The 38th San Diego Comic-con International kicked off with a three-hour preview night in the manner that has become expected—the joint was mobbed. Hordes of fans poured into the San Diego Convention Center, and within an hour the exhibition floor seemed as jampacked as a Saturday, when attendance generally peaks.

Comics and graphic novels are the core of the show, but the impact of blockbuster films, TV shows and mainstream media is really driving attendance. This show is no different—movie/TV/comic book news was immediately in the air. The cast of the much anticipated film adaptation of Alan Moore's superhero masterpiece Watchmen was announced; 300 director Zack Snyder will lead Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode. DC Comics announced it plans to publish a hardcover Heroes graphic novel, collecting the comics based on the hit superhero TV show that were originally published on the NBC Web site. The book comes out this fall, and artists include Michael Turner and Tim Sale with covers by superstar artists Jim Lee and Alex Ross.

Two of the biggest stories of preview night were the announcement that Roaring Brook's First Second imprint will publish a graphic novel collection of Paul Pope's cult sci-fi series THB; and Bone creator Jeff Smith will self-publish a new series called Rasl, a stark, sci-fi series about a dimension-jumping art thief with personal problems. The series will start as a b&w periodical next year, published in an oversized edition and sold initially through comics shops before it's collected at a smaller trade book trim-size in full color. "I'm trying to mix the old comic book market with the new book market," said Smith.

Elsewhere on the floor, exhibitors were happily coping with mobs of fans. Viz Media publicity director Evelyn Dubocq said Wednesday was the most crowded preview night she had ever seen: "25 minutes after the doors opened we were swamped and we gave out thousands of sampler books in about an hour." Tokyopop had staff roaming the floor taking pictures of fans they will be able to access through Tokyopop’s newly redesigned Web site. The DC Comics, Dark Horse and Marvel booths were virtually under siege. Not that that's a bad thing, said Dan Vado, publisher of the indie graphic novel house Slave Labor Graphics. "It's not a preview night anymore," said Vado. "They should just put up a sign that says, 'Open for Business.'"