At the 38th Annual Comic-Con International, fans of the sci-fi and fantasy genres proved they're no longer on the fringe. The mammoth convention, held this past weekend at the San Diego Convention Center, attracted more than 125,000 people, and in a nod to the fact that the event has gone far beyond comic books, it has billed itself as "celebrating the popular arts." Movie studios and TV networks packed huge rooms with rabid fans eager for exclusive scoop and swag.
On the first day it was officially confirmed that Zachary Quinto, Heroes' slithery villain Sylar, will indeed be playing Spock in the next Star Trek movie (opening Dec. 25, 2008). Director J.J. Abrams made the announcement during a Paramount Pictures panel, and in a symbolic passing of the ears, Leonard Nimoy, who originated the role on TV and in previous movies and will play an elder Spock in Abrams' movie, joined the discussion. "People have been asking me why I'm doing this movie," Nimoy said. "We have a great director and a wonderful actor playing young Spock. The answer is it was logical."
Quinto agreed. "It's really incredible. To be a part of something so iconic with the support of the man who created the role is a true honor," he said. "I certainly intend to bring my own spin on [Spock], and with these guys I'm sure I'll be able to find that."
With regards to casting Captain Kirk, Abrams said the role is still up for grabs. As for finding a part for the original Kirk, William Shatner, Abrams said, "We're desperately trying to figure out a way to put him in this movie. The truth is it needs to be worthy of him."
Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talked about the return of Harold Perrineau as the traitorous Michael, news that had been forced out by cranky reporters a day earlier at the Television Critics Association press tour. Perrineau was on hand at Comic-Con, and while no one would reveal how Michael returns, they did tell fans that Perrineau would be a series regular in Season 4 (premiering in February), and his return would be near the start of the season. Also planned for next year is more on Libby's ( Cynthia Watros) backstory, who Michael accidentally killed in Season 2. But otherwise, scoop was kept to a minimum, with Lindelof and Cuse ringing bells anytime they felt one of them was revealing too much.
TV Guide's Hot List panel brought together stars and producers from several popular shows. Matt Dallas of Kyle XY seemed awestruck by the magnitude of the 'Con. "It's really motivating to interact with the fans," he said. There was no better example of just how powerful fans can be than Jericho, which CBS canceled then revived after an impassioned fan campaign. Skeet Ulrich, who plays the show's hero Jake and had only finished filming scenes for the new season at 2 in the morning, humbly said, "I wouldn't be sitting here if not for [our fans]. Thank you."
To ensure that fan support is solidified early on, NBC gave big pushes to Bionic Woman and Chuck. Though the shows don't debut until the fall, both already had major awareness with the Comic-Con crowd. At the TV Guide panel, Bionic star Michelle Ryan said the response so far has been "brilliant. I hope it lives up to everyone's expectations." A screening and panel for Chuck, which leading man Zachary Levi described as " The Bourne Identity meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin," received wild cheers. "I'm so ridiculously happy to be here right now," a genuinely overwhelmed Levi said. "You guys are awesome."
The entire Heroes cast appeared and got a rock-star welcome. Fan favorite Masi Oka played to the crowd and even showed his geek cred when he helped fix a faulty speaker on stage. The franchise's big news was the announcement that another Comic-Con demigod, Kevin Smith ( Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), will write and direct an episode of next year's spin-off, Heroes: Origins. After thunderous applause when he arrived on stage, Smith gushed about being a fan of the show, which he says has mastered "the art of the cliff-hanger." It's not yet known what his episode will be about (the spin-off is an anthology of standalone installments featuring previously unknown characters coming to grips with their special abilities), but he said, "I don't want to be the guy who ruins Heroes."
Executive producer Tim Kring was effusive in his gratitude to the Comic-Con fans, who last year gave the show its first major buzz. At TV Guide's Hot List panel he acknowledged the power of the cult fans: "This audience was always there, ready to become a mainstream audience."
Other highlights from San Diego:
" Lois & Clark star Dean Cain will revisit his Superman roots when he guest-stars as a villain on the fourth episode of the new season of the CW's Smallville.
" Lucy Lawless returns as cylon D'Anna for at least two episodes of the final season of Sci Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica next year.
" After gaining a second wind in repeats on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Futurama will return from cancellation with four straight-to-DVD movies. The first, Bender's Big Score (on sale Nov. 27), features "nudist Internet scammers who want to take over Earth," according to executive producer David X. Cohen.
- Reporting by Rich Sands, G.J. Donnelly and Gord Lacey
For Comic-Con photos, go here.