The nerd takeover of Hollywood is in full swing. Most of the highest-grossing movies or the buzziest shows on cable or streaming involve dragons, superheroes or mystical warriors, all staples of fantasy novels and comic books. As the costumed hordes prepare to descend July 20-23 on San Diego for Comic-Con, we take a look at the most powerful names in geek culture. These are the men and women making the calls on the most influential franchises in the entertainment space and creating the big- and small-screen adventures that will inspire new generations of fans.
Geek Cred: Thor, Captain America and Black Widow kneel before the ruler of Marvel’s cinematic universe.
Potential Kryptonite: With DC getting its act together and Sony and Fox kicking off Spider-Man and X-Men universes, respectively, there’s a risk of superhero fatigue.
Up Next: More “Avengers,” another “Thor,” and “Black Panther,” the first Marvel movie with a black director and protagonist.
Geek Cred: The head of Lucasfilm calls all the shots in a galaxy far, far away.
Potential Kryptonite: Her decision to fire directors Phil Miller and Chris Lord from the Han Solo spinoff after four months of production suggests the film was going wildly off the rails. Can Ron Howard salvage it?
Up Next: A little picture called “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
Robert Downey Jr.
Geek Cred: Got the Avengers to assemble.
Potential Kryptonite: He’s played Iron Man for nearly a decade. Time to remind fans he can act without the suit.
Up Next: “Avengers: Infinity War” and a change of pace with “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle.”
Jon Berg, Geoff Johns, and Diane Nelson
Geek Cred: Finally made a DC movie everyone loved with “Wonder Woman.”
Potential Kryptonite: “Justice League” needs to keep the hot streak going. DC stumbled creatively with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”
Up Next: The plan is for at least two superhero movies a year involving everyone from Aquaman to the Flash to Batgirl.
Geek Cred: Became a kick-ass feminist icon with this summer’s “Wonder Woman.”
Potential Kryptonite: Don’t make us wait too long for a sequel.
Up Next: Breaking out her Lasso of Truth in “Justice League.”
Geek Cred: Marvel’s favorite directors. Anthony and Joe Russo have made Captain America films “Winter Soldier” and “Civil War,” as well as the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Potential Kryptonite: Does their filmmaking prowess extend beyond the capes and spandex set?
Up Next: “Infinity War” and its untitled sequel will have them overseeing Cap, Iron Man and the rest of the gang through the end of the decade.
George R.R. Martin
Geek Cred: Creator of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the epic novels that inspired HBO’s blockbuster “Game of Thrones.”
Potential Kryptonite: No, seriously, George, will you ever write another GOT book? The show has now raced past the novels. His last tome, “A Dance with Dragons,” came out six years ago.
Up Next: The final season of “Game of Thrones,” split over two years; potential HBO spinoffs of “Thrones”; novella “Nightflyers” in development at Syfy.
Geek Cred: Nerd-world legend responsible for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Potential Kryptonite: The tricky task of jumping in to finish work on “Justice League” following Zack Snyder’s late-in-the-game departure.
Up Next: Writing, directing and producing duties on an untitled Batgirl solo project.
Geek Cred: The biggest-selling horror writer in history, period.
Potential Kryptonite: “The Dark Tower,” an upcoming film adaptation of his fantasy novel, has been plagued by rumors of reshoots. Industry experts predict it may bomb.
Up Next: The trailer for the movie version of “It” went viral, suggesting big box office to come. “Sleeping Beauties,” which he co-wrote with his son, Owen, hits stores in September.
Geek Cred: Architect of the CW’s four-series-and-counting Arrowverse (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl”), plus “Riverdale” and “Black Lightning”
Potential Kryptonite: How much comic-book TV is too much?
Up Next: New seasons of all his ongoing shows, plus launching DC’s digital service with “Titans.”
Geek Cred: Got “Deadpool” made through star power and sheer force of will.
Potential Kryptonite: Following up a mold-breaking mega-success is never easy.
Up Next: More merc with a mouth. “Deadpool 2” is now filming, with “X-Force” in development.
Geek Cred: In “Force Awakens,” Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac became this generation’s Leia, Luke and Han.
Potential Kryptonite: Establishing a varied body of work outside the confines of franchise superstardom can be tricky. Co-star Mark Hamill is a case in point.
Up Next: “The Last Jedi,” due just before Christmas, plus Episode IX. Also: Ridley joins the cast of “Murder on the Orient Express”; Boyega headlines “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and Isaac stars in “Annihilation.”
