.

Comic-Con’s television presence continues to expand this year, with “Glee” taking the traditional “Buffy” singalong spot on Sunday and fans getting their first look at the Steven Spielberg-produced “Falling Skies.”

In some ways, TV properties are a more natural fit for the fan crowd than one-off movies, explains genre marketing consultant Jeff Walker: “When you talk about how fans relate to something over a long period of time, the way they did with trilogies like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Spider-Man,’ TV has that.”

Shows such as “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries” should help to fill the vampire vacuum left by “Twilight.” And though Summit won’t hold its next “Twilight” panel until 2011, they’ll be bringing genre entries “Drive Angry 3D” and “Red” (based on a graphic novel).

So, will it really be a quieter year?

“I think it’ll be less female, anyway,” says Summit worldwide marketing prexy Nancy Kirkpatrick. “Comic-Con is never quiet. There’s always something unexpected that gets discovered there.”

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