COMIC-CON 2012:

EDITOR’S NOTE: As San Diego Comic-Con hits the height of the weekend crush, Comic Riffs contributor and Tall Tale Radio podcaster Tom Racine braves the batcaves, Hobbitheads and cosplayers to deliver this dispatch.

— M.C.

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IRONY MAN: Wearing a bit of Iron Man armor, Robert Downey Jr. speaks at the "Iron Man 3" panel at 2012 Comic Con on Saturday. (./JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP)

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SAN DIEGO — Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con is BIG in so many senses of the word, as the city-blocks-spanning barrage goes into Warp 9, hits hyperspace and, for true geeks, “drinks the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.”

Saturday is the biggest wall-to-wall day of the event. Comic-Con may draw 125,000-plus people over four and a half days, but Saturday is when it feels as though they’re all here at once.

Hall H looms, of course, as the biggest room of all -- both in terms of head-count (6,500 pack its walls) and headlines, as “The Hobbit” and “Iron Man 3” are among the big-budget films to show sizzle reels to the heated-expectation throngs. It’s here that Marvel announces the titles ”Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” for 2014; says yes, we will get a “Guardians of the Galaxy”; and screens a clip of test footage for ”Ant Man.”

As the Con keeps expanding like a feasting Jabba the Hutt, this year also brings a large stage behind Hall H that -- courtesy of Warner Bros. -- always has something going on. That includes a new “Lord of the Rings” video game, various costume contests, live interviews and concerts, and a makeshift “Batcave” that holds six Batmobiles, from the classic TV show through the latest Christopher Nolan versions.


LEGENDS OF THE SUMMER: Roger Corman (left) and William Shatner speak at "Two Legends On One Stage: Roger Corman and William Shatner" presented by EPIX during Comic-Con 2012. (Christopher Polk/GETTY IMAGES FOR EPIX)

Making the 2012 Con feel even bigger have been several “off-campus” gatherings, including “Nerd HQ” and the Padres’ Petco Park, which has been turned into a post-apocalyptic obstacle course complete with zombies. The Gaslamp Quarter buzzes with activity day and night, making the Con feel not only larger but also more accessible. In many ways, you can go downtown and get a pretty amazing Comic-Con experience without actually having a badge to the main event.

Several of the true geek highlights:

1. At a collectibles booth, David Falconer -- a concept artist for WETA who has worked on “Lord of the Rings,” “Narnia” and “The Hobbit” -- shows off a copy of Bilbo Baggins’s sword, “Sting,” which Falconer designed.

2. At a press session, William Shatner hams it up as he talks in his passionate, Shatnerian way about his new EPIX documentary about “Star Trek” fans titled, “Get a Life.” (Shatner appeared in a “Legends” spotlight with famed B-movie filmmaker Roger Corman.)

3. All smirks and eye-twinkles Robert Downey Jr. owns the spotlight during the “Iron Man 3” session. Also: “IM3” director Shane Black thinks that people obsessing over the color scheme of the newest Iron Man armor is weird. Um, does he remember what venue he is sitting at? That’s EXACTLY what people at Comic-Con obsess over.

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Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle and friends pose during the "Iron Man 3" panel. (./JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP)
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