If you have never been to Comic-Con International San Diego, it can be hard to understand how freaking huge it is. It is, simply, the biggest pop culture get-together in America, with every major fantasy or action movie of the next year represented, as well as video games, books, music, and, of course, comics. The 130,000 or so tickets sold out months ago; the con, which started back in 1970 as 300 geeks in a hotel basement, now overflows the entire mammoth San Diego convention center, and is taking over parts of the mega-hotels that flank it. It can take upwards of 45 minutes simply to walk from a movie screening at one end of the show to a panel ("The Best and Worst Manga of 2008-2009" or "A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics") at the other.
And yes, a lot of attendees dress up to show their fannish affiliations, whether they're cosplaying or just sporting a T-shirt or button. This year, there are the inevitable dudes dressed like Imperial Stormtroopers, the inevitable girls dressed like Sailor Moon, a lonely Rorschach or two, and an enormous number of people wearing Green Lantern or Sinestro Corps T-shirts. But there's one name on more lips than any other: "Edward."
New Moon — the film of the second Twilight novel by Stephenie Meyer, about a love triangle involving a vampire and a werewolf, scheduled to open November 20 — is a big, big deal. An estimated 2000 people formed a tent city Wednesday night to camp outside the convention center's 6,500-capacity Hall H, where Summit Entertainment showed a preview of New Moon Thursday afternoon and brought along its stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. By mid-morning on Thursday, the line to get into the hall (which was also hosting previews of a bunch of forthcoming 3-D movies, James Cameron's Avatar, Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and the comics-inspired Kick-Ass) stretched all the way down the side of the convention center, then jumped across the street and curled along the side of the bay as far as the eye could see.
Meanwhile, New Moon's principals appeared at a morning press conference, Stewart wearing a Minor Threat T-shirt and wisecracking, Lautner and Pattinson both referring to the movie as a "franchise." "Last year," Lautner noted, "Comic-Con was the big eye-opener for us" — the moment when they realized that Twilight was not just another vampire movie but something that meant an awful lot to a whole lot of people.
It's true: a quick, unscientific survey revealed that a solid majority of the people in line outside (mostly women) were primarily there for "New Moon," and crossing their fingers that they'd get into the hall, or at least a glimpse of its stars. A lot of them were wearing "Twilight" T-shirts, official or homemade; more than a few were wearing "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" Burger King crowns. Why no Team Bella? "Bella's not really that important," said Hana Takio, a Team Jacob enthusiast who'd taken her place in the line around 9:30 AM for the New Moon panel five hours later. "It's all about the eyes."
As it turned out, the panel didn't screen all that much of the movie, although Taylor Lautner's fans were treated to footage of him shirtless, so they weren't complaining. Desiree Cooper, another Jacob buff who'd gotten in line with her friend a little before 10 a.m., had hoped to see all of the day's previews, especially Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. But she summed up what she'd really wanted to see in the New Moon preview in two words: "A fursplosion!"
Get more Twilight on RollingStone.com:
• Q&A: Robert Pattinson
• Hot Actor 2008: Robert Pattinson
• Review: Twilight
• Twilight Author Stephenie Meyer on Her Musical Muses, Upcoming Movie and Mermaid Dreams
• Dawn of the Undead: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Soundtrack
• At the Movies with Peter Travers: Twilight
Get more Comic-Con on RollingStone.com: