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With 45 days before the date, Comic-Con International changes it to a virtual event

The announcement of the switch to a virtual format announced on WonderCon’s front page.

A year ago, Comic-Con International (CCI), the parent company of WonderCon was caught short. The world was just realizing how severe COVID-19 was and how fast it was spreading. The World Health Organization would not declare it a pandemic until March, less than a month before the show was to open at the Anaheim Convention Center in California and run from the 10th through the 12th. They were in an extremely difficult financial position as cancelling the convention would incur penalties from contracts with airlines, vendors, celebrity guests and especially the convention center itself. When the California Governor declared a ban on mass gatherings, it allowed CCI to use the force majeure clause to announce on March 12 that the event was “postponed” with an eye towards running in the fall of 2020 after what would hopefully be a successful Comic-Con in San Diego. As we all know, that didn’t happen and San Diego Comic-Con became Comic-Con@home.

Now, just 45 days before its scheduled run dates of March 26 through 28, the organizers have taken a page from their experience running its bigger San Diego brother and are going virtual with WonderCon@Home. In their announcement on the WonderCon home page, they explain their decision:

ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING WONDERCON 2021

2020 was a difficult year all around. For the first time in the history of our organization, we were unable to have in-person events for WonderCon or Comic-Con. We have hoped that by now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might have subsided enough that we could once again come together in person for a traditional WonderCon event. Sadly, as we continue to monitor the latest information from healthcare officials, we have determined the interest of public safety will prevent this spring’s WonderCon from moving forward as an in-person convention.

Our commitment to the community of fans who enjoy WonderCon and the celebration of comics and related popular art remains an important part of who we are. It is because of that dedication that we are happy to announce that WonderCon will again be held as the virtual WonderCon@Home. The challenges of this past year and the postponement of our two largest events have left us with limited financial resources, therefore WonderCon@Home will be a two-day celebration instead of the usual three days as we continue to marshal our resources for Comic-Con this summer.

While we may be limited in days, we will not be limited in scope. We are currently in the process of lining up great programming, amazing exhibitors, terrific gaming, and all of the many aspects that make WonderCon a fan-favorite event. We sincerely hope that you will join us for the WonderCon@Home celebration on Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27, 2021.

We would like to thank everyone for your continued support as we anxiously look forward to a time when we can once again meet in person to celebrate comics, popular art, and spend time with our dedicated community of fans.

– San Diego Comic Convention, Feburary 11, 2021
WonderCon front page from February 3, 2021

Until they made the announcement, the previous post on their front page was an announcement from July – right after SDCC wrapped up – that vendor packages for both WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con were available. The convention was still scheduled for its normal three-day run, but there had been no announcements regarding special guests or events, or for that matter any of the other pre-convention hype one expects.

Anaheim Convention Center’s schedule effective February 3, 2021

Curiously, the Anaheim Convention Center’s own schedule did not even list Wonder Con on its calendar of events which would suggest that the decision to go virtual had been made much further in advance. Even with the gaping holes in the venue’s schedule, one cannot just presume that it’ll hold open that date with less than two months before showtime – especially for an event that fills three exhibit halls, plus occupies the majority of the upstairs conference rooms. And, show location aside, even as practiced as CCI is, even they could not be expected to host even a modest convention on just two months lead-time. And, supporting business, such as entertainment lighting and staging companies do not expect any return to large-scale events before the middle of this year at the earliest and it takes time to secure equipment along with planning the show itself as well as the setup the day(s) before. The biggest giveaway for those considering attending that the show would not, in fact, go on is that ticket sales had not even been opened, something that normally takes place by December.

Whither San Diego?

San Diego Comic-Con 2021 front page.

For that matter, the online scramble to log into the online lobby for SDCC tickets takes place in January. While it did not occur this year, that can be explained by the likelihood that most ticket holders for last year’s convention kept their tickets for this year’s exposition. Add to that the probability that social distancing requirements would still be in place come July and CCI could not in good faith sell any tickets this year.

For its part, the SDCC front page still promises that the event will run as scheduled at the end of July. But the lack of behind-the-scenes activities amid the general uncertainty surrounding the course of the pandemic and the vaccinations against it suggests that SDCC 2021 will also be virtual as it was last year.

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Wyatt D. Odd
Wyatt D. Odd
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