The crowds at San Diego Comic-Con, with more than 100,000 attendees, represent only a portion of those who would attend if they could: tickets were sold out in an hour or two in 2012, and within minutes in 2013.
Founded in 1970, San Diego Comic-Con has since exploded into an astounding pop culture festival, attracting more than 130,000 visitors and the attention of Hollywood studios, publishers and retailers alike, all eager to cater to their most dedicated fans.
"Comic-Con is an incredibly fantastic melting pot and passionate center for people who love cult pop movies and pop culture experience," Hobbit and Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis told Reuters. "There isn't another place in the world that tops it."
Following is a selection of photos (taken by Heather Beschizza and myself, where not otherwise indicated), which offer just a tiny slice of the costumed revelry–and sheer chaos–that fills the show floor's million-square feet.
Youngsters experiment on the wall of Lego, a 12-yard installation on one side of the toy company's large booth at San Diego Comic-Con.
A toy seller, Yvonne, is surprised by a photographer at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Clark James works on the inside of the torso of the "Silver Samurai" comic book character while assembling it a day before the start of the 2013 Comic-Con in San Diego. (REUTERS/Fred Greaves)
Comic-Con is also a retail toy fair to match anything on the East coast: millions of items for sale from hundreds of vendors.
Shermeen Saeed, dressed as the Batman comic book character Harley Quinn, poses for a photograph during Comic Con. (REUTERS/Keith Bedford)
A convention-goer poses with a life size dinosoar head. The installation was to promote the BBC TV series Primeval.
A statue of Gollum, as depicted in Peter Jackson's film of The Hobbit, greeted San Diego Comic-Con attendees entering through just one of the many huge entryways into the convention center.
Plush toys await new owners at San Diego Comic-Con.
The Joker, notorious psychopath and criminal mastermind, AKA Alexander Ward, gets a touch-up at San Diego Comic-Con courtesy of artist Midge Ordonez of the Cinema Makeup School is Los Angeles.
Legolas, AKA Stacie Pitt, checks for new email at San Deigo Comic-Con.
If there's one thing the convention has no shortage of, it's branded T-shirts and places to buy them.
Convention-goers pose for shooters in San Diego. Countless visitors attended in costumes of every description, from golden-age superheroes to favorites from the latest web-comics.
A tired staffer leans against a gigantic statue of Super Mario.
Evil cosmic entity Cthulhu takes time from its undisturbed rest at R'lyeh to check out minifigs at San Diego Comic-Con.
A convention-goer marvels at a fellow attendee's enormous Sharknado hat at San Diego Comic-Con. The internet-bait SyFy special movie was much-in evidence at 2013's event.
A giant latex horse's head on a pike signifies the most dangerous location at San Diego Comic-Con: vendors of merchandise based upon internet memes.
Comic-Con long ago expanded beyond the realm of comic books, and is a culture smorgasbord that encompasses everything from movies to books to internet fads. Science toys are among the most popular items on display.
Despite the pressing crowds of San Diego Comic-Con, the throng always parts when a certain sort of costume comes along.
Youngsters play with Lego bricks on a huge Lego-wall erected at the Comic-Con.
At Comic-Con, new and old stories alike earn pride of place. One section of the show floor was dominated by a massive statue of Mattel's He-Man. Classic comic series celebrating their anniversaries at this year's comic-con include Superman (75th), Avengers (50th), Doctor Who (50th), X-Men (50th), ElfQuest (35th), The Tick (25th), and Hellboy (20th).
The vast event was too much for some, even on the first day.
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