The past and future of Comic-Con for virtual events


A photo of an SDCC banner outside the San Diego Convention Center with various fans walking and blurry in the foreground.

Things are moving slowly for San Diego Comic-Con.
Photo: Jerod harris (Getty Images)

Comic-Con International: San Diego arrives in a few weeks and you may not have realized that it seems important. For years, San Diego Comic-Con (as it is colloquially known) has been the crown jewel of the pop culture calendar: four days in San Diego, California, filled with comics, movies, toys and all kinds of news that bring fan passions and the pop culture news cycle to life. However, like all major events of the past year, SDCC has been forced to close its doors because of covid-19, and this year it will be the same. SDCC 2021 takes place virtually July 23-25.

Last year, the nonprofit was one of the first to switch to a fully online experience. As a result, the new dubbed Comic-Con @ Home had a fraction of the impact that the convention usually has and failed to capture the excitement this has been known for a long time. You can largely attribute this to the situation the world was in a year ago due to covid-19, not to mention the fact that sitting in front of a screen cannot compare to an experience in person. But as the pandemic progressed, similar online events such as New York comic (no relation), DC Fandome, and even a Appeal to Walt Disney investors ended up getting closer to the kind of experience Comic-Con is known for.

Today, a year later, the event is back at home and the question is: can he regain the magic? For the answer, io9 spoke to SDCC’s communications and strategy manager, David Glazer, who also happens to be its spokesperson. “Hosting an event, whether it’s in person or virtually, is always hosting an event,” Glazer told io9 on a video call. “I think people were like, ‘Oh, you know what, this is online. It will be so much easier. There are still a lot of logistical issues to deal with like everyone else, now that we’ve been doing the Zoom thing for about a year, realizes it. “

SDCC made the decision to cancel its annual in-person event in April 2020 and the online branch took place in July. In such a short period of time, pivoting a production like SDCC to a new format could not have been easy. And as Glazer explained to io9, it wasn’t. “We were kind of one of the first to walk out the door. And now that we hope to see the end of this pandemic – fingers crossed – we could be one of the last… too. Glazer said. “But, it’s all about the content. And I hope people have fun, have fun with us and join us for the virtual event in July. “

A typical panel from Comic-Con @ Home, in this case, Family Guy from last year.

A typical Comic-Con @ Home sign, in this case family guy since last year.
Screenshot: Youtube

Last year Comic-Con @ Home had a lot of problems. The pre-recorded and edited panels were unceremoniously uploaded to YouTube, which makes them rather insignificant (plus you can just browse through them). As the talents are all at home, reduce the spontaneous interactions that make the event special. And fan interaction was limited. One would hope that a year later maybe some of the panels could be broadcast live. Perhaps the vaccinated panelists could get together in groups for more interaction. Maybe something new and exciting would be introduced. Glazer wouldn’t be clear on how, or if, Comic-Con @ Home was going to change this year, but he seemed to suggest that while the company would like to give itself an upgrade, it just can’t. “Comic-Con has relied on our in-person events for funding. And although we’ve always had a buffer, a nest egg, if something happened that we couldn’t have a convention and thus generate some income, I don’t think we would ever have thought in a million years that we would have. no events for almost two years, ”said Glazer. “Our two WonderCon shows that we couldn’t get in person. We couldn’t have our two Comic-Con shows in person. And these are things that generate income. So while I think there’s a ton of things we’d love to do if we had unlimited resources and bandwidth – you might see it a bit flashier – but I think content is what matters. And we’ve tried to stay true to that.

This year’s Comic-Con @ Home lineup has started rolling out (AMC, Paramount, Doctor Who, and DC Comics have already announced panels) with the full program coming July 8. Glazer has confirmed, however, that most of it will be similar to last year, with pre-produced panels for YouTube in addition to some interactive elements through platforms like Discord and Scener. And while the team has discussed adding additional items, it’s just not in the cards. “The reality is people said, ‘Well, are you going to do live streaming? “And I don’t know if we really have the resources to do it,” Glazer said. “We are a live events organization … [and] I think that will always be your goal. But we will make the most of the situation presented to us and hope to do so with @Home in July. “

Comic-Con @ Home isn’t the only thing Glazer and his team are working on. There’s also an in-person “special edition” – a name used by competitor ReedPop in New York City years ago – slated for Thanksgiving weekend. The announcement was welcomed passionate responses from many fans, everything Glazer and the team have seen. However, he explained that with the world opening up more and more each day, the dates at the San Diego Convention Center were filling up quickly and the business felt Thanksgiving weekend, although he was not ideal, it was his best bet.

“We really understand that we’ve been locked out for a year and a half. So a lot of people will want to spend this time with their families and we fully understand that, ”said Glazer. “And that’s why I think we made a point of calling this ‘special edition’. It’s not Comic-Con. This is not the July show moved to Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a smaller and more intimate spectacle, an ability for all of us who are able to witness somehow put our feet in the water. In addition, there is no guarantee that this will happen as health and travel conditions continue to change and the Delta variant spreads around the world. Planning also continues for SDCC 2022, which is already full due to the transfer of tickets for the already full 2020 show.

Will we have scenes like this again?

Will we have scenes like this again?
Photo: Nicolas hunt (Getty Images)

Looking ahead, Glazer believes virtual events will end up having a positive impact in the long run. “One of the great things we heard afterward was the ability for people to see a lot of the shows and virtually attend the show that they never really got to do in person,” a- he declared. “It was great that some programs that could have been in a 350-seat room were seen by a few thousand people. So it was a good thing. And I think this year we’re trying to keep all of that in mind… I think if there’s anything we’ll see in the future, I think it’s a continuation of an online presence. . It’s a great ability to reach people who are all over the planet, some who couldn’t get tickets even if they wanted to.

Something else that is sure to continue in the future is more competition. For decades SDCC has been in a class of its own. But in recent years, the events like Star wars Party and the D23 Expo, and newcomers like Netflix WitcherCon, are threatening to withdraw some of San Diego’s biggest brands. “Do we hope that they will always be a part of us? We really do, ”Glazer said when asked about these competing studio events. “And I think one of the unique things about Comic-Con is that it’s really an umbrella organization… Anyone can certainly have events on what their properties are and more power for them. But we are fortunate that we can count on the participation of a variety of different companies. And I think our fans and participants appreciate that.

But will they enjoy it in July? November? Next July? Nobody knows, especially Glazer. As a fan himself, however, he knows that whatever happens, the goal is to get back to normal. “It’s going to be somewhat moving to see these people in person after having been unable to see them for over a year,” he said. “There is something in the camaraderie. There is something in the community. Knowing that you are among friends who share your passion or have a passion and interests that you are not even aware of, but knowing that you are in a safe environment to share that. Hope this will happen. We hope we will all be comfortable returning.

Comic-Con @ Home will take place on the internet-connected screen of your choice July 23-25; All of the 2021 Comic-Con @ Home panels on YouTube are pre-recorded videos that will begin uploading to the public on Wednesday, July 21. The full lineup of lineup will go live tomorrow, July 8 at 10 a.m. PT. io9 will bring you more news and updates on this and the November Special Edition as we know it.

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