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Downey Jr. dances, Arnold surprises, Spider-Man rushes the stage: Every year of Comic-Con in one giant timeline

Comic-Con started as an intimate gathering in the basement of San Diego's U.S. Grant Hotel in 1970. Since then, it has become an important showcase for Hollywood film and TV projects looking to gain buzz. Below is a year-by-year look at the convention's key moments, estimated attendance and more, with photos and video.

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1970

In his apartment on March 17, 1970, Shel Dorf displays some posters to be shown at a convention in the U.S. Grant Hotel. (John Greensmith/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

The first gathering -- called San Diego's Golden State Comic-Minicon -- was put together by a group of comics, movie and science fiction fans including Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger and Richard Alf. This one-day convention was staged to raise funds and interests for a larger convention. Little did they know...

Date: March 21
Attendance: 145
Venue: U.S. Grant Hotel
Among the guests: Forrest J Ackerman (science fiction fan, literary agent, collector) and Mike Royer (comic book artist and inker)

1970

Author Ray Bradbury bought a few items from the dealers at the San Diego Golden State Comics Convention in the U.S. Grant Hotel on Aug. 1, 1970. "I got a few issues of Mad magazine," he said. (Dennis Huls / U-T / San Diego Historical Society)

Called San Diego's Golden State Comic-Con, this was the first full-fledged convention in San Diego with a focus on comic art, film and science fiction. The event included 25 booths and three speakers: comic artist Jack Kirby and authors Ray Bradbury and A.E. van Vogt.

Date: Aug. 1-3
Attendance: 300
Venue: U.S. Grant Hotel
Among the guests: Forrest J Ackerman, Jack Kirby, Bob Stevens

1971

Kirk Alyn, left, who portrayed Superman in film serials, signs an autograph for Forrest J Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. (George Smith / U-T/ San Diego Historical Society)

Then-UC San Diego student Richard Alf was the chairman of Comic-Con in 1971 and facilitated the convention's move to the UCSD Muir College campus. Comic-Con cultivated its relationship with film early on: The first on-screen Superman, Kirk Alyn, made an appearance at San Diego's second Golden State Comic-Con.

Date: Aug. 6-8
Attendance: 800
Venue: Muir College, UCSD
Among the guests: Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Edmond Hamilton, Jack Kirby

1972

A poster from Comic-Con's third year. (Eduardo Contreras/San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Press)

Due to delays in the staging process, the 1972 Comic-Con almost did not happen. The convention changed its name to West Coast Comic-Con that year and was held at the El Cortez Hotel for the first time.

Date: Aug. 18-21
Attendance: 900-plus
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Bob Clampett, Milt Gray, Harry Harrison, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas

1973

Liz Day displays a collection of comic books as San Diego Comic-Con opens at the Sheraton in 1973. (Rick McCarthy/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

The convention is officially renamed San Diego Comic-Con and holds its first celebrity brunch, where attendees could enter a drawing.

Date: Aug. 16-19
Attendance: 1,000-plus
Venue: Sheraton Hotel, Harbor Island
Among the guests: Neal Adams, D.C. Fontana, June Foray, Carmine Infantino

1974

Comic fans in costume at the El Cortez Hotel. (Joe Flynn/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

SDCC holds its first Masquerade Ball, an elaborate costume competition that is still a time-honored tradition today. The first contest was emceed by voice actress June Foray.

Date: July 31-Aug. 5
Attendance: 2,500
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Majel Barrett, Milton Caniff, Frank Capra, Walter Koenig, Russ Manning, Russell Myers, Charles M. Schulz

1975

Bill Lund shows a Flash Gordon book to little Harry Knowles, 3 1/2, of Austin, Texas, on July 30, 1975. Knowles would go on to found the website Ain't It Cool News. (Dan Tichonchuk/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

Alan Light, founder of the long-running "The Buyer's Guide to Comics Fandom" (later known as "Comics Buyer's Guide"), recorded all of the panels and speeches at this 1975 convention and put together highlights for a limited-edition 12-inch LP record that also featured an interview with Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.

