In a bit of a twist, one of the biggest publicity stunts of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con could have come not during the convention, but in the days leading up to it.

With Jabba the Hutt’s luxurious sail barge forging the way, a massive relay of Star Wars fans walked from Santa Monica all the way to Comic-Con’s doorstep in San Diego, passing ceremonial lightsabers in place of batons along the way.

“I’m the psychopath who came up with the idea,” says Nerdist CEO Peter Levin of the event, a partnership with Lucasfilm dubbed “Course of the Force” and designed to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. “When I brought it up with (Nerdist founder) Chris Hardwick, he laughed.”

Such inspired fanboy brainstorming seems to define Nerdist Industries, an ever-growing multimedia empire catering to the passionate geek community. Formed by comedian Hardwick, who also hosts G4’s “Web Soup,” Nerdist counts a popular online site, 19 podcasts and a brand-new YouTube channel to its name. Hardwick credits much of the brand’s success to a recent partnership with Levin, who paid his dues at CAA and Disney.

“I don’t believe in astrology, but there was some astrological thing that happened when me and Peter met,” Hardwick says. “It’s given me infrastructure and a real business model.”

Whereas traditional media companies “don’t always represent nerd culture right,” according to Hardwick, the Nerdist crew addresses the pop-culture-savvy community on its own terms — which is one of the reasons Hardwick has been tapped to emcee five different panels at Comic-Con this year.

“There’s an idea of what it means to be a nerd: ‘Oh, they can’t talk to girls! They live in basements!’?” Hardwick says. “That’s all bullshit. There’s no marketing chart, no spreadsheet for this.”

Comic-Con 2012
Fanboy flight fight | Confab feeds smallscreen sect’s growing appetite | Heroes emerge in catering to the nerd herd
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