How Studios are Reinventing Comic-Con 2012

The art of generating buzz at San Diego Comic-Con has become a loud, angry, and sometimes beautiful dance between the convention-goers and the hordes of marketers. No longer impressed with panels and screenings of free media, the crowd demands more.

What started as a small little comics convention between West Coast friends has now transformed into a launching pad for massive new TV series, movies, and books. Studios and celebrities dictate Comic-Con, and this year looks to be one of the most strikingly different convention experiences yet. For better or worse, here are some crazy ways the studios are reinventing Comic-Con 2012.

The Art of Frankenweenie

First up, a bit of highbrow geekery. Tim Burton has "curated" yet another traveling art show — his last show did big business at the New York Museum of Modern Art — and this particular exhibit will be pinned directly to his next feature, Frankenweenie. The show includes the stop-motion puppets and landscapes Burton used. But since the 1984 Frankenweenie live-action short was the reason Burton was canned from Disney, hopefully there will be plenty of old sketches from his younger years.

Nerd HQ

This Con within the Con isn't particularly steered by studios but is still an innovative idea nonetheless. This collection of panels, parties, and nerdery is hosted by Zachary Levi. The Nerd HQ takes the stress off of Con offering a collection of off-site events with a range of Comic-Con celebs — last year they hosted Kevin Smith, and Zachary Quinto, Seth Green, and Nathan Fillion attended. Yes, you have to pay to attend these panels, but all the money goes to Operation Smile. This will be the second year of the Nerd HQ, which will be hosted nearby at Block No. 16 Union and Spirits. Here's their Comic-Con-centric webseries they assembled starring Jason Biggs, Adam Baldwin, and a bunch of other folks you already know.

The Adventure Time: Keyper Seeker Experience

Adventure Time — a huge winner at last year's Comic-Con — is taking over the entire New Children's Museum in San Diego. Hosted by the The Keyper, this "fully immersive Adventure Time experience" sounds like Willy Wonka for Adventure Time fans, which is almost everyone at the Con. The synopsis:

The Adventure Time: Keyper Seeker experience will welcome guests into this lush re-creation of the Land of Ooo! The Keyper, a beloved Adventure Time character who just happens to wear a key shaped hat, will present guests with a special key that opens one of the many doors within the secret lair of the Door Lords. Before a door will open, each guest must decipher a riddle that if successful will grant access to an extra-special prize locked inside!

Warner Bros. Extra at Comic-Con Outdoor Festival

Warner Bros. is bringing in all six Batmobiles just to get you to come to their massive outdoor festival at San Diego's Bayfront Park. Plus they'll be throwing in a collection of actors from various television programs like The Big Bang Theory, Fringe, and The Vampire Diaries. Will it be a free place to pose with some Bat-cars and listen to free music after the floor has closed down? Or will it be like Woodstock '99 for Big Bang Theory fans? Either way, the Warners are banking that they can get indoor kids out of the air conditioning.

Dawn of the Con

Rob Zombie + VH1 = finally, a place for people over 30? On July 12, VH1 has decided that they will be "opening" Comic-Con with a party hosted by Rob Zombie at Petco Park. The party is for badge-holders only and promises the car from Zombie's "Dragula" video. It's not terribly different from the legion of movie-centric parties we've seen over the years, but this one is curiously and simply to celebrate the ex-lead singer of White Zombie.

How Studios are Reinventing Comic-Con 2012

The Walking Dead Escape: Live the Apocalypse

Possibly the most whispered-about advertising adventure to launch this year. If successful, we predict Walking Dead obstacle courses at almost every convention that is interested in hosting or perhaps a lone venture into the world of competitive zombie fleeing. The 35-minute course snakes through the Petco Park stadium. It's not a race — however, the website warns that "the slow usually die for a reason." Participants will duck, dive and dodge through these obstacles while being chased by zombies. If you get touched by the zombie, you're dead. Sadly, tickets are all sold out, but you can still sign up to spectate.

For more information and a collection of press releases, check out The Futon Critic and the SDCC Blog.