Date: July 30-Aug. 3
Attendance: 2,500-plus
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Robert Bloch, Will Eisner, Gil Kane, Stan Lee, Chuck Norris, Jim Steranko

1975

Dr. Curtis W. Fisher and his son, John, get a look and a laugh from one of the comic books in 1975. (Dan Tichonchuk/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

SDCC held a smaller, follow-up convention to the summer Comic-Con in 1975. Also, this was the year that Comic-Con officially incorporated as a nonprofit.

Date: Nov. 7-9
Attendance: 1,100
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Jock Mahoney, George Pal

1976

Comic book fans Freddie Lewis, 12, left, and Marshall Beck, 12, both of San Diego's Normal Heights neighborhood, set aside superhero comics to check out a copy of "Howard the Duck" in 1976. (Dennis Huls/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

George Lucas set the trend of sending exclusive first-looks from soon-to-be major blockbuster films to Comic-Con. "Star Wars" marketing director Charles Lippincott met with convention-goers in hopes of churning up buzz with an exclusive, limited-run poster a year before the film's release. That poster is worth a lot of money now.

Date: July 21-25
Attendance: 3,000-plus
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Sergio Aragones, Mel Blanc, Milton Caniff, Rick Griffin, Joe Shuster

1977

Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of science fiction writers, appears at the 1977 Comic-Con. Heinlein, 72, and his wife of 35 years, Virginia, paid their own way to the San Diego convention. The author holds a depiction of the character Rhysling, painted by artist Roger Stine, from Heinlein's book "The Green Hills of Earth." (Tony Doubek/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

At this year's gathering, the first "Making of Star Wars" panel debuted, and the first Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive -- an annual Comic-Con tradition to this day -- was held.

Date: July 20-24
Attendance: 4,000-plus
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: Bob Kane, Carl Barks, C. C. Beck, Walter Gibson, Jack Kirby, B. Kliban, Joe Kubert, Harvey Kurtzman

1978

David Davis dressed as a Gorean warrior checks out a Darth Vader helmet. (Jim Nichols/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

A one-day pass to SDCC cost $4 in 1978, and a pass for all five days of events was $15. There were 240 dealers tables that sold vintage comics and memorabilia, and guests for this year's convention included "Life in Hell" cartoonist Matt Groening, 11 years before the premiere of "The Simpsons."

Date: July 26-30
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Among the guests: John Buscema, Howard Chaykin, Alan Dean Foster, Burne Hogarth, Clarence "Ducky" Nash, Grim Natwick, Wendy Pini, Frank Thorne, Boris Vallejo

1979

Arnie Scheiman of New York shows some of his wares to Doug Sulipa of Winnipeg, Canada. (Joe Holly/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

1979 marked the year SDCC settled into a long stint at the Convention and Performing Arts Center and the U.S. Grant Hotel. Programming for this year's convention included Masquerade, an art show, an amateur film festival, panel discussions and 75 hours of vintage films.

Date: Aug. 1-5
Attendance: 6,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, U.S. Grant Hotel
Among the guests: Kelly Freas, Mike Jittlov, Harvey Kurtzman, Victor Moscoso, Nestor Redondo, John Romita Sr., Mort Walker, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman

1980

Comic fans in costume check in at Comic-Con. (Ian Dryden/U-T/San Diego Historical Society)

SDCC kicked off the '80s with guests who would continue to redefine mainstream comic books during the decade, including John Byrne, who would relaunch Superman with "Man of Steel" in 1986, and Chris Claremont, who was in the midst of his epic run on Marvel's "Uncanny X-Men" and would pen the seminal "Days of Future Past" story line in 1981.

Date: July 30-Aug 3
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, U.S. Grant Hotel
Among the guests: Science-fiction writer Larry Niven and "Elfquest" creators Richard and Wendy Pini
Memorable moment: Holy celebrity sighting! 1960s "Batman" star Adam West was a featured guest of the convention.

