Storm troopers cavorted with zombies, Steven Spielberg chatted with Peter Jackson, and the stars of "Cowboys & Aliens" swooped into San Diego, making for an action-packed Comic-Con.
The 42nd annual fan festival closed Sunday after four days of pop-culture indulgence.
More than 120,000 people attended the event at the San Diego Convention Center, which spilled over into downtown San Diego. Costumed characters strolled the streets and empty storefronts were transformed into special attractions such as the Sega Arcade and Monstergeddon, which mixed Marvel characters with monster trucks.
Inside the convention center, comic books, toys and splashy displays touting upcoming games, movies and TV shows packed the exhibition floor while panels for various artists, programs and films continued nonstop in dozens of ballrooms and meeting halls.
"This is a place for people who aren't embarrassed to celebrate all this nerdy stuff," said Blair Herter, a host of the G4 Network's pop-culture program, "Attack of the Show!" "These people have a harder time being this excited about this stuff in their everyday lives, so this is just a giant well of acceptance we're bathing in."
That level of excitement is what makes the Comic-Con audience a valuable one for entertainment companies and the entire convention and its surroundings were awash in marketing.
Local trains were wrapped with images of Batman and The Joker, elevators were decorated inside with images of "True Blood" and promoters passed out free buttons, magazines, sunglasses and other souvenirs to fans on their way in and out of the convention.
Conventioneers collected free T-shirts and tote bags. There were "True Blood" drinks to try and even a cosmetics collection inspired by the show. Stars and producers of the hit HBO series shared secrets from the upcoming season, but that was only part of the vampire action at Comic-Con.
"Twilight" was a tremendous draw as fans camped outside the convention center for several days for a chance to see the stars of the franchise in person and watch footage from the penultimate installment in the series, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1." Fans sleeping outside were treated to a big surprise Thursday when stars of the film came out just after dawn to sign autographs and pose for photos.
"Unbelievable! My heart is racing," said Candie Hattori, 37, who had the stars sign her Comic-Con badge. "It doesn't matter how old you are, you still feel that little twitter."
Hundreds of fans got to feel a little twitter when they won tickets to the world premiere of "Cowboys & Aliens" on Saturday. To thank the Comic-Con crowd for supporting his films over the years, director Jon Favreau brought the glitzy premiere of his sci-fi Western to San Diego — a Comic-Con first — where fans got to share the theater with stars Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde.
Comic-Con attendees also got an early look at "Captain America" at the festival. The film opened a day ahead of schedule in San Diego, and hundreds of fans got to see it at a free screening Thursday morning, where they were also given T-shirts, posters and other movie memorabilia.
Spielberg was welcomed with a booming standing ovation to his first Comic-Con. He posed for photos with a lucky fan, announced plans for "Jurassic Park 4" and shared the stage with Jackson to discuss his "The Adventures of Tintin," due in December.
Another upcoming film, "The Adventures of Spider-Man," was also a festival highlight. Star Andrew Garfield, wearing a cheap, store-bought Spidey costume, approached a question-and-answer microphone in the audience posing as a jittery fan. Then he whipped off his mask and gave a heartfelt speech about his love of the comic-book superhero.
"Peter Parker inspired me to feel stronger. He made me, Andrew, braver," Garfield said. Before introducing his cast mates and the film's director, the actor gushed: "This is definitely the coolest moment of my life."
Other popular panels included those for TV's "The Walking Dead," "Glee" and the new show "Terra Nova," set in prehistoric dinosaur days.
Seeing stars is a big part of Comic-Con, and this year fans had twice as many chances to see their favorites. Several celebs including Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart did double duty, promoting two projects each.
Theron was on hand for upcoming films "Prometheus" and "Snow White and the Huntsmen," which also stars Stewart, who was at the festival touting "Twilight." Colin Farrell promoted "Fright Night" and "Total Recall." Even Spielberg did double-time, appearing with "Tintin" and as a producer of "Cowboys & Aliens."
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen can be reached at www.twitter.com/APSandy .0