More Women Than Ever At San Diego's Comic-Con

Melissa Block checks in with Nina Gregory about what's hot at this year's Comic-Con, the big annual entertainment convention held in San Diego.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Comic-Con, the big annual entertainment convention in San Diego, is well under way. The gathering is known for its devoted fans, often dressed in costumes, and its showcase of mostly science fiction and fantasy.

The convention has a reputation as a magnet for geeks, but in recent years, Comic-Con has become more mainstream and, dare we say, kind of cool. Here to give us the lowdown on what's going on this year is NPR's Nina Gregory, who joins me now from San Diego.

And, Nina, for the uninitiated among us, let's talk about Comic-Con and what exactly it is. It started in comics, but it's much more now.

NINA GREGORY, BYLINE: Yeah. Comic-Con has been going on for over four decades. This year, it's at a capacity with about 130,000 people coming. It breaks down to about 60 percent male, 40 percent female, which is actually a huge increase in female attendance over the past 10 or 15 years. That's attributable not just to a change in content, but who makes the content, specifically "Twilight."

So you have people coming down here for books, for TV shows, for toys, for - of course, movies, too.

BLOCK: And the movies, the big movies - the studios will bring huge stars to come talk to their fans. What are the big movies this year?

GREGORY: One of the big movies of the summer that's coming out soon is "Dark Knight Rises." That's the third and final "Batman" movie that's directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale as Batman. It opens July 20th, which is just around the corner, and it's odd that Warner Brothers isn't showing sneak peeks or really plastering the place with it. Perhaps it's because they know that they've already got this fan base and, instead, they've chosen to tease Peter Jackson's next film, "The Hobbit."

BLOCK: And we mentioned costumes, Nina. What costumes have you been seeing this year?

GREGORY: Oh, man, I mean, there are a lot of your traditional superheroes - Spidermen, Batmen, a lot of Darth Vaders, your real traditional kinds of almost Halloween costumes, but the difference between this and Halloween is that people really take time to craft their own costumes.

BLOCK: And some "Lord of the Rings" costumes floating around?

GREGORY: Yes. There are a lot of elves and, in fact, the cast of those movies are also wandering around, so you never know when you might actually, you know, literally bump into an elf.

BLOCK: Nina, you mentioned the "Twilight" effect and the growth on the number of women going to Comic-Con. Is that a really visible thing? You've been going for a long time. You've seen a real change over the last few years?

GREGORY: Yeah. I have been coming to Comic-Con for about 15 years and I had started like many of the young women who are here, coming in through anime, but when "Twilight" came to Comic-Con, it really represented a sea change in who was here. It wasn't just young women who read, you know, Japanese comic books, but there were moms here, too. There were young girls, people who never would have come in here and some of the boys were a little bit - I would say - kind of prickly, holding up kind of obnoxious signs saying things like vampires don't sparkle, they burn.

And some feminist film and media scholars had taken that as a sort of anti-girl or anti-woman moment, but I would actually argue that it was really a sign of respect that they were sort of challenging each other's world views and I think it really meant that they had arrived.

BLOCK: Let's talk about someone who's not at Comic-Con this year, Nina, and that is the writer, Ray Bradbury, who died last month.

GREGORY: Yeah. It's very sad. Ray Bradbury had attended Comic-Con since the first one and Bradbury would walk the halls and, like, the sea would part and people just so revered him and his presence was not just as a great writer, but as a real sort of member and icon of this community of seriously devoted fans. And it really is a loss for people here at Comic-Con and, of course, readers around the world.

BLOCK: Well, Nina, enjoy the rest of the convention. Got your costume ready?

GREGORY: I'm going as Lois Lane.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Nina Gregory at Comic-Con in San Diego.

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