SAN DIEGO — 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.
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 depicting 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 Pirates wear silly hats and boots, they ride on ships and they’re completely outdated and old timey.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 Jim DiDio. “I’d put my money on the Man of Steel against any of them.”
Olivia D’Agostino pulls a away from a zombie at AMC’s Walking Dead booth during the Preview Night event on Day 1 of the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday in San Diego.×
Fans pose next to “walker” heads floating in fish tanks at AMC’s The Walking Dead booth during the Preview Night event on Day 1 of the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday in San Diego, Calif.×
This publicity photo released by ABC shows Colin O’Donoghue (from left) as Captain Hook, Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan, Jamie Chung as Mulan, Ginnifer Goodwin as Mary Margaret Blanchard and Sarah Bolger as Princess Aurora , in a scene from “The Doctor” episode of “Once Upon a Time,” on the ABC Television Network.×
This publicity photo provided by Starz Entertainment, LLC, shows Clara Paget (from left) as Anne Bonny, Zach McGowan as Captain Charles Vane and Toby Schmidt as Jack Rackham in a scene from “Black Sails.”×
This publicity photo 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 released by ABC shows Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Hook in a scene from “Once Upon a Time,” on the ABC Television Network.×
A zombie character in an exhibit inspired by the television series “The Walking Dead” screams at onlookers during the Preview Night event on Day 1 of the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday in San Diego, Calif.×
The Star of India sits at a dock next to the San Diego Convention Center during the Preview Night event on Day 1 of the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday in San Diego. The ship is decorated as a pirate ship to promote Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed video game.×