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Fans return as Comic-Con awaits new 'Thrones' and 'Rings' shows

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13-month-old Maddox Cruz dressed as a superhero meets a cosplayer dressed as Spiderman outside the convention center during Comic-Con International 2022 on July 21, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo: AFP)
Tens of thousands of cosplaying fans converged on San Diego Thursday for the first full-scale Comic-Con in three years, where new "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones" TV series will be unveiled at the world's most famous pop culture gathering.اضافة اعلان

After two online-only Comic-Cons due to Covid-19, attendance is expected to match pre-pandemic levels of around 130,000, with huge lines of fans dressed as superheroes and space monsters wrapped around the convention center beneath a blazing sun.

Some die-hards camped for 24 hours to be the first ones back inside the giant Hall H, where Hollywood studio Paramount kicked off the four-day comic book, fantasy and sci-fi extravaganza by presenting the first look at its star-studded movie "Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves."

Chris Pine, Hugh Grant and Rege-Jean Page appeared on stage at the 6,000-capacity arena to discuss the movie's nostalgic and light-hearted take on the world's most popular role-playing game.

"It's like a Spielbergian energy to it -- it's the films that I grew up with in the 80s," said Pine, while Grant said the film's jokey script had "a real Monty Python vibe."

Footage from the movie, out in March, showed a gang of wise-cracking thieves raising corpses from the dead, and being forced to race through a deadly maze pursued by monsters in front of a blood-thirsty arena crowd.

Former "Bridgerton" heartthrob Page described the rigorous stunt training required for his action sequences.

Later in Paramount's presentation, former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star and Comic-Con favorite Sarah Michelle Gellar made a surprise appearance to promote new series "Wolf Pack," a spin-off from the "Teen Wolf" series and movie.

- 'Three years' -

"It has been three years since we've been in this room together. How is everyone doing?" asked Comic-Con programming chief Eddie Ibrahim, to ecstatic cheers from fans wearing mandatory face masks over their hobbit, dragon and princess costumes.

The event, which began as a humble comic book-themed gathering in a San Diego hotel basement more than 50 years ago, today draws A-list stars and top Hollywood studios including Disney and Warner Bros.

The Tinseltown giants have this week done nothing to quell frenzied rumors of a first look at Marvel superhero sequel "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" and a new Superman movie announcement.

But headlines are likely to be dominated by two huge fantasy series coming to television screens soon: Amazon Prime's "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" and HBO's "House of the Dragon." 

"The Rings of Power" is Amazon's enormously ambitious saga taking place in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien's books, and set thousands of years before the events of Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning trilogy of films.

The series -- playing out across five seasons, the first of which launches September 2 -- is reported to have cost Amazon well over $1 billion, and will be presented Friday.

- Rings v Thrones - 

The following day, "House of the Dragon" -- the first spin-off to "Game of Thrones" set in George R.R. Martin's fictional world of Westeros, out August 21 -- will be unveiled by HBO.

Martin has played down talk of a rivalry between the two mega-franchises, writing in his blog, "I want both shows to find an appreciative audience... the more fantasy hits we have, the more great fantasy we are likely to get."

But HBO hopes its prequel can match the wild popularity of the original "Thrones," which over eight seasons became must-see television, spawned countless imitations and delivered a record 59 Emmys.

Starring Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans and Emma D'Arcy, "House of the Dragon" tells the story of the murderous, dragon-breeding Targaryen family, hundreds of years before the events of "Thrones."

Its stars will appear in Hall H immediately after a movie presentation from HBO's sister company Warner Bros., which is set to feature Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who is promoting his upcoming superhero flick "Black Adam."

The week will also feature a send-off for AMC's "The Walking Dead," as the juggernaut zombie TV series bows out with its final season -- and launches a new spin-off, the anthology-style "Tales of the Walking Dead."

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