A Comic-Con poster at the San Diego Convention Center. Chris Stone photo

By Luis Monteagudo Jr.

San Diego’s summer of fun that has already included the San Diego County Fair, Big Bay Boom fireworks and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game hits a new level this week when Comic-Con International 2016 kicks off Wednesday night in downtown San Diego.

This year’s craziness brings a new wrinkle with the launch of Comic-Con HQ, an online digital network that promises, for a fee, to give fans access to everything the Con has to offer. So, if you got shut out again this year of those precious badges that allow your entrance into Comic-Con, you can go online now to see live streaming video of the popular panel discussions and reports from the crowded exhibit floor. The network also promises daily entertainment news, movies and television shows and more. It’s available at www.comic-conhq.com.

The new, online portal is just another example of Comic-Con’s growing reach as it continues to spread beyond the San Diego Convention Center.

Outside the convention center, there will be the usual spillover of parties, costumed characters, decorated trolley cars and pedicabs promoting upcoming television shows and movies. So if even if you don’t have a badge to get into Comic-Con, you will be able to share the Con experience by simply walking around the Gaslamp.

Among the sights to see will be a Heroes vs. Villains art exhibit at La Bodega Gallery in Logan Heights at 5 p.m. on Saturday, photo shoots of Marvel Universe characters, video game competitions, and a Thursday night performance of the Final Fantasy video game score at Copley Symphony Hall.

What about inside Comic-Con itself? Last year was the year of “Star Wars,” with anticipation building for the release of the newest installment in the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and we know how that turned out. This year, the focus is on “Star Trek,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. There will be several panels on the big anniversary of the franchise, including a look ahead at the first new “Trek” television series in years, scheduled to debut next year. But the biggest “Trek” related event will the debut of the new movie, “Star Trek Beyond,” which will have its exclusive, world premiere at Comic-Con on Wednesday at the Embarcadero Marina Park. Lucky Comic-Con attendees who get selected to see the movie will see it in IMAX..

Meanwhile, other panels will highlight San Diego’s influence on pop culture, including one on local Chicano artists, and one on the “Law & Comics,” hosted by the San Diego County Law Library.

The Times of San Diego will be there to report on Comic-Con. Look for our reports online.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.

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