SAN DIEGO (AP) — The hordes of zombies, legions of Stormtroopers, leagues of superheroes and crews of Starfleet officers have already begun crawling, marching, flying and beaming into San Diego for that other big convention this week: Comic-Con International.
The pop-culture celebration kicked off Wednesday evening with the festival’s preview night, where con-goers with four-day passes have first crack at the collectables, free swag and photo opportunities on the San Diego Convention Center floor.
New York City resident and toy store employee Mike Williams, 49, came solely for the collectibles. Armed with eight massive shopping bags packed to the brim with all kinds of toys, from G.I. Joe to Transformers to Star Wars exclusives less than an hour after the doors opened, Williams said he simply “doesn’t have time for the panels.”
Others gathered on the packed convention floor to gaze at the impressive installations. While there won’t be any major “Star Wars” panels this year, the brand took up a huge amount of space on the floor with a Jedi Temple containing looks at costumes from the upcoming anthology film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” alongside merchandise such as Princess Leia socks, BB-8 lamps, and Captain Phasma leggings.
Not to be upstaged, Warner Bros. and DC Comics rolled out the fashions, too, with looks at some of the metallic “Wonder Woman” costumes and the neon duds of “Suicide Squad.”
It wasn’t just the new being celebrated, though. Marvel Comics debuted a 13-foot bronze statue of Captain America on the convention floor in celebration of the superhero’s 75th anniversary. Elsewhere in the Gaslamp District, Wonder Woman was getting a 75th tribute of her own with the reveal of her “invisible” jet.
Outside the sprawling bayside venue, the premiere of “Star Trek Beyond” was held Wednesday night at the Embarcadero Marina Park. The sci-fi sequel’s U.S. debut marks the first-ever outdoor Imax screening.
Comic-Con is expected to draw more than 160,000 fans for high-energy sessions featuring casts and crews from such films and TV shows as “Game of Thrones,” ”Star Trek,” ”Suicide Squad,” ”South Park,” ”Teen Wolf,” ”Aliens” and “The Walking Dead.”
“I think the most important thing is for all of us to be there and acknowledge the fans’ support and passion,” said “Aliens” and “The Walking Dead” producer Gale Anne Hurd. “Obviously, we’ll have a (“Walking Dead”) promo and will premiere it in San Diego, but it’s that connection to the fans that Comic-Con is really all about.”
On the convention floor, fans lined up to interact and pose with “Walking Dead” zombies in gorgeously constructed sets, such as a broken fuselage.
As the event goes into full swing Thursday morning, attendees will likely be treated to some never-before-seen surprises, as well as exclusive glimpses at such upcoming entertainment entries as “Wonder Woman,” ”Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” ”Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” ”Riverdale” and a new “Star Trek” show.
Marie McLendon, 28, who traveled from Houston for her second Comic-Con said she was particularly excited to see what Warner Bros. had in store. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” wasn’t as good as she had hoped, putting her in line with the majority of critics and audiences, but she has faith in their upcoming films like “Justice League,” ”The Flash,” and, of course “Wonder Woman.”
“DC definitely needs a bigger presence on screen,” she said.
But standing in line for a “Legends of the Hidden Temple” virtual reality experience with her cousin from Boston, McLendon was living for the moment. She welcomed the long lines as an opportunity to catch up with her cousin and relished in the nostalgia of it all.
“Seeing stuff like this really brings back things from my childhood,” she said. “It makes me feel like a kid again.”
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang .