New Heroes Rule the Screen as Marvel Sits out Comic-Con

No one would have been surprised if anticipation for this year's Comic-Con were watered down a bit.

After all, the granddaddy of comic-book movie studios, Marvel, has no footage or sneak previews of upcoming films planned for the USA's largest convention of superhero devotees, which begins today in San Diego.

But when you rack up more than $850 million in a summer with superheroes, and three of them aren't from the Marvel universe, you don't need an Iron Man or Hulk to bring people to the party.

"I think there's a hunger in our pop culture for superheroes that aren't traditional," says 300 director Zack Snyder, who brings Watchmen to the convention. "It doesn't have to be comic books. Just heroes that they can relate to."

Indeed, the slate for the convention, which is expected to draw 125,000, runs the gamut from comic books to sci-fi to vampire love:

•Twilight. Based on the wildly popular novel, the story of a teenage girl (Kristen Stewart) who falls for a vampire (Robert Pattinson) hits screens Dec. 12 and gets sneak footage at the convention.

•Watchmen. No movie comes to Comic-Con with greater expectations than this $100 million, R-rated tale of superheroes who suffer real-life problems, from impotence to complacency. It's out March 6.

•The Wolf Man. Benicio Del Toro stars in this remake of the classic story of a man on the hunt for a killer cursed by a werewolf. Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt also star. Out April 3.

•Star Trek. It wouldn't be a Comic-Con without Trekkies, and they'll be out in force seeking clues to the final frontiers of this J.J. Abrams film, which examines the early days of James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise. Arrives May 8.

•Terminator Salvation. Christian Bale hopes to do for the Terminator franchise what he has done for the Batman saga. This chapter will chronicle future soldier John Connor. It hits screens May 22.

"This is the first place you want to make a good impression," says Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke. "If you can make an impression with these fans, your movie is off to a good start."