1981

"Security robot" Russell Leuck stands guard at the 1981 San Diego Comic Convention at the El Cortez Hotel. (Peter Koeleman / U-T / San Diego Historical Society)

The San Diego Comic-Con has always saluted all types of graphic storytelling, with the 1981 edition welcoming such diverse talents as comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz, "Family Circus" creator Bil Keane and "Cerebus" creator Dave Sim.

Date: July 23-26
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: El Cortez Hotel
Memorable moment: Gary Owens, the former "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" announcer and the original voice of "Space Ghost," emceed the masquerade ball.

1982

Steve Gerber, co-creator of Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck, makes a stop during the 1982 Comic-Con. (Alan Light)

Comic book legends like Carl Barks ("Donald Duck") and Will Eisner ("The Spirit") rubbed shoulders with future legends including Frank Miller ("Batman: Year One," "Sin City") and Max Allan Collins ("Road to Perdition"). Other guests included "Dennis the Menace" creator Hank Ketcham.

Date: July 8-11
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Hotel San Diego
Memorable moment: Pavel Chekov himself, Walter Koenig, was one of many "Star Trek" vets to make the voyage to San Diego over the years.

1983

Times writer Jenifer Warren wrote this article on the culture of collecting and monetizing comic books on Aug. 5, 1983. (Los Angeles Times)

For "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" mastermind Douglas Adams, a guest in 1983, stepping into Comic-Con must have felt like arriving on an alien world as delightfully eccentric as those he created, one full of obsessive fans, knowledgeable nerds and costumed collectors. Little did fans know that another featured guest, comic book icon George Perez -- who was in the middle of his run on "New Teen Titans" -- would soon permanently alter the DC Comics universe with the historic crossover series "Crisis on Infinite Earths."

Date: Aug. 4-7
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Hotel San Diego
Memorable moment: It was the first year the con used a theme for the souvenir programs.

1984

With the Summer Olympics taking place in L.A. in late July and early August, the convention was held earlier than usual, presumably much to the fans' delight. Instead of cheering on Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis, con attendees basked in the presence of comic book pros as well as Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of the Disney animators famously known as the "Nine Old Men."

Date: June 28- July 1
Attendance: 5,500
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Hotel San Diego

1985

Among the many noted guests from the world of comics were two very different voices from two very different eras. Jerry Siegel, who virtually started the superhero mythos in 1938 when he co-created Superman, was on hand, as was Alan Moore -- in a very rare convention appearance -- who was hard at work deconstructing the genre in such postmodern works as "Saga of the Swamp Thing," "Watchmen" and "Batman: The Killing Joke."

Date: Aug. 1-4
Attendance: 6,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Hotel San Diego
Memorable moment: The convention used Rick Geary's toucan design as the official logo for the first time.

1986

Times staff writer Eric Bailey delves into the subject of comics, art, retail sales and collectors at San Diego Comic-Con on Aug. 2, 1986. (Los Angeles Times)

What's a comic book convention without Marvel Comics mastermind Stan "The Man" Lee? Still, most eyes had to have been on writer-artist Frank Miller, whose "The Dark Knight Returns" had galvanized comic fans earlier that year.

Date: July 31-Aug. 3
Attendance: 6,500
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Hotel San Diego
Among the guests: "Heavy Metal" vet Moebius, Stan Lee, Frank Miller

1987

This year offered another smorgasbord of diverse talents, including guests like "Lost in Space" child star Bill Mumy (now all grown up), sci-fi author Harlan Ellison and comic-book legend Jack Kirby.

Date: Aug. 6-9
Attendance: 5,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Holiday Inn
Memorable moment: It was the first year to offer the Convention Events Guide.

1988

In this article, writer Elaine Pofeldt says that, for some people, comic books are almost a religion. For others, they are a religion. Published: Aug. 6, 1988. (Los Angeles Times)

Two relatively unknown creative types who would later be synonymous with must-see TV made appearances. One was Matt Groening, touting his underground comic smash "Life in Hell" and his risky new TV series "The Simpsons," and the other was author George R.R. Martin, who would release his novel "A Game of Thrones" eight years later.

