Despite what can be an overwhelming movie and TV slate at Comic-Con, many attend the convention due to a lifelong love of comic books.
"I've been a fanboy since I was four or five. Everyone is here in one giant house," said freelance writer Daniel Kohler of Riverside, California, who brought along his young nephew to share in the experience.
"It's easy to talk to people. There are no strangers here."
And what diehard comics fans are talking about as the Con ramps up is Marvel Comics' restructuring. On the heels of DC Comics' (a Time Warner company, like CNN) successful though controversial New 52, Marvel is relaunching many titles - and ending a few as well - in October. The initiative is called "Marvel Now."
Ah, the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive toy.
Some are so specifically targeted to the hardcore toy collector's taste that they are available only once – at Comic-Con.
Bernard Ang is a collector who lives for Comic-Con exclusives.
"I've been a He-Man fan for 30 years," he told CNN Geek Out – exactly as long as the character has been around. The toys aimed at adult collectors are often wish fulfillments, the kind of toys they couldn't, or weren't allowed to, get as a kid.
So Wednesday night, during Comic-Con's Preview Night, Ang has his eye on the new Vikor figurine (He-Man of the North), but "I couldn't even get into the queue," he said. So he will try again when the Con officially starts on Thursday.
This is Ang's third Comic-Con. Each year he makes the long flight from Singapore. The huge bags he carried with him suggest he's not going home empty handed. In fact, the one toy he really wants is the "Avengers" helicarrier, which is larger than most children.
Companies like Mattel, Hasbro and Lego specially create toys for the Con, often based on nostalgic characters like He-Man or superheroes that adult toy collectors drool over (like the much sought-after DC and Marvel minifigures being given away by Lego).
Smaller companies, like Entertainment Earth, have long lines all through Preview Night. We found Andrea Westaway queuing up there for the top toy on her list.
"I want the 'Doctor Who' TARDIS Tin Tote Set, that comes with a TARDIS and a mug," said Westaway, a Whovian (or Dr. Who superfan) who has traveled to San Diego from Vancouver many times for treasured items like these.
The good Doctor rivaled perennial favorite "Dexter" in the toy department this year, with a remote control sonic screwdriver hyped by ThinkGeek.com on Preview Night. (Yes, one can now watch "Doctor Who" while adjusting the television volume with a sonic screwdriver.)
These longtime fan franchises can often fly off Con floor shelves, with "Star Wars" the granddaddy of them all. As the sonic screwdriver shows, fans do seem to appreciate a bit of cleverness with toys. A figure of the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks frozen in carbonite fits that bill nicely.
Cuteness doesn't hurt either, as Disney has noticed with its stylized Vinylmation toys. Disney Store director of toys John Balen can identify with people like Ang and Westaway. He is a Comic-Con veteran and toy collector going back to childhood.
"When I was a kid looking at these booths, I definitely wanted to be here, and now I am running one of these booths, so dreams come true."
San Diego Comic-Con attendee Aloysious Fitzsimmons is on the hunt. His prey is swag. He's not the only one hearing "the rumors of free stuff."
Those aren't just rumors. Nearly every booth at Comic-Con had some sort of giveaway. Here were some of the most interesting pieces of swag and trends we spotted.
Hats are bigger than ever: With the scorching San Diego sun out this year, many fans are wearing hats, some of which are being given away at booths. Following the wildly popular Galactus hats of years past, cardboard princess crowns were everywhere, foam Dalek hats were seen at the BBC America booth, and the Disney Store had colorful Vinylmation hats.
Giveaways via social media: Disney plans to give fans the chance to get a free Vinylmation figure via Twitter.
Posters are perennial: The movie and TV studios will gladly give you pretty much as many posters as you want for the various projects they're pushing this year.
Long lines aren't just for exclusive toys: The swag train never stops at the Warner Bros. TV booth. With free comic books, comic book-themed animal squeeze toys, buttons and, yes, posters galore, it is something like an assembly line of swag.
Carnival barkers: Many a booth has MCs shouting announcements over the roar of the crowd about what precious freebie is next for the first person who can answer a trivia question or prove that they're a superfan in some other way (the competition is fierce, as this is Comic-Con after all).
The best swag is personalized swag: Fans crave personal one-on-one time with the writers and artists they admire, so sometimes an autograph or photo is worth more than any poster (unless it is an autographed poster).