For decades, fans have flocked to San Diego every summer for a parade of Comic-Con surprises featuring their favorite characters, movies, and creators. San Diego's Comic-Con International has been held every summer since its inception as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970. Back then, it was just a small gathering of like-minded fans to swap comics and geek out about Star Trek in a hotel lobby. These days, SDCC is held at the San Diego Convention Center and draws in hundreds of thousands of fans and cosplayers.
It's evolved to cover the entire entertainment industry across nearly every genre and medium, and has become the launching ground for some of the most successful movies of all time. The convention's biggest stage, Hall H, has served up a host of memorable Comic-Con surprises in recent years as studios and filmmakers try to outdo each other and delight fans. Here are the best Comic-Con moments in the convention's history so far.
After the successes of the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, Marvel properties were doing well in Hollywood, but the publisher had signed away the rights to the characters and had little creative control. That changed in 2007 when director Jon Favreau gave the audience at SDCC not just a look at some rough test footage of his upcoming Iron Man film, but a finished teaser trailer of Marvel's first in-house production.
Hall H's attendees were so blown away by the trailer that they demanded to see it again. Iron Man kicked off Marvel Studios' highly ambitious and lucrative cinematic universe a year later, and it all started with these two-and-a-half minutes of footage.
In 2013, Marvel Studios didn't start their Hall H panel with fresh footage. Instead, they kicked things off with Tom Hiddleston in full Loki costume appearing on stage to bend the crowd to his will. His entrance was dramatically marked by the lights going down, mimicking a technical failure, and Hiddleston's voice rang out from backstage. He delivered a monologue to an adoring crowd of fans who he was able to silence with just a finger pressed to his lips and then rouse into a chorus of his character's name. It was another example of how Marvel's been able to manufacture one-of-a-kind moments with their Comic-Con panels.
In 2007, there was no Hall H panel for Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins follow-up, The Dark Knight. But, the film's presence was still felt all over the convention in the form of an award-winning viral marketing campaign that is still hailed as one of the best of its kind from Hollywood.
The campaign sent eager Batman fans on a scavenger hunt around the convention following clues left by a mysterious, clown-faced figure to unlock a teaser trailer online. The campaign continued for another year, generating an unprecedented amount of buzz for the movie's 2008 release without the team behind it even having to show up in the building.
The Entertainment Weekly Visionary Panel in 2010 brought two of the biggest names in geekdom together on one stage: Joss Whedon and J.J Abrams. The previous year, those two spots had been filled by James Cameron and Peter Jackson. The pair shared stories about their childhood passions for comic books and sci-fi, and how they met each other while Whedon was working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Abrams had Felicity at the W.B. The most significant announcements to come from the panel was that Abrams was working on the sequel to his 2009 Star Trek reboot movie, while Whedon confirmed that he was directing The Avengers movie.