An old woman dressed as a zombie. A man disguised as a drag-queen Joker. Entire families kitted out as superheroes. At first glance, the crowds at Comic-Con International in San Diego can look like they’ve escaped from a strange sect. But for movie studios, video game makers, TV show producers and others, they are a powerful tool to sell their wares around the world, generating billions of dollars. ‘Comic-Cons provide a way for studios to reach a concentrated group of fans,’ said Jonathan Kuntz, a professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, using the common abbreviation for comic conventions. ‘They are very influential because they are connected instantly to millions of other fans through social media. They instantly reach a very motivated fan base,’ he added. The United States has numerous Comic-Cons, some of them specialized, for example in ‘Star Wars’ or for gay or transgender audiences. But with over 100,000 fans over

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