<EM>Superman Returns</EM> Superman Returns

Crazy-long lines, cries of "Woo-hoo!" and the aroma of flop sweat hanging heavily in the air. Such are the trademarks of Comic-Con International, the geek extravaganza that invades the San Diego Convention Center every year. Last weekend's 2005 Con sported big-name cameos, hot-ticket sneak peeks and lots and lots of free merchandise (hooray for swag!). Here are some of the highlights — and lowlights — from the front lines.

Biggest slip-up: Bryan Singer, director of 2006's blockbuster-to-beat Superman Returns, didn't endear himself to many when he errantly referred to Kal-El (aka Clark Kent aka Superman) as Jor-El (aka Man of Steel's papa). Fortunately, Singer made up for his error just a few moments later by unveiling...

Best teaser: Superman Returns might actually give Batman Begins a run for its money. Yes, Kate Bosworth is too young to play Lois, and Brandon Routh is never going to replace Christopher Reeve, but the guy fills out the suit — and Clark's preppy wardrobe — nicely. And get this: Kevin Spacey actually appears sinister as bald Lex Luthor. The best part of the trailer showed Supes hovering in the heavens gazing down at Earth. Not since Jessica Alba's Sin City lasso dance has a mob of comic-book geeks been so quiet.

Runner-up: Fan-fave Peter Jackson was not in attendance, but was kind enough to send over a clip from his Lord of the Rings follow-up, King Kong, due in December.  The scene found Kong battling a T. rex  that wants to make a meal of Naomi Watts' character. The effects were still very rough, but you can tell that Jackson is having the time of his life making this movie. 

Worst teaser: While Superman elicited cheers, the Aeon Flux preview seemed to inspire, well, yawns. Charlize Theron looks great in a black jumpsuit, but the production design was a mishmash of other sci-fi movies, and the CGI-assisted action sequences weren't very impressive. There was one nice moment when Aeon Flux comes face-to-face with some particularly sharp blades of grass. But again, we're talking about grass.

 

Most devoted fan base: Serenity fans may have been out in full force — lucky ones saw a screening of Josh Whedon's final theatrical cut — but they were still dwarfed by the number of Tenacious D fanatics who turned up to watch Kong star Jack Black's band  play a half-hour set filled with songs from their upcoming movie, The Pick of Destiny.

Oddest Q&A: A male Tenacious D fan to Jack Black: "My best [guy] friend is in love with you. Does that creep you out?" Black: "Not really."

 

Most unnecessary warning: Right before Kevin Smith took the stage for his panel about all things Kevin, a PA announcement warned that the presentation would contain "adult language" and that parents "should use discretion" in allowing their kids to listen in. Indeed, the not-so-silent Smith riffed on the secret romance between Peter Parker and Harry Osborne in the Spider-Man flicks and offered one aspiring filmmaker the chance to get a leg up in Hollywood in an, um, potentially illegal fashion. But Smith also spilled some news: Clerks 2: The Passion of the Clerks starts filming in September for an '06 release, and he finally has a story in mind for the long-awaited animated Clerks movie — Dante and Randal have grown so bored with working in a convenience store that they've decided to make a movie about... working in a convenience store.

Best news for children of the '80s: The Dark Crystal is getting a sequel!  And an ongoing animated TV series!

Best news for children of the '90s: Futurama is getting a direct-to-DVD movie!  In the words of Matt Groening, "Bender Lives!"

 

Oddest celebrity promotion: Aliens alum Lance Henriksen was in town, just in time to promote the DVD release of the final season of Millennium. But what he really was on hand to talk about was his pottery, a skill he's honed for over 40 years. Yep, pottery.

 

Most conspicuous absence: Let the rumor mill begin: Why no Smallville panel this year? Is Superman Returns to blame? Did Tom Welling et al. refuse to show? My money's on the notion that the producers didn't want a repeat of last year, where they caught an earful from angry Lana/Clark shippers. (Or did the organizers, like the public, simply forget that Smallville was still on?)

 

Future watercooler show: Fans of the comic strip The Boondocks will be happy to hear the TV series (which hits Cartoon Network in October) won't be playing it safe. The premiere finds the embattled hip-hop artist R. Kelly under arrest once again, this time for peeing on a little girl. "The episode is wildly inappropriate and I'm deeply ashamed of it," said Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder. Suuuure you are.