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DC wins Comic-Con 2018 thanks to epic Aquaman, Shazam, Wonder Woman teases

No Marvel, no problem as a slew of other franchises vied for the geek spotlight in San Diego.

Tania González/CNET

Minor spoilers for various films and television shows below. Read with caution.

Who needs Marvel Studios and the Avengers? Certainly not this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

The annual con, which kicked off with a preview night on Wednesday, launched minus some of its biggest headliners. With Infinity War heading into homes via Blu-ray and the next Avengers film slated for 2019, Marvel Studios opted out of a big presence at the convention. Likewise, key HBO franchises Game of Thrones and Westworld were no-shows.

Compare that with last year when Stranger Things, Game of Thrones and Westworld had key panels, and Marvel showed up with exclusive footage to Infinity War, concept art for Captain Marvel and teases for Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok.

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But that hasn't slowed down the news as others sought to fill the vacuum. On Saturday, Warner Bros. went big by offering an extended look at Aquaman, as well as footage from Wonder Woman 1984 and Shazam. WB's other big non-DC properties include Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald. Godzilla: King of Monsters reared its head with a new trailer teasing four giant creates set for a massive rumble. Check out all the trailers here

Transformers impressed with new footage and information about some of the Decepticons that Bumblebee will be facing. Venom showed off new footage and confirmed at least one villain named Riot, which is another symbiote. The cast and showrunners behind Star Trek: Discovery dropped a few bombs, including the fact that Spock will be returning. M. Night Shyamalan brought its Unbreakable and Split universe together with its trailer for Glass

The 49th annual Comic-Con International was expected to draw more than 135,000 visitors -- many of them dressed in costumes ranging from Wonder Woman to Batman. It's grown from a niche event focused on comic books to an entertainment mecca drawing A-list stars and big Hollywood franchises like Marvel, DC and Star Wars.

Even if there weren't insanely long lines for Hall H, there was cosplay, exclusive geek merchandise and even a futuristic Taco Bell. Read on for the highlights. 

Warner Bros. Dominance

Justice League was…something. The film should have been a landmark moment for the "DC Extended Universe," but it ended up tallying a lower box office total than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the critically and commercially loved Wonder Woman.

DC redeemed itself with early footage Wonder Woman 1984 fighting in a mall, as well as Aquaman and Shazam. Actor Jason Momoa was among the highlights of last year's Justice League presentation, triumphantly charging down the aisle of the Hall H audience and leaving fans in stitches with his antics. Aquaman director James Wan showed more footage this year after showing a brief teaser and some concept art last year. The film hits theaters in December. 

At the DC booth, costumes for Shazam were on display. The film, about a boy who can turn into a powerful superhero by uttering "Shazam," has seen a slow trickle of new images of Zachary Levi as the red-and-yellow costumed character before seeing him in all his glory in the trailer. DC has its work cut out for it in building interest for the character, since it's a step down from the likes of Batman or even Aquaman for casual viewers. Still, the fun vibe suggests something very different from the Zack Snyder universe from before. 

DC and Warner Bros. also unfurled title and release info on the new Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix. It will be separate from another Joker film starring Jared Leto, who portrayed the Clown Prince of Crime in Suicide Squad.

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But it's not just about films. DC showed off its $8-a-month subscription service DC Universe, which blends a library of new and old movies and television shows with a catalog of comic books. It even created intense themed rooms as part of the "DC Experience" at the show, even letting you go crazy with a bat in a padded cell. DC Universe is where you'll see exclusive series like Titans. The first trailer premiered on Thursday.

Bad timing

This year's Comic-Con comes at an awkward time for many key franchises. Marvel had a blow-out beginning of the year with Black Panther and Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is in theaters now. The next MCU movie, Captain Marvel, doesn't premiere until March.

Likewise, Westworld just wrapped up its second season and the final season of Game of Thrones doesn't premiere until next year.

The first female Doctor

Jodie Whittaker made one of her first major public appearances as the new face of Doctor Who. She made waves as the first female doctor and is expected to shed some light on how else her version will stand out from the previous 12 incarnations.

The cast declared that the show will be more inclusive, stressing that Doctor Who is for everyone -- a response to controversy stirred by her casting.

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Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor Who, appeared at Comic-Con. 

BBC

Venom lands at Comic-Con

The Marvel flag still sailed thanks to Sony Pictures, which is brought Tom Hardy and director Ruben Fleischer of Venom to the convention. They showed off some rough footage only to the Hall H audience, and Fleischer teased potentially more than just one villain in the film. 

