The craziness that is San Diego Comic-Con will descend upon us in just a few short hours, when a fleet of hardcore fans flock to the west coast for dazzling trailer premieres, celebrity geek-outs and Spider-Men of every shape and size.

While the convention has been in existence since 1970, the hype surrounding SDCC has grown into a monstrous beast over the last decade, thanks to the increasing presence of movies. Each year, Hollywood debuts its most anticipated films to legions of pop culture junkies, and subsequently whips them into even bigger frenzies. What started out as a gathering for comic collecting hobbyists has snowballed into a four-and-a-half day celebration of insanity.

Since this is the last moment we’ll have to catch our breath all week, Moviefone braces itself by looking back at the absolute, craziest movie moments of Comic-Con history.

7. Top-Secret ‘Avatar’ Footage is Unearthed (2009)

James Cameron spent fourteen years, shrouded in secrecy, working on ‘Avatar’ — a movie that was so visually innovative, the director had to build the technology needed to tell it. He had already made the highest-grossing movie of all time in ‘Titanic,’ and could dictate the terms of his production, including how he would eventually reveal it to the public. And he chose to debut over 20 minutes of footage to the Comic-Con audience before anyone else.

You can be the biggest technical innovator in the film world and make the highest-grossing movie of all time (twice), and you still must make an appearance at Comic-Con to win over the geek audience. When it comes to being courted, the Comic-Con faithful proved themselves to be as powerful and influential as a mafia godfather.

6. ‘The Avengers’ Cast Unites; Grown Men Regress to Screaming Children (2010)

At one point in the mid-2000s, entertainment reporters kept speculating that the “comic book movie” bubble would burst sooner than later. But with half-a-dozen films based on comic books coming out this summer alone, it doesn’t look like the bubble is bursting anytime soon. In fact, the genre of comic book movies are as audacious as ever, with the top-selling Marvel Comics now producing their own big-screen blockbusters, culminating a four-year, multi-film project with next summer’s ‘The Avengers.’

Featuring an all-star cast of the hottest actors working today, ‘The Avengers’ could either be one of the greatest examples of movie magic or it could be a disastrous mess. And all eyes were glued to the cast’s first public appearance together, where they were paraded to a fan base that has rabidly anticipated a cinematic project this fantastical since they were little kids. Whether good or bad, ‘The Avengers’ is the realization of a fan community that has grown into a self-sustaining world.

5. Bloated Presentations Lead to Multiple Box Office Disasters (2010)

Movies like ‘TRON: Legacy,’ ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ and ‘Sucker Punch’ adopted what has become the standard Comic-Con model for advertising: big, loud and ridiculous. The expensive niche movies blew millions of dollars (each!) in over-the-top presentations, such as draping whole skyscrapers in poster art. ‘Tron’ was the most successful out of the bunch — being considered a domestic “disappointment” by Disney — while the other films became embarrassing bombs.

Regardless of the films’ actual merits, the marketing campaigns represent everything that is wrong with Comic-Con, namely spending exorbitant amounts of money in hilariously tacky ways for nothing more than geek navel-gazing.

4. The ‘Twilight Saga’ Invades (Ongoing)

One of the most heated debates among the Comic-Con spectators is Hollywood’s level of involvement; for three decades, Comic-Con belonged to comic book fans, but once the film industry realized these tens of thousands of fans were potential ticket buyers, movie producers moved in to hawk their hot new cinematic trends. The biggest and most blatant example has been the ‘Twilight Saga,’ a very un-Comic-Con-like teen soap opera that has dominated San Diego every year since 2008.

Suddenly, die-hard comic geeks were surrounded by screaming teenage girls, all eager to get a glimpse of the supernatural heart-throbs played by Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Imagine thousands of Star Trekkies colliding with thousands of rabid Beatle-mania fans — all while trapped under one roof — and you have a clear visual picture of the culture clash.

3. The ‘Dark Knight’ Viral Campaign Goes City-Wide (2007)

Christopher Nolan has mastered the art of a viral campaign, by encouraging audiences to solve the mystery of a film’s mythology through slowly revealed Internet clues. To promote ‘The Dark Knight,’ the director made fans scavenge from location to location across the city of San Diego. The ‘Batman’ mastermind made his own form of currency, took to the skies to reveal new updates and recruited throngs of puzzle-solvers into an army adorned with clown make-up.

A Mysterious Number Causes a Frenzy Among Batman Fans

Even if you never go to Comic-Con, you can check out the trailers or read the recap of events from the comfort of your home. But geek adventures like the ‘Dark Knight’ viral game are a unique, one-of-a-kind event that you can only experience by journeying to San Diego.

Watch an Army of Jokers Arrive at SDCC

2. A Man Is Stabbed Over a Seat (2010)

While waiting for a panel on Universal Studios movies, two men got into an argument that quickly spilled out of control when one of them pulled out a pen and stabbed the other in the face, dangerously close to the eye socket. He was quickly taken away by the authorities, while the wounded attendee was treated by medical personnel. But from this point forward, Comic-Con will always have the reputation of being so hyper-intense, that it could possibly incite bloodshed.

1. The ‘Iron Man’ Trailer Blows Away Audience (2007)

Take a minor character from the already-niche world of super heroes, and bring him to life with a depiction by one of the most notoriously-troubled actors of the last three decades, and the idea of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man doesn’t exactly seem like a guaranteed success. But any trepidation over the high-tech adventure was blown out of the water when director Jon Favreau arrived to Comic-Con — unannounced — to surprise the audience with the secret first trailer to the colossal film hit.

‘Iron Man’ is the perfect example of a movie made by Comic-Con. The San Diego crowd’s unplanned excitement over the project was infectious, first spreading to the rest of the country, and then to the rest of the world, leading to a global box-office take of over half-a-billion dollars. It is the watermark for Comic-Con’s influence.

Watch San Diego Go Bananas

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images.)

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