The 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International, the sold-out pop culture marathon that will attract about 125,000 fans to the San Diego Conventiion Center over the next 5 days, kicked off this year’s events with Preview night, a 3-hour sneak peak at the jam-packed exhibition floor, a new conference focused on the lucrative crossover between comics and other media and news of lots of publishing deals.

The biggest buzz at the show is definitely for tomorrow’s panel, Twilight: New Moon, at which stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are expected to speak. As many as 1,000 fans were camped out overnight by the side of Hall H, creating an impromptu tent city of enthusiastic vampire lovers determined to be the first to get to see the preview of the second film in the series.

Elsewhere, it was announced that Jeff Smith will continue to create and publish new stories for Bone, his immensely popular epic fantasy adventure graphic novel series, for Scholastic. He’ll collaborate with writer Tom Sniegoski on Bone: Tall Tales, coming next summer. Next comes expansion of the Bone world—the Quest for the Spark Trilogy. Overseen by Smith, the trilogy will be written by Sniegoski and illustrated by Smith. The first book in the trilogy will be out in Fall 2010 and represents the first time Smith has continued Bone’s adventures beyond the original series. Scholastic has sold more than 4 million copies of the Bone series.

Earlier in the day, the show kicked off with the ICv2 Comics and Media Conference, an event focused on the crossover between comics and films, TV, videogames and other media, organized by pop culture trade news site ICv2 com and ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp (the event was co-sponsored by PW Comics Week, the Beat blog and Comic Book Resources). Keynote presenter Jeph Loeb, a former writer for the TV shows Lost and Heroes, as well as the author of bestselling comic books like Batman: Hush delivered a talk that reviewed the history of superheroes in media, from the campy days of the Batman TV show to the box office triumph of The Dark Knight. Loeb pointed to the cultural ubiquity of heroic archetypes as one reason why superheroes have prospered in Hollywood and at the box office. “The stories of your youth have become the stories of your future and are the primary source for entertainment,” Loeb concluded.

The next session, moderated by this reporter, included writer Robert Venditti and Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros talking about the path of Venditti’s comic The Surrogates in Hollywood. (A Surrogates movie starring Bruce Willis is due out this fall.) Both spoke of how working together as creator and publisher had made the transition to film more successful and allowed for a stronger bargaining position.

Bone creator Smith talked about the history of his popular series in Hollywood, which has mostly consisted of Smith saying no repeatedly to various suitors interested in turning it into a film “we get an average of a call a week,” he said. After unsuccessful attempts at Nickleodeon and Sony, Bone is now in active development at Warner Bros.

Next up, a look at “transmedia,” the development of narrative properties across multiple platforms. Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci, IDW CFO Greg Goldstein and Starlight Runner CEO Jeff Gomez spoke about trying to develop well known franchises in ways that are true to the property’s canon and adds ideas to the franchises. Barnes & Noble graphic novel buyer Jim Killen and teen librarian Robin Brenner talked about the buyer and reader response to the expanded transmedia universes. Barrucci pointed out that the softening of the licensing business has made licensors more willing to experiment; however, authentic continuations like Joss Whedon’s Buffy Season 8 comics series—which continued the TV series as comic book series—garner the biggest sales and even boost the backlist. Brenner cautioned that readers could “smell a bad story a mile away. They know when people are trying to pander to them and that doesn’t work.”

The final panel, “Comics After Hollywood” looked at overall developments in the relationship between page, screen and video games. Most of the best (and most colorful) lines were delivered by Top Cow president/COO Matt Hawkins, “It’s better to not have a movie come out if it’s a piece of s—t”and American Original CEO Jeff Katz, “85% of the people coming down from Hollywood don’t give a s—t about comics.” Katz and Circle of Confusion producer/manager Rick Jacobs predicted a major shrinkage in the film and TV business — from 25-30% over the next few years — as the economy, the internet and changes in the audience create a perfect storm of consumer demands for quality storytelling.

Despite the changing terrain and continued popularity of comic book properties due to their “pre-marketed” status, Oni’s Joe Nozemack and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola noted that the comic has to come first. “We’re a publisher first,” said Nozemack. “When a movie studio pays $30 million to market a movie, they are spending $30 million to market the graphic novel it’s based on.” After the two Hellboy movies, Mignola said he was happy to be back working on his comic. “I feel like the last comic book guy who actually wants to do comics,” he said.