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Comic-Con 2011: Light on Tights, Heavy on Sneak Peeks

Most of this year’s superhero movies have already been released, but there’s still plenty of Spielberg, Favreau, young-adult novels — and ”Chuck“

This year’s Comic-Con gets under way at an awkward time for superhero movies, which means fewer tentpoles in tights will fly into San Diego July 21-24.

Most of the coming onslaught of comic-book movies — and that includes “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Man of Steel” — aren't far enough along in production to preview at the convention. On top of that, except for July 22's "Captain America," this year's slate already has hit theaters.

That leaves "Cowboys & Aliens" and Sony's “The Amazing Spider-Man” as the only top-shelf comic book movies with a substantial presence at the annual fest.

Not that the fanboys won't have plenty of other things to salivate over. Some of the announced highlights:

>>  “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”: Paramount will open Comic-Con with a panel about the Steven Spielberg adaptation on July 22. There are whispers of a possible Spielberg appearance, but whether that will happen is anyone’s guess. Except Spielberg’s.

>> "Cowboys & Aliens": Jon Favreau's take on the cult comic, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, will premiere on July 23.

>> "The Amazing Spider-Man": New Spidey Andrew Garfield (right) will be joined by co-star Emma Stone, director Marc Webb and producer Avi Arad for a panel July 22.

>> "Hunger Games": The cast of the highly anticipated futuristic young-adults battle-to-the-death film is busy filming the movie in North Carolina, but Lionsgate is sponsoring a sweepstakes to send a fan to the set.

>> "Pacific Rim": Director Guillermo del Toro and cast members of the futuristic young-adults horror film will participate in a panel discussion on July 22.

>> "Batman" TV series: "Batman" himself, Adam West, along with Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman), will show up for a Q&A on July 22.

>> "Chuck": The television show, a favorite of Comic-Con fans, will celebrate its final season with a panel discussion featuring executive producer and co-creator Chris Fedak, and stars Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Vik Sahay and others July 23.

 >> And there will be a tiny nod to “Dark Knight Rises”: Tom Hardy, who plays Bane, will be at Lionsgate’s booth for an hour July 22, along with Joel Edgerton, promoting their movie “Warrior.”)

As has become the norm since Comic-Con moved into the Hollywood mainstream, most studios will have a presence at this year's fest.

Universal, for example, is not only premiering "Cowboys & Aliens," but it plans a big session on "Snow White and the Huntsman." Stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin and director Rupert Sanders will show footage from the movie and answer questions July 23.

Undaunted, apparently, by the box-office failure of its big Comic-Con buzz hit from last year, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," the studio is having an even bigger presence this year,” David Glanzer, the event’s director of marketing and public relations, told TheWrap. “So I don’t think that they thought that the studio didn’t get its money’s worth.”

“Not every studio comes every year,” Glanzer told TheWrap. “Fox will have a presence this year, and it didn’t have a presence last year,” he said — adding that no presence is often better than a lame or misleading one.

“If you bring us eight minutes of amazing storytelling … and we love it, that’s great. But you’re going to have to live around the other 90 minutes of the movie,” Glanzer said. “And if you don’t, it’s not going to matter if you attended Comic-Con or you didn’t.”

Jonah Weiland, executive producer of comicbookresources.com, agrees. "If you're going to Hall H," he told TheWrap, referring to the convention's main hall, "you need to bring your A-game … There were some movies that came to Comic-Con last year that should never have been there," he said, declining to specify which.

"The majority of people that go to Comic-Con are smarter than the average bear," he said. "You can't pull anything over on them and you shouldn't even try. Anybody who tries to pull something over on the fans is really foolish."

Another Hollywood heavyweight with a big presence will be festival first-timers Legendary Entertainment. 

Indeed, the production company and financier's upcoming “Pacific Rim” seems perfect for the convention’s crowd. It’s a giant Guillermo del Toro film about mind-melding pilots who drive humongous robotic fighting machines that battle skyscraper-sized monsters from another world.

Though it’s still casting, Legendary’s CEO, Thomas Tull and its chief creative officer, Jon Jashni, will be on hand, along with del Toro, screenwriter Travis Beacham and stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day and Rinko Kikuchi.

The Legendary panel, moderated by the Los Angeles Times’ “Hero Complex” writer, Geoff Boucher, will give a first look at the Legendary's upcoming slate. Aside from "Pacific Rim," there will be Q&As with Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander and director Sergey Bodrov from "Seventh Son"; Bradley Cooper and director Alex Proyas from "Paradise Lost"; and  “Mass Effect” game creator Casey Hudson and screenwriter Mark Protosevich, who’s adapting the game to film.

And while Lionsgate can’t bring the stars of its “The Hunger Games” to the convention because the movie is filming in North Carolina, it’s sponsoring a sweepstakes to bring a fan to the set. It’s also having Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan, Rachel Nichols and Stephen Lang from “Conan the Barbarian” to sign autographs.

It’s also bringing Taylor Lautner (right) to promote “Abduction” and sign autographs on July 21.

Lionsgate also is featuring a “touch wall” — an interactive touch-screen roughly 15 feet across and 8 feet high that will allow attendees to explore Lionsgate's upcoming slate of summer and fall films.

Summit will host a panel about “The Twilight Saga” and will have an interactive booth featuring “The Three Musketeers,” “The Darkest Hour” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.” The studio also will bring Erin Morgenstern, author of the novel “Night Circus,” Isaac Marion, author of the zombie book “Warm Bodies,” which Jonathan Levine is adapting for the screen, and Veronica Roth, author of the young adult novel “Divergent.”

Other studios are remaining mum. There’s a chance studios will make announcements about “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “Prometheus,” “The Bourne Legacy” and the next “Star Trek” film.

There'll be plenty for TV fans, as well.

MTV will sponsor five panels, including one featuring "Beavis and Butthead" creator Mike Judge — interviewed by "Jackass'" Johnny Knoxville.

The network also will bring writer-director Wes Craven talking to the cast and producers of "Death Valley," the new horror-comedy.

And "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy, along with executive producer Brad Falchuck and the stars of "Glee," will answer audience questions and present a peek at "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" on July 24.

And since Comic-Con is about comics, there'll be a heavy comic presence — including Stan Lee himself.

The SyFy network will distribute a limited edition of a prequel comic book "Lost Girl," on July 22. The giveaway will occur during a panel about the Canadian series, which SyFy has picked up.

Finally, there had been early talk this year that Marvel wouldn’t have a presence. But while the studio won’t give film geeks full court press this year, it will be there. Stan Lee will personally visit, and Marvel will have a large booth presence and activities showcasing film, television, consumer products, publishing, digital and games.

For the complete schedule, see Comic-Con's website.