Date: Aug. 4-7
Attendance: 8,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Omni Hotel
Among the guests: Comic book vet Art Adams, cartoonist Jules Feiffer and "Grendel" writer-artist Matt Wagner.
Memorable moment: The inaugural Eisner Awards were given out, with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" and Paul Chadwick's "Concrete" both winning multiple awards.

1989

SDCC closed out the '80s just a few months after the release of the blockbuster superhero film "Batman." Attendance was increasing annually and although Hollywood was temporarily enamored with superheroes, the con was still predominantly geared toward fans of the printed page.

Date: Aug. 3-6
Attendance: 11,000
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Omni Hotel
Among the guests: Mark Hamill ("Star Wars"), Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez ("Love & Rockets")
Memorable moment: SDCC attendance topped 10,000 for the first time. It would only get bigger from there.

1990

Still a haven for comics fans, two of the industry's icons, Marvel mastermind Jack Kirby and "The Spirit" creator Will Eisner, both attend the convention.

Date: Aug. 2-5
Venue: San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, Holiday Inn
Attendance: 13,000
Among the guests: Peter David, Will Eisner, Kelly Freas, Michael Kaluta, Mel Lazarus, Carl Macek, Grant Morrison, John Romita Jr., Van Williams

1991

In 1991, Kevin Brass wrote a Comic-Con-related story about the makers of "Brother Man," black comic characters, and how tough it is for independent comic books to break into "the system." (Los Angeles Times)

The San Diego Convention Center became the new home for Comic-Con as it moved away from the performing arts center it had occupied the last few years. And the Hollywood invasion began. Featured speakers included Dave Stevens, who created "The Rocketeer," popularized the pinup style, and helped restore interest in the model Bettie Page; and horror legend Clive Barker, who was then known for directing "Hellraiser."

Date: July 4-7, 1991
Venue: San Diego Convention Center; Pan Pacific Hotel
Attendance: 15,000-plus
Among the guests: Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Keith Giffen, Joe Haldeman, Lynn Johnston, Joe Kubert, Jim Lee, Don Maitz, Sheldon Moldoff, Rick Sternbach, Janny Wurts

1992

An inflatable Spider-Man hovers above the crowd in 1992 at the San Diego Convention Center. (Charles Starr/San Diego Union-Tribune)

The convention decided to host the 75th birthday party for Captain America and X-Men co-founder Jack Kirby. Another famous Captain, James Tiberius Kirk, William Shatner, beamed down for the event.

Date: Aug. 13-16
Attendance: 22,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center; Double Tree Hotel
Among the guests: Creig Flessel, Bill Griffith, Todd McFarlane, Diane Noomin, Gilbert Shelton, Lewis Shiner, Mr. T
Memorable moment: Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola popped in to stoke the fires for his latest film, "Bram Stoker's Dracula." Yes, the director who made "Godfather" held a panel at Comic-Con discussing vampires.

1993

Mike Mignola's Hellboy made his debut appearance in a small, ashcan-like black-and-white story in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, which was distributed by the fledgling Dark Horse Comics. A Northern Irish-born Garth Ennis also appeared at the con after his first book on American soil, "Hellblazer," launched.

Date: Aug. 19-22
Venue: San Diego Convention Center; Hyatt Regency
Attendance: 28,000
Among the guests: Ferd Johnson, Rick Kirkman, Don Martin, Dave Sim, Vin Sullivan, Michael Whelan, Robert Williams, Roger Zelazny

1994

Dressed as Captain America, Jeff Holland of Meridian, Miss., walks through the art showcase at the San Diego Convention Center in 1994. (Don Kohlbauer/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Mainstream names are plentiful in 1994 with a lineup that includes "Star Trek" star-director Leonard Nimoy, the "muscles from Brussels" action star Jean-Claude Van Damme ("Timecop," "Street Fighter"), and French artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Another lauded guest was J. Michael Straczynski, whose show "Babylon 5," was in the midst of being one of the most popular sci-fi franchises on television.

