More than 130,000 pop culture devotees descended on San Diego’s Gaslamp District on Wednesday for the annual four-day comic book convention Comic-Con, the big, bright and very heavily branded confab of costumed superfans and the corporate sponsors vying for their attention — and dollars.

This year, Warner Bros. is coming armed with stars and footage from “Aquaman,” “Shazam!,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” and “The LEGO Movie 2”; Sony is hyping its Spider-Man spinoff “Venom”; and Universal Pictures will be teasing “Halloween” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass.” On the television side, fans will get a glimpse of new “Doctor Who” star Jodie Whittaker and have a chance to check out “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Riverdale.”

But a few of the major players were conspicuously absent from Hall H, the 6,500-seat room in the San Diego Convention Center that boasts the highest-profile presentations and often attracts an enthusiastic fan base willing to camp out overnight in line to secure a coveted seat. Those skipping this year include Marvel Studios, HBO (“Game of Thrones”) and Star Wars.

“It’s a huge deal when major properties like Marvel, Star Wars or HBO don’t show up,” said Germain Lussier, an entertainment reporter for io9/Gizmodo who has been attending the convention for 15 years.

Production schedules are more to blame than anything else, however. Lussier noted that each of the absent brands has a big installment coming in 2019, including “Avengers 4,” “Star Wars: Episode IX” and the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

Sacha Baron Cohen defends show

Showtime and Sacha Baron Cohen are pushing back against allegations the comedian duped guests on his new show by posing as a disabled veteran. The network said in a statement that Baron Cohen “did not present himself as a disabled veteran” or wear any military apparel when he met with Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin last week on Facebook complained that Baron Cohen “heavily disguised himself” as a disabled U.S. veteran in a wheelchair when she was “duped” into an interview. She challenged Baron Cohen and Showtime to donate proceeds from the show to a veterans’ charity. In the new show “Who Is America?,” Baron Cohen dons various prosthetics and accents in an attempt to embarrass those on the right and left.


Damages: British rock icon Cliff Richard was awarded 210,000 pounds ($273,000) in damages Wednesday after winning a privacy lawsuit against the BBC for its coverage of a police raid at his home. Richard had sued the broadcaster for its coverage of the 2014 raid, when police were investigating alleged sex offenses. The coverage included a helicopter that circled the star’s home. The 77-year-old singer was never arrested or charged with any crime. His lawsuit claims he suffered “profound” damage to his reputation.

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