Comic-Con: ‘Batman’ Vs. ‘Star Wars’; Conan, WBTV & CBS Go Big; ‘Heroes’ Returns; & ‘Walking Dead’ Spinoff Debuts

In sheer size, the biggest name at this year’s fanboy and fangirl fest may be one who is only appearing in Hall H as the moderator of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 panel. Having brought his late-night show to San Diego for Comic-Con this year with blockbuster guests every night, Conan O’Brien also snagged the much-coveted spot of the façade of the Marriott next to the Convention Center. A placement that means he’ll be seen by the over 130,000 expected attendees going to SDCC 2015 which kicks off tomorrow and runs through Sunday.

And in what’s becoming an established marketing extravaganza, Conan is just one of many who have paid big bucks to get up on the walls, poles and trains of San Diego this week seeking eyeballs and hoping to generate buzz. “The ads and banners are for the people here but they are also now to stir up social media activity that will travel outside San Diego,” one studio exec bluntly told me.

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Inside the Convention Center, expect a lot of that activity as blockbusters like Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead are back in the massive Hall H as is Doctor Who. Along with those must-attends, there’ll also be debuts by spinoff Fear The Walking Dead and Heroes Reborn, both of which already have a presence on the streets of San Diego. For new shows, SDCC is a chance to get that kind of glorious lift that the original Heroes had in 2006, and for old faves it is a way to fuel the fan engine with teasers, casting news and trailers going into another season. While Comic-Con has grown in giant strides and size since it started in 1970, this year does seem to be about going bigger than ever.

While Ant-Man banners are all over the Gaslamp District, there’s no big-screen offerings from Marvel here this year. However, for the feature film gang, 2015 will be a battle of the titans between the Dark Knight and posse and the Jedi Knights and crew. In a relatively early July 11 presentation, Warner Bros is set to reveal more of its massive DC movie slate with Batman V. Superman footage and stars, plus anticipated Suicide Squad (Will Smith in the hall?) Wonder Women and Justice League appearances. If Hall H roared a few years back when Harrison Ford made his SDCC debut for Cowboys & Aliens, it will likely be deafening when Disney flexes its Star Wars: The Force Awakens muscles on July 10 in one of the most anticipated presentations of the convention. Director J.J. Abrams, writer Lawrence Kasdan and Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy will be there, but it’s the promised footage that will be shown and those “special guests” that have most fans salivating.

Of course topped by that O’Brien-hosted Hunger Games panel tomorrow, Lionsgate will be strong in the SDCC game again. Paramount isn’t making a showing this year, Fox looks to have some X-Men surprises in store among other treats like Deadpool and on Saturday, Legendary has Guillermo del Toro back with Crimson Peak, plus some Krampus and Warcraft.

In combo packages of new and old, Warner Bros. Television, CBS and FX have set multi-show, multi-hour mega panels this year. Across the board, TV is again well on par with film here — perhaps even eclipsing it in sheer volume. In a revamped repeat of last year, WBTV will feature looks at freshmen Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow as well as now established shows such as Gotham, The Flash and scream queens train sdcc 2015Arrow. CBS has Halle Berry onstage taking Extant Season 2 along with a peek at the Limitless TV series pilot plus more from Scorpion and recently premiered summer series Zoo. Ryan Murphy double dips Sunday with panels of American Horror Story: Hotel and his upcoming Fox series Scream Queens. The latter is one of several shows that have wrapped trolleys in downtown San Diego this year – Conan and ABC’s new Muppets series are the others.

Later on Sunday, Denis Leary’s July 16 Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll comedy joins fellow FXers The Strain, which debuts its second season on Sunday, and a look at Kurt Sutter’s upcoming The Bastard Executioner. The Strain, from del Toro and Carlton Cuse, has a pretty prominent position on the front face of the Hilton next to the Convention Center. As Sutter’s now-over Sons Of Anarchy used to hold that last big panel of the confab slot for years, TBE is essentially back on old stomping grounds.

Deadline’s Mike Fleming, Anthony D’Alessandro, Ross Lincoln, Amanda N’Duka and myself will be on the scene all week. We’ll be covering the panels noted above, moderating a panel or two and much more this year — so, with nothing but love for Katniss Everdeen, let the games begin.

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