Fans are bringing comic book and onscreen characters to life at Comic-Con, which Guinness World Records bills as the largest convention of its kind in the world.

From superheroes to villains, fans can be whatever they want to be as they celebrate popular culture and the entertainment industry. The annual convention opened this week in San Diego, California.

“If you don’t feel like you belong in your hometown, you like this nerdy stuff and no one really gets you, here is where everyone understands you and everyone has the same passion. We’re all united together with the same love of pop culture,” said Austin, Texas, resident Santiago Gonzales, who was attending Comic-Con with his friend.

Gonzales was dressed as a colorful hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and an egg made of fabric. He made the costume for his love of the animated comedy and TV show Bob’s Burgers.

David Ancheta is a part of the international Star Wars fan club, 501st Legion, where members dress up as their favorite villain and support charities. Ancheta was in full costume that included a silver helmet and armor he had painted and sewn as Star Wars bounty hunter Jango Fett.

“This experience is amazing. I guess you could say I’m a geek and being surrounded by a ton of geeks is definitely an amazing experience,” said Ancheta, a U.S. Navy retiree.

Attending Comic-Con has become a reality for Iranian-American Soheil Behzad. He had tried for years to get a ticket to the convention. Because of constraints on space, organizers limited the size to just more than 135,000 attendees. He finally secured a ticket to this year’s sold-out event.

“It’s always been my life dream to be here because I’m a huge movie buff, comic book, all of that stuff,” said Behzad, who remembered the first comic he read. It was a translated Spider-Man comic in Farsi in an Iranian newspaper.

“It’s cool to see them on live action on the silver screen or like on TV. It’s the time to be alive,” said Behzad, who considers himself a big movie fan.

Adapting comic book superheroes into movie, TV show and video game characters is one reason Comic-Con has grown into a multimedia experience for fans since it began in 1970 with only 300 people.

“I’m really big on graphic novels and comic books and movies, TV shows in general. I grew up on media,” said Jackie DeLeon, a northern California resident who is attending Comic-Con for the second year.

Comic-Con organizers said people from more than 80 countries and media from more than 30 countries are attending this year’s convention.

“I think the United States has always had the wonderful ability to promote film and various forms of art and that has a global audience,” said David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer at Comic-Con.

He said it makes good business sense for publishers, toy manufacturers, television networks and movie studios to have a presence at Comic-Con.

“The people that come to Comic-Con are the people who buy a movie ticket on opening night, who tuned into that television station — buy their comic book or video game or whatever it happens to be,” he said.

The convention is where creators can gauge the interest of fans from around the world and get feedback for future content.

“What’s really cool to me is how it transcends language barriers and culture and everything,” Behzad said.

Comic-Con runs through Sunday.

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