Once again, the annual San Diego Comic-con, held July 24-27, can only be described as bigger and better than ever, although the success of the show raised questions about how organizers plan to move forward. The show sold out completely a week before its opening and attendance will likely be at least the more than 125,000 recorded last year. The influence of film and TV on the show continues unabated, serving to draw ever-larger crowds of fans—many interested in comics, others not so much—that filled the San Diego Convention Center’s exhibition floor and panels. Indeed, it seemed that any program or panel discussion attached to a TV or film project meant camping out well in advance in impossibly long lines that snaked down the long halls of the Convention Center.

Without a doubt, the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen—acclaimed as the ultimate superhero graphic novel—dominated the show on the exhibition floor and in the programming. An appearance by the film’s director Zack Snyder, Dave Gibbons, the artist along with Moore that created the Watchmen comic book, plus the entire cast of the film, in front of 7,000 fans in the center’s gigantic hall H, was a major highlight of the show. Of course the Watchmen panels also served to highlight Moore’s absence from all the hubbub and his outright hostility to the film. Moore will have nothing to do with it and has had his name removed from the film credits and given his royalties to Gibbons. But no matter—trailers for the film look great, copies of the book sold briskly at the retailers all around the floor and a full-scale recreation of the Owlship, a flying vehicle from the book, was a magnet for fans

Despite, or perhaps in spite of all the movie hype, there was plenty activity around comics and books. Noted Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan won the Eisner Award for best new graphic novel for Exit Wounds from D&Q; Abrams launched Abrams ComicArts, a new imprint focused on comics and comics related books with an impressive list of titles; DC Comics announced Vertigo Crime, a new line of crime graphic novels; and Fantagraphics debuted and sold stacks of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s Love & Rockets: New Stories, in a new annual trade paperback format for their acclaimed comics series. Japanese superstar manga-ka such as Viz’s Tite Kubo (Bleach) and Del Rey’s Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail) visited the U.S. for the first time and thrilled throngs of adoring American otaku; and Image Comics’s Comic Book Tatoo, a 480 page, full-color anthology of comics in tribute to the songs of Tori Amos, generated a huge crowd at her panel and long lines of fans eager to buy copies of the $30 paperback and the $150 limited edition hardcover.

Despite occasional grumbles about Hollywood, aisles jammed to a standstill and new strictly enforced rules to control crowding, most publishers/exhibitors seemed happy with the show and with their sales. But how does a show like Comic-Con continue to get bigger and better when it’s maxed out its exhibition space and attendance? Check back next year for Comic-Con 2009 for the answer. Look for more coverage of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International in PW Comics Week on Tuesday.