Date: Aug. 4-7
Venue: San Diego Convention Center; Hyatt Regency
Attendance: 31,000
Guests: Dave Dorman, Al Feldstein, Rick Geary, Stan Goldberg, Roberta Gregory, Matt Groening, Lurene Haines, Dan Jurgens, Frank Miller, James O'Barr, Lucius Shepard, Rumiko Takahashi

1995

Old comic books are displayed at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1995. (John McCutchen/ San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Comic-Con wanted the world to know how big it was getting! The nonprofit organization changed its name to Comic-Con International and changed its logo from the fine feathered toucan to the current "eye" logo that was designed by Richard Bruning.

Date: July 27-30
Venue:San Diego Convention Center
Attendance: 34,000
Among the guests: Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Harvey Pekar, Jeff Smith, Tom Sito, Joe Sinnott, Andrew Vachss

1996

Billy Cheng, 5, left, and his brother, Sunny, 6, of San Francisco watch as Ron Lim of Marvel Comics sketches Batman in 1996. (Laura Embry/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Both a blessing and a curse, this year marked the second time that Comic-Con fell on July 4. The Republican National Convention came to town on Aug. 12 to Aug. 15, the year after the Oklahoma City bombing, so it was a big deal. Oh, and Bob Dole was nominated -- not as big of a deal.

Date: July 4-7
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Attendance: 36,000
Among the guests: Donna Barr, David Brin, Paul Chadwick, Steve Dillon, Mort Drucker, Ben Edlund, Garth Ennis, Dave Gibbons, Joe Giella, Richard Hatch, Dave McKean, Jim Mooney, Kurt Schaffenberger, Francois Schuiten

1997

Armando Creeper in costume at Comic-Con International in 1997. (Jerry Rife/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Highlights included Alex Ross, whose work on the then hugely popular "Kingdom Come" miniseries was on display, footage from Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers," and longtime con mainstay Kevin Smith, who released his film "Chasing Amy." Want to know what it was like at the 1997 Comic-Con? Chris Peterson made a documentary on it. Also, "Usagi Yojimbo" artist Stan Sakai chronicled his Comic-Con experience on paper.

Date: July 17-20
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Attendance: 40,000
Among the guests: Ralph McQuarrie, Linda Medley, Michael Moorcock, George Perez, Brian Pulido, R.A. Salvatore, Jhonen Vasquez, Mark Waid

1998

Vernon Lingley, left, Patrick Connors and Lance Tabor check out a video of "Space Bunnies" (which is also a comic book) at Comic-Con in 1998. (John Nelson/San Diego Union-Tribune)

"Star Wars -- The Phantom Menace" got a rousing introduction. A little movie called "The Matrix" got buzz. "Blade" was taken in by the Comic-Con audience and became Marvel Studios' first successful film. Also attending was comic book writer Paul S. Newman, creator of Turok. The writer holds the title as the most prolific comic book writer, with more than 4,100 published stories totaling 36,000 pages, in the Guinness Book of World Records. He died the next year.

Date: Aug. 13-16
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Attendance: 42,000
Among the guests: John Broome, Colleen Doran, Lorenzo Mattotti, Terry Moore, Joe Simon, Paul Smith, Vin Sullivan, Naoko Takeuchi

1999

Comic-Con International turned 30, and one of comics' most enduring groups, the X-Men, launched footage toward the Comic-Con audience like a grenade for its first film (to be released the following year). One of the featured speakers was Frank Miller, the artist best known for comics such as "300," "Sin City" and the 1986 epic comic "The Dark Knight Returns."

Date: Aug. 13-16
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Attendance: 42,000
Among the guests: Paul Dini, Neil Gaiman, Irwin Hasen, Mark Mothersbaugh, Art Spiegelman, Jim Steranko, Jill Thompson, Bruce Timm, Barry Windsor-Smith

2000

Kevin Smith, director and cartoonist, talks with a "Clerks" fan while signing autographs at Comic-Con in 2000. (Willie J. Allen Jr. / U-T)

Comic-Con debuted its Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. The four-day event highlights shorts, features and all sorts of great genre work. And it's still running today.

