The staff of Comic-Con International knew it was coming, but that didn’t stop the tears.
In mid-April, San Diego’s prized event was called off because of COVID-19. It made sense considering 135,000 attendees jammed into the Convention Center had the potential to be an epic super-spreader event.
“We had to break the news to everybody that we wouldn’t have a show,” said Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer about when they told employees. “I will be very honest with you, there was some crying.”
But then something happened.
Staff members started working on a plan to move the convention to an online-only format. And it turns out that a lot of movie studios, comic book companies and wacky pop culture groups were enthusiastic about the idea — and willing to work hard to make it happen.
On July 22, Comic-Con will kick off its 51st year — re-branded as Comic-ConHome — online for free. Around 350 panels will be viewable on YouTube with the potential for thousands of fans sitting at home all over the world tuning in.
Comic-Con is tempering expectations of attendance. On one hand, the organization has always complained it doesn’t have enough space at the Convention Center and thousands of people trying to attend are always turned away. But does anyone really want to sit in front of a computer or phone instead of being in the famed Hall H?
“There’s nothing more exciting than being in the room,” said Heidi MacDonald, editor of The Beat, a comic book news website.
Like a lot of frequent attendees, she lamented missing out on the real thing, even the parts most of us would dread — the excitement of waiting in line for hours with the chance to be there when the next big film is announced to braving the oceans of people who would never have the chance to meet unless at this pop-culture extravaganza.
It is hard to forget last year’s convention when Marvel stole the show with announcements of a massive film and TV slate. It was pandemonium when a fourth Thor film was announced and Natalie Portman strutted on stage to lift the mythical hero’s hammer to deafening applause among 6,500 fans in Hall H.
However, MacDonald said the online event takes away from the sting of missing out on Comic-Con this year and credited the organization for going all out to try and create something. She also said she wouldn’t be shocked if there was a big turnout for the online panels.
“I wouldn’t be surprised — especially for the entertainment panels — to see quite a bit of attendance,” MacDonald said.
Measuring success of the online Comic-Con may be difficult because it doesn’t have the same number of must-see events. At least for now, the biggest names are sitting this year out: Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. with its large DC film division, CW with its massive lineup of DC shows and “Star Wars.”
That’s not to say there isn’t star power at this year’s convention. Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves are confirmed for the event.
A catchall place to see everything happening from July 22 to July 26 will be Comic-Con’s website at comic-con.org/cci/2020/athome.