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A crowd of Comic-Con International San Diego attendees
Pat Loika/Flickr

JULY

Comic-Con International

From its humble origins as a fringe gathering of comic book fans in 1970, when barely 100 participants attended, Comic-Con has grown into one of the world’s biggest pop culture extravaganzas. These days it draws around 130,000 eclectic attendees every July—gamers, anime devotees, fantasy and sci-fi fans, and of course comics enthusiasts—to the San Diego Convention Center for four days of workshops, screenings, previews of upcoming blockbusters, and, in the organization’s own words, a “celebration of the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

Old-school comics will always play a big role, but you can also attend panel discussions featuring top stars and directors who come to promote works and speak to their most devoted fans. In recent years, such industry giants as Sergio Aragonés (cartoonist, MAD magazine), Kevin Eastman (writer, artist, and co-creator, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles),  and Bob Layton (writer, artist, Iron Man) have made appearances as special guests.

In addition to rubbing elbows with and gleaning knowledge from writers and artists, another draw is seeing cast members from your favorite sci-fi or fantasy shows—it's possible they may be there promoting their next venture. And apart from what’s being presented on stage, there’s a whole other show happening all over the convention center, with attendees dressing up in elaborate costumes and mimicking their favorite characters. Where else can you hang out with Batman, Predator, a zombie, the entire Incredibles clan, and Darth Vader? Didn't get a badge in time? There are still plenty of ways to enjoy the show. Read our guide on How to Hack Comic-Con.