Pirates vs. Zombies: Comic-Con's latest showdown

Pirates vs. Zombies: Comic-Con's latest showdown
The publicity photo on the left, released by AMC, shows a walker (zombie) in Episode 16, "Welcome to the Tombs" from the TV series, "The Walking Dead," Season 3. This publicity photo on the right, released by ABC, shows Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Hook in a scene from "Once Upon a Time," on the ABC Television Network. While the international pop-culture celebration known as Comic-Con has long been the domain of superheros, the biggest showdown at this year's convention might be between zombies and pirates.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Avast! While the international pop-culture celebration known as Comic-Con has long been the domain of superheros, the biggest showdown at this year's convention might not even involve spandex.

Quick notes: Seen and heard at Comic-Con >>

Several pirate-themed properties are sailing to San Diego this week in hopes of reclaiming the pop-culture crown from the undead likes of "The Walking Dead," ''World War Z" and "Dead Rising." That's right. It's pirates vs. zombies.

"I think everyone is going to remember this as the year that pirates commandeered Comic-Con," said actor Mark Ryan, who portrays gruff quartermaster Gates in Starz's upcoming mature pirate drama "Black Sails."

The series centering on Toby Stephens as pirate Captain Flint isn't set to debut until next year. However, the network is screening the first installment for a select group of fans at a movie theater Thursday night.

"As crowded as the marketplace is right now, there's weird missing spots," said "Black Sails" co-creator Jonathan Steinberg. "It's a genre you think you've seen a million times, but in reality, there just aren't that many iterations of it. Certainly, there's none that I've seen that have taken this approach."

The pirate invasion is certainly apparent on the convention's show floor where both Starz and ABC have erected mock pirate ships towering over costumed Comic-Con attendees.

ABC recreated the Jolly Roger from the popular fantasy series "Once Upon a Time," which introduced the character of Captain Hook at last year's Comic-Con and is heading to Neverland next season. The show's cast and crew are expected to detail the pirate-filled trek during a Saturday panel.

Behind the seaside convention center, Ubisoft Entertainment docked an actual iron-hulled windjammer built in 1863 to serve as the fictional Jackdaw pirate ship from the upcoming game "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," which casts players as an 18th century privateer.

Does this flood of pirates mean zombies will soon be walking the plank?

"Look, I'll be watching 'Black Sails' as much as the next guy, but pirates aren't cooler than zombies," said "Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman. "There's no contest. Pirates wear silly hats and boots, they ride on ships and they're completely outdated and old timey. There's no way they could compete with zombies. They have no chance."

The buccaneers are certainly outnumbered when it comes to events celebrating the undead at Comic-Con: There's two panels for "The Walking Dead" — one for the comic, another for the TV series — a zombie-chasing obstacle course at Petco Park and the seventh annual Zombie Walk, a march of undead-dressed folks through the city's Gaslamp Quarter.

"World War Z" author Max Brooks is among the speakers scheduled for a Thursday talk titled "Zombies in Pop Culture." He'll also join the creators of Capcom's upcoming undead-slaying video game sequel "Dead Rising 3" for a Saturday panel focusing on zombies in the interactive medium.

For an entirely different showdown involving the undead, "Plants vs. Zombies" creators PopCap are showing off the sequel to their silly strategy game on the show floor of the 44th annual convention, which runs through Sunday.

"I just hope this conflict doesn't tear the convention apart," joked DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan DiDio. "I'd put my money on the Man of Steel against any of them."

--

Seen and heard at Comic-Con

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Associated Press journalists open their notebooks at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego:

___

BACK FOR BLACK

Jack Black is back at Comic-Con.

The comedian and musician dropped in to tout "Ghost Girls," a web-based series on Yahoo! Screen about a pair of women who seek out and find ghosts.

Sporting a cape that unfurled from his Comic-Con-issued bag, Black swirled for effect but didn't quite pull off a caped crusader turn.

"It only works when I'm running at top speed," he quipped. — Matt Moore (https://twitter.com/MattMooreAP)

___

DREAMING, IN VIVID COLOR

Anybody can break into comics. Really. Just ask Mark Brooks, cover artist for Marvel.

"Comics are America in the best way possible," Brooks said as he drew an original cover for a fan Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con. "In America, you can become anything you want as long as you have the willingness to make it happen. You can do anything you want in comics as long as you're willing to put the work forward to make it happen."

The 40-year-old Brooks recently did covers for Marvel's "Age of Ultron" and "Infinity" series and is working on "Fearless Defenders" and a handful of "Avenger" lines. His credits include many of the most popular titles from Marvel, the biggest player in the game.

Brooks said his career started "on the other side of the table" at conventions like Comic-Con, which draw the business's top artists and writers. It also draws would-be amateurs who conspicuously carry their work in large folders — just like Brooks used to.

"I would bring my portfolio and show it to as many of the professionals as I could to get advice on how to improve my artwork and get better," Brooks said. "I kept going to shows, saved every penny I made so I could afford to go to places like New York and Chicago and San Diego, and I just kept working and working to where I felt like I'd done enough to start showing companies." — Chris Talbott (http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott)

___

NO JOKER; SUPERMAN THIS YEAR

Keiran Castillo, 21, opted for a Superman outfit for this year's Comic-Con, eschewing his favorite character, The Joker. Still, the San Diego resident who has been coming to the event annually since 2004, couldn't resist lapsing into his Joker monologue, expertly mimicking the voiceover done by actor Mark Hamill (yes, the guy who plays Luke Skywalker), drawing cheers from passers-by. Castillo says he opted for the black-blur outfit worn in the TV series "Smallville" because it was easy to assemble and "it gives me a break from the Joker." — Matt Moore

___

CHECK YOUR CLOSETS

It's amazing what you can find in the closet. Mike Pellerito, the president of Archie Comic Publications Inc., said they found a trove of copies of "Archie Meets the Punisher," a tongue-in-cheek crossover that sees Marvel's violent vigilante track a villain to Riverdale only to square off against the high school gang. "We found them in a closet, a whole box of them," he said. "So we bagged and boarded them and offered them for sale. One guy offered $5 and we thought 'OK, why not?'" On Thursday the demand was brisk, given the title has been out of print for nearly 20 years. — Matt Moore