July 17, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

In the following pages, we’ll give you a private tour of more of the coolest new movies and TV shows hitting Comic-Con this year. For the uninitiated, the convention started small and pure in 1970: Some 300 comic-book enthusiasts in San Diego gathered to celebrate their love for stuff like Green Lantern. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Hollywood began to see Comic-Con as a marketing gold mine. By 2001, films like X-Men had established the routine: Trot out your big names, answer fan questions, screen footage, and (hopefully) ignite a frenzy. Today, more than 125,000 people attend the convention, and critics fret that it’s lost some geek cred. Yes, this year’s Con (July 23 — 26) will include geektastic highlights like a look at James Cameron’s 3-D movie Avatar. But Patricia Heaton will also be on hand to unveil her mom-centric sitcom The Middle, finally settling the age-old debate: Can Klingons and soccer moms coexist?

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