Drawing H’w’d interest

Comic-Con becoming pop culture event

The geeks are going on a road trip to San Diego and the studios are following.

With the opening of the 35th annual San Diego Comic-Con Intl. today, what was once a sleepy affair for fans buying and selling comicbooks has become the pop-culture event of the year for sci-fi and superhero aficionados. And with the grosses for “Spider-Man 2” still fresh in everyone’s minds, Hollywood is going all out to court them.

Every major studio except DreamWorks has a presentation scheduled through Saturday to showcase its upcoming slate of tentpoles and genre releases.

Fanboys online are already chattering about the first official look at Warner Bros.’ “Batman Begins,” a Lucasfilm presentation on “Star Wars: Episode III” and the introduction of the cast that will play the superheroes in Fox’s “Fantastic Four.”

Other major presentations include Paramount’s “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” Warner’s “Constantine,” New Line’s “Blade: Trinity,” Dimension’s “Sin City,” Sony’s “The Grudge” and “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” Universal’s “Seed of Chucky” and “Serenity” and Fox’s “Alien vs. Predator.”

Making appearances will be Jude Law, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jessica Biel and Keanu Reeves as well as helmers Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, David Goyer and Joss Whedon.

While DreamWorks has yet to disclose official plans for a Comic-Con presentation, it is said to be headed down to the confab to unveil a “Transformers” pic it has in the works.

Studios have been courting fanboys at Comic-Con since the ’70s, when they provided sneak previews of “Superman” and “Alien.”

But the geek contingent has grown into a powerful demo that not only spends heavily on movie tickets and merchandise but influences other moviegoers through countless Web sites.

Hollywood is hoping to generate positive buzz with its presentations; the strategy worked last year for “Spider-Man 2,” when Sony was experiencing negative Internet buzz regarding Doc Ock’s appearance in the sequel. Studio used the event to unveil the first official image of the villain in costume and footage from the film. It wowed auds and almost immediately eliminated all bad buzz surrounding the film online.

Power of Comic-Con extends to other media as well. TV shows with major presence will include Sci Fi Channel’s “Stargate: Atlantis,” ABC’s “Lost” and a number of Cartoon Network skeins.

In perhaps the biggest sign that Comic-Con’s gone Hollywood, agents from every major tenpercentery, along with studio reps looking for hot new projects to license, will be strolling the aisles at the show and throwing their own parties at night — no geeks invited.

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