The ongoing pandemic caused for San Diego Comic Con to switch to virtual this year. When this was announced, many fans were curious to see how this would be pulled off. I was also one of them to think that way too since I cover San Diego Comic Con every year. As the online event finished last weekend, I have gathered all of my opinions to why this would not work every year and also, why some aspects of this year’s event should be carried over to future comic cons.
One thing I have to get out of the way, is that Comic Con International has tried their best putting together the good content that was shown last week. From The Walking Dead, Bill and Ted Face the Music, The New Mutants, Motherland: Fort Salem, and even panels with upcoming Marvel and DC comics, there was a lot to digest with those panels. But that is where the first problem arised. There were way too many panels being shown at either the same time, or at different times on different channels outside of the official San Diego Comic Con channel. I feel that all of the panels should have been on one channel from the start, to the finish of the day. It is however, nice that you can watch them at your own home. But the experience of being in those panel rooms with nearly a few thousand fans cheering at every announcement and exclusive footage cannot be stripped away and it is severly missed. Yes sure, some of the big announcements that happened on the virtual panels were exciting to hear and witness, but it is also lacking the energy that we all feel in person. What I would suggest for next year, is for a hybrid version of this. That way, the ones who cannot attend the panel, can watch it either at home, or on their screen.
But there is another issue to tackle with that too since many big studios premiere sneak peaks to the live audience exclusively. How would it work for those studios to premiere that exclusive to the fans in attendance while people are watching it at home knowing that select footage cannot be filmed? Believe me when I say this because I was at the screening of IT: Chapter II at SDCC in 2019 and there were security guards at that theater watching everyone like a hawk since you could not record footage. And the studios would most likely not stream that same footage too. It is just something to think about since that kind of content is exclusive to the fans and press in attendance. But going back to the panels, it was understanding why many of the big studios did not want to showcase any material for this year’s event due to the pandemic. But the marketing aspect of SDCC at Home was abysmal. Only fans of comic con knew that this was taking place, but not the general public. I know many people that did not even know that San Diego Comic Con was happening as a virtual event this year until a few days later. And some did not know until the panels showed up as a recommendation on YouTube. I know that comic con sells itself, but there should have been more effort to market this event to every fandom. Speaking of effort, Most of the panels took place on zoom and there were a lot of technical difficulties that I noticed. But I wish that a few of them would have been live because whether if you like fan interraction at the panels with live questions or not, they are important. The feeling is not the same when panel hosts have to read tweets and Instagram comments as questions since we cannot assume that everyone that goes to comic con, has social media. That is why their only opportunity for the most part, is when the talent is on stage when you get your opportunity to ask your question. You would think that these panels that were pre-recorded, would have been edited very well. But no, that was not the case on most of the panels.
Another thing I wanted to bring up, is that it is named “comic con” for a reason and it did not feel like that since the virtual panels were more talked about than the virtual convention itself. I personally, not only go to these conventions to cover it, I also spend time at the artist alley, the gaming area, and the cosplay area. Everything that makes a comic con should have been happening last weekend, but the talk of the panels diminished that. Sure, there were links to check out the vendors, but there was barely any mention of any of them at all outside of a few tweets. I think that there should have been more on a spotlight on the comic creators and vendors too.
And finally, I have to bring this up because this was a big problem starting from Wednesday night, until the final day. Funko went virtual for the first time during comic con weekend. Normally, you would have to enter a lottery for your chance to buy a Funko exclusive and if you do not win the lottery, then you will have to go to the retailers that have the shared exclusives. Since there was no lottery, everyone had the chance to buy their Funko Pops. But seconds after the stores online opened, many of them were already sold out as confused buyers questioned how this even happened.
It got worse when buyers already had their selections in the cart to checkout and when they did, the “sold out” icon appeared. This went on to the next day as the buyers had to wait at least an hour or two, to even attempt to buy their item. And at the retailers, many retailers had to put a limit to how many of the same item you can purchase. Those signs went up at some of the retailers after the fact since there were a number of people buying multiple copies of the same Funko Pop. The CEO of Funko even had to make an apology for everyone that is having a bad experience.
I can hope that next year, San Diego Comic Con (And even other comic cons across the world) can return in full swing and better than ever. I appreciated what we got this year, but I know for sure that everyone felt it in their hearts that comic con has been affected by the pandemic. I also wonder if and when things get back to normal next year, how much could they limit the crowd due to social distancing. The entire experience of San Diego Comic Con cannot be duplicated, or bitten down to size infront of a screen because it is more than a convention, it is a week long event that thousands of fans love to attend each year.