Date: July 20-23
Attendance: 48,500
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Kevin Smith, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Scott McCloud, Bryan Talbot, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Gahan Wilson, Janny Wurts
Memorable moment: Magneto (Ian McKellen) surprised Comic-Con by stopping by to watch a "Lord of the Rings" featurette.

2001

"Battlestar Gallactica" cosplay in 2001. (Handout)

Big-time Hollywood sneaks rolled into San Diego this year, including Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes."

Date: July 19-22
Attendance: 53,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Brian Michael Bendis, Gene Ha, Julie Doucet, Alvin Schwartz, Michael Chabon
Memorable moment: DreamWorks displayed the massive steampunk-looking time-traveling apparatus from its flick "The Time Machine" on the convention floor, thus giving fans a good look at the only good part of that film.

2002

Matthew Rios, 18, of San Diego, walks through a crowded San Diego Convention Center in his homemade Superman costume in 2002. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

There was a small panel for "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" attended by the resident hobbits Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. Also in attendance was James Cameron, who surprised fans with a look at the new picture he'd produced, "Solaris." Ben Affleck stopped by to promote his superhero role as Daredevil. Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant made an appearance for "Dreamcatcher."

Date: Aug. 1-4
Attendance: 63,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Jonathan Mostow, Chip Kidd, Bob Lubbers, Jason Lutes, Kevin Nowlan, Bob Oksner, George Woodbridge, Dick Ayers, William Woolfolk, Todd McFarlane, Eric Shanower, Devin Grayson
Memorable moment: Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised the convention by swinging by the "Terminator 3" presentation.

2003

Academy Award winners Halle Berry, left, and Angelina Jolie attend Comic-Con in 2003. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)

Angelina Jolie held court for "Tomb Raider," as did Halle Berry for "Gothika," but mainly "The Lord of the Rings" continued its tight grasp on convention-goers' attention with Weta panels hosted by Richard Taylor and with members of the cast.

Date: July 17-20
Attendance: 70,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Brian Azzarello, Sal Buscema, Jackson "Butch" Guice, Andy Serkis, Larry Leiber, Geoff Johns, R.A. Salvatore, Howard Post, Nalo Hopkinson

2004

Vegetius, a character from the kaiju action book series and DVD "Kaiju Big Battel," waves to Crystial Graham, a model representing the film "Species III." (Howard Lipin / U-T)

"The Incredibles" Pixar sneak peek with director Brad Bird was the panel to see, and the retro hero stylings generated big fan buzz this year.

Date: July 22-25
Attendance: 95,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Jack Adler, Mike Mignola, Brad Meltzer, Chuck McCann, Aaron McGruder, Roger Dean, Tom Gill, Sid Jacobsen, Batton Lash, Bill Plympton, Eduardo Risso, John Totleben, Craig Thompson, Frank Springer

2005

A crowded convention floor in 2005. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Bruce Campbell showed up to press for "Sky High" (apologizing for the lack of blood in the film) and took questions from the audience for more than 40 minutes. When asked if he was ever sad about acting roles he passed on, he answered no. "There are several things that looked good on paper, and you find out later that they sucked. Like 'Congo,' for example."

Date: July 14-17
Attendance: 103,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Margot Kidder, Sy Barry, Bob Bolling, Nick Cardy, James Warren, Dexter Taylor, Brian K. Vaughan, Bob Fujitani, Pia Guerra, Ray Harryhausen, Richard Morgan, Gary Panter, Eric Powell, J.J. Sedelmaier, Lalo Alcaraz

2006

Samuel L. Jackson takes a fan's question during a preview of his film "Snakes on a Plane" in 2006. (Earnie Grafton / San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Press)

Robert Smigel and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (who are one and the same) shook things up at their SDCC panel. Instead of sitting in front of the crowd and answering questions, Triumph (and Smigel) ran around the room screaming insults and demanding to know "Where are the Klingons?" Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson premiered clips from "Snakes on a Plane," and clips from the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" were screened.

