Step right up: it's four days of meet and geek

Surveying the tens of thousands of people swarming the San Diego Convention Centre floor for the 33rd annual Comic-Con, it is not hard to imagine Moses delivering his sermon from the mount. Reading from Matthew 5:5, he might even have said: "Blessed are the geek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Surveying the tens of thousands of people swarming the San Diego Convention Centre floor for the 33rd annual Comic-Con, it is not hard to imagine Moses delivering his sermon from the mount. Reading from Matthew 5:5, he might even have said: "Blessed are the geek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Get down in the middle of the throng, and you will be left with little doubt that they have. Comic-Con, born in 1970 as a comic book convention, has grown in three decades to become one of the most important dates on the cultural calendar.

It is where fans and stars swarm. Major studios bring their tent-pole films and key TV series are here as travelling roadshows. Trailers are screened. Secrets are divulged. And an enormous amount of money is spent.

More than 125,000 pop culture devotees will walk through its doors during the 4 days. It opened on Wednesday night with a "preview night", and goes into full swing from Thursday to Sunday.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them dress as characters, from the obvious such as Superman to the more esoteric.

Working out who's who requires a cursory knowledge of the comic book world (particularly the rival DC and Marvel universes) but some of them - the strange, the odd and the manga, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! - are a little harder to name.

There are even Australians here. Former Sea Patrol star Jay Ryan is here spruiking his series, Beauty and the Beast (OK, technically he is a Kiwi). Sophie Lowe, who stars in the new Once upon a Time spinoff Wonderland, is also appearing.

Three more will be here at the weekend: Sullivan Stapleton, Antony Starr and Ryan Kwanten are due to appear on panels for Strike Back, Banshee and True Blood.

The stars of The X-Files - David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson - and the show's producer, Chris Carter, are appearing to mark the show's 20th anniversary.

There are "final season" panels with the cast of Dexter and Breaking Bad and a preview of the highly anticipated series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Seven owns the Australian rights.)

And there are roadshows for a bunch of movies including Godzilla and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

It is difficult to work out where the marketing machinery ends and the actual comic book convention begins, but there are some reassuring signs. At least one corner of old-school comic book sellers survives in this vast chamber of commerce.

And even they manage to wheel out the talent. Mad magazine's iconic Sergio Aragones is one of the A-list guests at this year's Comic-Con, as well as DC Comics publisher Jim Lee.

But make no mistake. There is big money in Comic-Con for Hollywood. Some studios have a bigger presence than others, and Warner Bros overshadows the lot.

It makes sense in one very simple respect: Warner Bros owns DC Comics and, through that, has a series of TV and film franchises that strike at the very heart of Comic-Con: Arrow, Superman and Batman among them.

This year's Comic-Con also marks two significant anniversaries: the popular BBC franchise Doctor Who turns 50, and Superman, the posterboy of DC Comics for almost a century, turns 75.

In truth, Comic-Con is too vast to encapsulate in a single weekend, a single discussion or a single article.

Outside of the comic book vaults and the Hollywood marketing, there are umpteen screenings, Q&A panels, masterclasses and even gaming floors where they are playing card games, such as Magic, or tabletop role-playing games, such as the iconic Dungeons and Dragons.

At any one time, there are more than two dozen things happening. For 4 very long days.

The seams of the San Diego Convention Centre split some years ago, and the event has now soaked up several adjacent hotels. There are colour-coded shuttles combing the streets. And people pouring in and out of every door.

It is not so much a convention as a pop-up city in its own right, more reminiscent of the Easter Show on steroids. The only difference might be that while you still pay for showbags, the goodies on offer here are much, much better.

A lot of attention is focused on "exclusives" - that is, toys put on the market only at Comic-Con.

There are still four days of fierce shopping to go, but two must-have toys for 2013 so far look to be, at the Lego store, the limited edition Lego DeLorean (from Back to the Future) and, over at the Hasbro store, the Star Wars Angry Birds action figure set.

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