Proud to be freaks and geeks

SAN DIEGO, UNITED STATES - Spider-Man himself made an appearance at Comic-Con - though he wasn't web-spinning or swooping in to save Gwen Stacy. He even had to take the escalator just like us normal folk.

Spidey (one of many) was part of the 130,000-strong crowd that flocked to the 44th annual Comic-Con, which started on Wednesday with a preview night and ended on Sunday.

But the pop-culture event has grown far beyond its comic book namesake, with zombies, space aliens, pirates and time travellers all making up Comic-Con's colourful cast.

It's now an extravaganza of all media related to comics, superheroes, science fiction and fantasy. Video games are also making a big splash again this year as well, with gaming companies showing off the latest technology and the hottest new titles.

But behind the crazy costumes, those attending Comic-Con say it's really all about connecting. Those present at the conference included Hollywood superstars of yesteryear, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The two action stars unveiled their latest film, "Escape Plan," at Comic-Con, saying they were drawn by the passionate fans who attend the popculture extravaganza.

Schwarzenegger characterised the Comic-Con crowd as "the most dedicated fans and the most passionate about the movie business".

Stallone said San Diego is "a real movie town," referring to it as "the new Hollywood."

"Escape Plan" centres on two ageing prison-escape artists who are locked away in what is called the world's most secure prison. The film opens in October.

Andrew Garfield, who plays the web-slinging superhero in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and its forthcoming sequel, was also at the event as part of the "Amazing Spider-Man 2" panel.

And introducing Hollywood's Spidey was itself a small production.

The lights dimmed and the audience went wild. Garfield appeared first as the masked superhero, pretending to be a fan presenting a question to the panel, before ripping the mask off and shocking attendees.

He told the crowd of nearly 6,000 that he loves Comic-Con, saying, "It's the only place where I feel normal."

He also complimented Jamie Foxx, who plays the villain Electro in the sequel, saying he first noticed him opposite Al Pacino in "Any Given Sunday."

The film's director Marc Webb, the film's producers, Garfield and Foxx were all there to offer convention-goers the first look at footage from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2".

Foxx's character was also introduced in the footage - a man who starts out admiring Spider-Man, but eventually seeks to destroy him. Spider-Man befriends the quiet man before an accident transforms him into Electro, AP reported.

"I wanted Electro to be a serious individual who wants to burn the city down," Foxx said, "and burn Spider-Man along with it."

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