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Comic-Con wraps after four days of pop-art indulgence

SAN DIEGO – This year’s 43rd annual Comic-Con festival may be over but die-hard fans of the pop-culture celebration already have their minds on next year’s show.

"There’s no more pre-registration," lamented Chris Herrera, 26, of Los Angeles, who was attending his sixth consecutive Comic-Con. "Now you have to register online, and that website always crashes."

Fans used to be able to register onsite for the following year’s convention, but organizers eliminated that option this year for the 2013 convention, set for July 18-21.

The event has become so popular that organizers have capped attendance at around 130,000 and implemented the digital-registration system to reduce long lines onsite (there are enough of those already) and to prevent ticket brokers from buying blocks of admission badges for resale.

"It seems more and more crowded every year," Herrera said of the festival, which has become as much a marketing mecca for movie studios and TV networks as a celebration of comic books, which is how it all began.

Lines stretched around the San Diego Convention Center this year as fans camped out overnight to attend the most popular panels, including an appearance Saturday by the cast of the HBO vampire drama, "True Blood."

Panels for "The Walking Dead," "Game of Thrones," and the final "Twilight" film drew overnight lineups, too. One "Twilight" fan who had been camped out days in advance was fatally injured by a car as she dashed across a street in front of the main convention hall.

A book signing by the author of the erotic romance sensation "Fifty Shades of Grey" also attracted overnight waits.

Other popular events included previews of Peter Jackson’s "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Guillermo del Toro’s massive-monsters-versus-robots adventure "Pacific Rim," Marvel’s "Iron Man 3" and a new "Godzilla" film is in the works.

This year’s conventioneers can pre-register for Comic-Con 2013 next month. Aspiring first-timers have to wait until later to sign up for the 44th annual Con.

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