Date: July 20-23
Attendance: 123,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Greg Weiseman, Deepak Chopra, Grant Morrison, Roger Corman, Walter Koenig, George R.R. Martin, Amanda Conner.
Memorable moment: While on a panel Ray Bradbury remarked that Frank Darabont had penned a screenplay for a movie version of "Fahrenheit 451" with Ben Kingsley as the fire chief. But he was more surprised at the amount of attempts Hollywood has made trying to adapt his work than the fact that there was talent attached. "There have been 15 scripts on 'Fahrenheit 451,'" said Bradbury. "Can you believe 15 scripts on 'Fahrenheit 451'? ... Shoot the book! Shoot the book!"

2007

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. greet the audience before a panel discussion and clips from the Marvel film "Iron Man." (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Marvel put on its first "Iron Man" panel.

Date: July 26-29
Attendance: 125,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Robert Downey Jr., Jessica Alba, Dane Cook, Clive Owen, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, George A. Romero, Ben Templesmith
Memorable moment: Fox pulled out of Comic-Con at the last minute when "clips from its slate of effects-heavy films just aren't ready." The studio was supposed to screen snippets from "Jumper," "Aliens vs. Predator 2" and "City of Ember," but the L.A. Times quoted studio vice president Sean Dudas as saying, "The material wasn't ready and we only want to go out when we can put our best foot forward."

2008

Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan hosted a panel for a "Red Sonja" movie that would never happen. Joss Whedon appeared with the cast of from "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." Keanu Reeves popped in to try and hype up genre fans for a modern-day remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Warner Bros. brought the real-life cast of the movie adaptation of "Watchmen," and McG's "Terminator Salvation" was gloriously upstaged by a fan in T-1000 cosplay who came to the mic only to ask one question: "Have you seen this boy?"

Date: July 24-27
Attendance: 126,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Max Brooks, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Dean Koontz, Rutu Modan, Chris Evans (for "Push," not "Captain America"), Dakota Fanning, Mike Allred, Ray Bradbury
Memorable moment: This was the year that "Twilight" took over Comic-Con. During the Hall H presentation, the Stephenie Meyer fans were heard screaming across the convention center. And this was months before the movie premiered with an unknown cast. But the fans were into it.

2009

"Twilight" stars Taylor Lautner, left, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson talk about "New Moon" in 2009. (David Brooks / Union-Tribune)

Seth Rogen unveiled the "Green Hornet" car. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hosted a panel for "Lost," before the final season. The show runners promised to be open and honest -- that didn't happen. But they were pretty straightforward. Also, "Avatar."

Date: July 23-26
Attendance: 126,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Connelly, Sigourney Weaver, Eliza Dushku, Tom Welling, Garth Ennis, Jerry Robinson, Frank Stack, Rebecca Moesta, Christopher Moore, Jonathan Hickman

2010

The much-whispered-about Avengers all united onstage for the very first time. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) joined director Joss Whedon and Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) to the sound of thunderous applause. After the announcement, Whedon said, "I have had a dream all my life, and it was not this good.... This cast is more than I could have ever hoped for. And I'm going to blow it. So I need your love, I need your support." Thankfully, he didn't. The dramatic Marvel presentation set the bar pretty high for other Comic-Con presenters. Even Marvel hasn't been able to top itself. Also, Pacey-Con.

Date: July 22-25
Attendance: 130,000
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Ryan Reynolds recited the Lantern Corps Oath for a little Green Lantern. Will Ferrell and Tina Fey brought donuts and OJ for Hall H during their "Megamind" presentation, but they were a bit short. Others included Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Ellen Page, Rainn Wilson, Milla Jovovich, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Kevin Smith, Danny Elfman, J.J. Abrams, Jason Schwartzman, Michel Gondry
Memorable moment: Before the "Paul" panel in Hall H, a couple of unruly convention-goers got into a squabble and one unlucky fan was attacked (allegedly hit/slashed in the face with a mechanical pencil). The victim was attended to and the attacker removed in restraints. But the rumor of the Hall H eye stabbing attack lives on forever.