Geek Cred: The head of Marvel’s TV arm has turned the comic-book brand into a small-screen force.
Potential Kryptonite: “Iron Fist” suffered a critical pile-on and whitewashing criticism.
Up Next: Fourteen shows set to premiere in the next year on streaming services and broadcast networks.
Geek Cred: Legend responsible for “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible.”
Potential Kryptonite: His production company is remaking “An American Werewolf in London.” Fans of the cult fave might prefer he leave well enough alone.
Up Next: With “The Walking Dead,” “Fear of the Walking Dead,” and Cinemax’s “Outcast,” Kirkman-inspired programming will be dominating cable for years to come.
Geek Cred: Rebooted the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” franchises. Created “Alias” and “Lost.” Go-to guy for making nostalgia fun again.
Potential Kryptonite: Will he regret surrendering the rest of the new “Star Wars” trilogy to other directors.
Up Next: No directing projects yet, but he’s producing “Castle Rock” with Stephen King and the next “Mission: Impossible” sequel, as well as a third “Cloverfield” movie.
Geek Cred: “X-Men” wrangler. He’s Fox’s point person on all things mutant.
Potential Kryptonite: After producing and overseeing the “X-Men” movies, Kinberg makes his directorial debut with “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” next year. Will his golden touch follow him behind the camera?
Up Next: In addition to “Dark Phoenix,” he’ll oversee a “Deadpool” sequel and the “New Mutants” spinoff.
Geek Cred: Brothers Matt and Ross created “Stranger Things,” a Spielbergian throwback that turned into a sleeper smash for Netflix last summer.
Potential Kryptonite: Keeping the twists and turns rolling through a second season might stretch the story thin.
Up Next: New episodes of “Stranger Things” hit Oct. 31.
Geek Cred: The latest friendly neighbor-hood wall-crawler scored as a more youthful Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Potential Kryptonite: Nothing lasts forever. Just ask Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
Up Next: Swinging in to save the planet in “Avengers: Infinity War” and more Spidey stand-alones.
Guillermo Del Toro
Geek Cred: Maker of “Hellboy” films, creator of “Pan’s Labrynth,” modern master of the macabre.
Potential Kryptonite: The first “Pacific Rim” was a box office disappointment, but Del Toro’s so transfixed with his monsters-versus-aliens stories that he’s making a sequel. Will the second time be the charm?
Up Next: “The Shape of Water,” a fantasy-adventure that aims to put the creepy back into the Cold War.
Geek Cred: Co-creator of “Lost” and creator of “The Leftovers,” which recently went out on a critically acclaimed high note.
Potential Kryptonite: “The Leftovers” was well loved but not much watched.
Up Next: Developing “Watchmen,” Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel, for HBO.
Geek Cred: Joined the Marvel stable after the director made a franchise film right with the fresh, crowd-pleasing “Creed.”
Potential Kryptonite: Crippling expectations for “Black Panther,” especially after the release of that thrilling trailer.
Up Next: Auds will finally get a look at Wakanda when “Black Panther” premieres in February. And he’s taking a break from superheroics with a drama about a cheating scandal in Atlanta’s public schools.
Geek Cred: Her books of “social science fiction” include 1985’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” now a breakout hit for Hulu. Currently writing graphic novel series “Angel Catbird.”
Potential Kryptonite: Nothing slows down this literary legend.
Up Next: Moving beyond the novel with season two of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Geek Cred: He got the Academy to show the sci-fi genre some love with cerebral tearjerker “Arrival.”
Potential Kryptonite: “Blade Runner 2049,” his follow-up to the early-’80s Ridley Scott classic, has to convince the first film’s rabid fans that it was worth revisiting the futuristic world after 35 years.
Up Next: Developing a film version of “Dune.”
Brian K. Vaughan
Geek Cred: Comics writer who created Marvel’s “Runaways,” plus “Y: The Last Man” and ongoing creator-owned hit “Saga,” an indie-comic smash that’s as big as “The Walking Dead” but without the TV tie-in.
Potential Kryptonite: Lacks more mainstream recognition.
Up Next: The small-screen version of “Runaways” hits Hulu in 2018. A possible “Y: The Last Man” series from “American Gods” co-chief Michael Green.
Geek Cred: Proved geeking out can be a viable business. As CEO of Nerdist Industries and host of “Talking Dead,”
he’s the key fanboy tastemaker.
Potential Kryptonite: Overexposure. Between his TV shows and podcasts, Hardwick is everywhere these days.
Up Next: Time will tell, following the recent cancellation of “@midnight,” his offbeat game show on Comedy Central.