Transformers sheds Michael Bay

Paramount went all-in on the '80 theme by opening up with Stan Bush playing You've Got the Touch -- sort of the anthem for all Transformers fans. (It was the marquee song for Transformers: The Movie.) 

bumblebee

Transformers franchise is getting a shake-up. 

Paramount

The latest Transformers film is set in the 1980s and its last teaser suggests the cleaner robotic designs of the original cartoon. Like Venom, footage of new scenes from the film was released only to Hall H. Sister site Gamespot describes the enemies as triple changers and director Travis Knight said the film would visit Cybertron. 

While that may excite old-school fans of the cartoon, it's still unclear whether devotees of the Michael Bay films will be satisfied. But given the lackluster reception to Transformers: The Last Night, a shake-up was due. 

Predator

21st Century Fox brought its quasi-reboot-sequel to Predator to Hall H on Thursday as it hopes to breathe new life into the franchise. Director Shane Black, who starred in the original alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, is looking to bring the same magic back. 

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Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The new footage showed a more humorous side of the film, and there was more Predator-on-Predator fighting, as suggested by the upgraded Predator seen in the last trailer.

(Check out our interview with Predator cast member Keegan-Michael Key.)

Star Trek: Discovery brings back the Enterprise

Star Trek: Discovery ended its inaugural season with a lot of questions. But the most pressing: What's the Enterprise doing here?

The show's cast and executive producers came to Comic-Con with answers. A new trailer debuted, hinting at both more action and comedy. The cast discussed the lighter tone with the war wrapped up, and star Sonequa Martin-Green talked a lot about family. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman, meanwhile, promised that fans will get more answers as it "syncs up with canon."

(Disclosure: Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access. CNET is owned by CBS.)

The Walking Dead says goodbye to Rick

The most popular show in American is back with a trailer for its next season, which begins in October. The show will go through a time jump. Actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays lead actor Rick Grimes, confirmed reports that he will leave after this season. 

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon make their mark

Netflix has had a solid presence at Comic-Con thanks to its Marvel franchises (Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage), but it looks to amp up its presence with The Dragon Prince, a series from the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as the animated reboot of Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Sadly, there was no Stranger Things panel.

Amazon has a slew of shows, including The Expanse, which it saved from cancellation after SyFy opted not to renew it for a fourth season. There's also Jack Ryan, a show based on the Tom Clancy series of books starring The Office's John Krasinski (Jim). The people behind that show set up a training area at Comic-Con to drum up awareness

Hulu is touting Castle Rock, a J.J. Abrams-produced anthology horror series that incorporates characters and elements from various Stephen King stories.

Where does he get those toys?

Comic-Con isn't just a place for entertainment news. Fans lined up for a chance at exclusive Pop figures from Funko, or unique sets from Lego. In fact, Lego brought a life-sized statue of Thanos to Comic-Con. It stands eight-and-a-half feet tall, contains 91,350 bricks and weighs 450 pounds. Unfortunately, it's not for sale. 

Hasbro, meanwhile, offered unique sets of different Transformers, as well as action figures based on the Netflix Marvel series and Star Wars

This year, Comic-Con implemented a lottery system for many of the vendors, including Funko and Hasbro, with people winning the right to buy merchandise a week early. That still didn't keep Funko from being some of the most sought after toys from Comic-Con

Random mashup

Street Fighter and Power Rangers teaming? Yep, only at Comic-Con. 

Demolition Man's Taco Bell returns

Comic-Con is known for its interactive and immersive experiences both in and around the convention. One of the better experiences was also one of the simpler ones: a restaurant converted to look like the Taco Bell from San Angeles and the 2032 world of Demolition Man, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. 

From the pianist playing the Folgers jingle to the servers greeting you with "citizens" and "Taco Bell, be well," the organizers behind this activation did an impressive job of crafting the fictional 2032 of the Demolition Man universe. Even the first dish perfectly resembled the meal served in the film. 

Alas, the notorious three seashells in the restroom were out of order. It continues to be Demolition Man's greatest mystery. 

The story originally published July 16 at 5 a.m. PT. 
Update, July 17 at 6:45 a.m. PT: Adds more information on the toys at Comic-Con. 
Update, July 18 at 7:30 a.m. PT: Adds more background on Shazam and Jack Ryan. 
Update, July 19 at 6 a.m. PT: Adds more information about DC Universe.
Update, July 20 at 5 a.m. PT: Adds more information on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Doctor Who and the Demolition Man Taco Bell.
Update, July 23 at 5 a.m. PT: Adds more information on DC and Warner Bros. 

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