2011

"Super Size Me" director Morgan Spurlock followed a gaggle of Comic-Con-goers for his next, SDCC-centered documentary, "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope." It would later premiere in 2012. But the real champion of 2011 was animated series "Adventure Time," whose presence was felt on the floor in the shape of a gargantuan Jake.

Date: July 21-24
Attendance: 126,000-plus
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Doug Jones, Jerry Robinson, Damon Lindelof, Charlize Theron, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Laura Vandervoort, Katee Sackhoff, Summer Glau
Memorable moment: Before the Sony "Amazing Spider-Man" panel, a fan dressed in a Spider-Man mask rushed the mic. The elated fan then ripped off his mask, revealing that he was actually newly cast Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield. A visibly nervous Garfield unwrapped a note and delivered a heartfelt speech to the fans promising not to let them down as their next web slinger.

2012

The year of the Necomimi kitty ears. For four straight days just about every convention-goer was seen sporting these white kitty ears equipped with (alleged) brain wave sensors that move and react to your emotions. Even today you can spot the occasional kitty ear-sporting attendee. But this is THE year of the brainwave-controlled cat ears. Other big crowd-pleasers were the animated series "Legend of Korra," plus "Dredd" and "Looper," two small films that made big impacts on the masses.

Date: July 12-15
Attendance: 130,000-plus
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Amell, Zack Snyder, Henry Cavill, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Alexander Skarsgard, Stephen Moyer, Josh Jackson, John Noble, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston
Memorable moment: Robert Downey Jr. danced his way into the hearts of Hall H, yet again. Thus making everyone forget the horror that was "Iron Man 2."

2013

Batman character Two Face (Angie Rodriguez) leads Scarecrow (Jonathon Antone) by the noose in front of the San Diego Convention Center in 2013. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

TV started to take the wheel in a big way when "Community's" panel gets to play in Hall H and creator Dan Harmon shows up in a DIY Iron Man suit . The Comic-Con sprawl stretched beyond the convention center when Zachary Levi and Nerd HQ hosted a collection of "conversations for a cause" at the massive Petco Park. Plus "X-Men: Days of Future Past" introduced its new Sentinel, and "Hunger Games" invaded.

Date: July 18-21
Attendance: 130,000-plus
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Clark Gregg came back to life for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Also: Andrew Garfield, Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, Jackson Publick, Doc Hammer, Robert Kirkman, Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Tatiana Maslany, Ginnifer Goodwin, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Matt Groening
Memorable moment: Tom Hiddleston surprised the audience by arriving in character as Loki at the Marvel panel. He then took over the show, mugging for the audience and demanding the crowd to say his name. Later, "Guardians of the Galaxy" villain Karen Gillan revealed her new Nebula bald head by ripping off her red wig and tossing it into the seats.

2014

The Times' Rebecca Keegan interviews Benedict Cumberbatch. (Los Angeles Times)

The year that comics came back, sort of. TV shows like "Agent Carter," "iZombie," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Arrow," "Constantine," "Flash" and "Gotham" all celebrate the comic book roots from which they came. It was nice to see the attention turn toward comics again, even if it was through the small screen.

Date: July 24-27
Attendance: 130,000-plus
Venue: San Diego Convention Center
Among the guests: Norman Reedus, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dwayne Johnson, Natalie Dormer, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, James Spader, Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder, Graham Nolan, Mark Evanier
Memorable moment: Ronald D. Moore returned to the Comic-Con stage, not for "Battlestar," but for the romance time-traveling TV series "Outlander." And at the Spotlight on Jim Steranko panel, the legendary comic book creator Steranko told the much-hyped tale about slapping credited Batman creator Bob Kane at a past SDCC. The story first came out on Steranko's Twitter feed, but he retold it to the masses at the behest of the convention-going crowd. Oh, the dramatics of Comic-Con!

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