Marvel Makes Dramatic Return to Comic-Con

If you plan on attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, you're most likely making all sorts of plans ahead of time, whether it be checking out the programming schedule to see which panels you'd like to attend, looking at the list of exclusive offerings at the show or taking in the exhibitors list and floor plan and making sure you know exactly which booths you want to stop by over the long weekend. But when the floor plan for Comic-Con was revealed this year, many comic fans were surprised by the appearance of a rather sizable Marvel booth.

Marvel Comics had a regular presence at Comic-Con International until about five years ago, when the publisher ceased exhibiting. In more recent years, Marvel's made a small return to the show floor as part of Activision's booth, a presence that grew from year to year with Marvel taking up more space, allowing them to do more signings and presentations. This year, Marvel's back in a big way, going it solo with an aggressive signing and presentation schedule for their very own booth. CBR News spoke with Marvel's VP of Operations, Mike Pasciullo, to find out more about Marvel's return to San Diego.

For the complete schedule of Marvel's panel and signing events, check here.

Marvel is returning to comic-con in a big way. What's behind this decision and why has Marvel added Comic-Con back to its convention schedule?

Although there was a time that, due to financial and philosophical issues, Marvel had limited their convention strategy, you have to remember that over the last few years we have had a presence at most of the major shows, including the San Diego Comic Con. True, we shared an area with Activision in San Diego, but we were definitely there.

You were, but this year you're there in a far more dramatic way. Why is a booth at Comic-Con important for Marvel?

This year, it just seemed like the time was right for Marvel to have their own presence in San Diego for a few reasons. The first being that with Marvel Studios are now developing and producing our own films and this is the perfect opportunity to start the buzz and showcase our first two releases, "Iron Man " and "The Incredible Hulk." Secondly, we have taken great strides to attract new readers to the comic book industry by publishing books like "Stephen King's Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born ," "Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter," "Halo Uprising" and "Marvel Illustrated" and there is no better place to promote these to such a large and eclectic audience than the world's biggest pop culture celebration. And lastly, but must definitely not least, we want to reward our fans for reading our books and get them excited about what we have coming up.

You've got a sizable amount of floor space at the convention this year, can you give us an idea of what this booth includes? What components will be found there (i.e. video, computers, interactive displays, etc.)? What sort of displays will it include?

As all of us who've ever attended the Comic Con know, what looks like a large space on paper quickly becomes much smaller when the convention doors open. That being said, we have tried to keep a balance of offering as many attractions as possible within the booth while not inadvertently creating a labyrinth. This year, we will have two signing stations, a few video game kiosks, a stage area and I've just gotten word that Stark Industries will be dropping off a large wooden crate. Not sure what that is all about, but I am not going to argue with the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What are the logistics of putting something like this together? How big a pain in the ass is building a booth?

Years ago, when I worked at Fleer, I would show up at Comic Con on Thursday morning and there would be a wonderfully constructed booth there and I would go about handing out trading cards in an ignorant bliss. Not once did I ever wonder how or who built it until about nine months ago when the San Diego Comic-Con Exhibitor Manual was dropped of on my desk. It's been quite a learning experience, to say the least. There have been a lot of smart people drinking much coffee and sleeping few hours in an effort to not only build our presence from scratch, but also make it something that is truly spectacular or amazing or sensational, ah just pick one. But at the end of the day, a very long day at that, we are all very happy with what we have put together and excited to finally see it "in action."

Can you talk about some of your plans in the booth during the convention? I'm sure we'll see John Dokes riling crowds up with special giveaways as he usually does, but does Marvel have plans to use the booth in other creative ways you can discuss or hint at?

As we do with all of the conventions that we attend, we will have an amazing line-up of creators appearing at our booth. But because this is our first time with a major presence at Comic-Con in many years, we decided to increase the degree of difficulty and add stage programming in our area. Throughout the course of the four days, we will have a Marvel Costume Contest; live creator-on-creator interviews featuring Joe Quesada, Brian Bendis, Jeph Loeb, Ed Brubaker and Matt Faction; video game demos by Sega and Activision; the now legendary John Dokes-patented Giveaway Hours; and opportunities to have yourself recorded asking Marvel creators and editors questions which could then appear on Marvel.com as video clips.

And if that wasn't enough, we will also have Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. appearing at the booth on Saturday to host a special event. There are also a few more surprises and thrills, but you will need to stop by the booth to find out exactly what they are.

Do you foresee a Marvel booth once again being a permanent fixture at Comic-Con?

You might be better served asking me this question a week after the convention when I've had some R.E.M. sleep and been able to replenish my electrolytes. In all seriousness, I hope so. As I said we are very excited to see how the fans react to what we have put together this year. Hopefully we've done a good job of developing a program and presence that everyone will enjoy and we'll have an opportunity to improve on it the years to come.

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