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Announcement Raises Questions and Concerns

Screenshot of Comic-Con International’s announcement of the in-person San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition

Even as Comic-Con International’s (CCI) WonderCon @Home event was taking place, the organization announced that a Comic-Con Special Edition in-person event would take place in San Diego this November. In a message, posted to their website at 9:30, Saturday March 27, CCI stated:

San Diego Comic Convention today announced dates for their November
convention. Comic-Con Special Edition will be held as a three-day event over Thanksgiving
weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 26-28, 2021 at the San Diego Convention
Center.

It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings.
Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the
organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic
COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that
make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not
only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.

“While we have been able to pivot from in-person gatherings to limited online events,
the loss of revenue has had an acute impact on the organization as it has with many small
businesses, necessitating reduced work schedules and reduction in pay for employees, among
other issues,” said David Glanzer, spokesperson for the nonprofit organization. “Hopefully this
event will shore up our financial reserves and mark a slow return to larger in-person gatherings
in 2022.”

As details are still being finalized, badge cost, attendance capacity, and related
information will be forthcoming.

— Comic Con International

To be clear, the regularly scheduled SDCC 2021 will still be a virtual three-day event running from July 23 through the 25th as they announced at the beginning of March. It will be the second Comic-Con to go virtual and the organization’s third such event since the pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual event for the first time in its 50-year history.

So what does this all mean?

As it says at the end of the press release, there are a lot of details to be worked out. CCI had already held off on selling tickets to SDCC 2021 due to the uncertainty of whether in-person events would be held this year. Tickets from the cancelled 2020 event were to be honored for this year’s event, meaning that the convention was essentially largely sold out.

Among the questions that this raises is whether ticket holders from 2020 will be given the option to choose between attending the Special Edition or SDCC 2022, or whether tickets for the November event will be handled in a separate manner. There are purely business reasons to support either decision.

As it stands now, CCI’s financials show an outstanding obligation in the form of ticket holders’ money and allowing attendees to use that credit in November discharges that financial burden to some extent. It also allows CCI to raise new money by selling tickets for the open spots in 2022. On the other hand, CCI is theoretically able to earn some amount of interest on the ticket money it is holding onto and selling tickets for November as a separate event allows them to replenish their coffers – which as their press release states – have been depleted by not being able to host events. The answer will likely depend on what the organizers can put together and whether they believe that they can charge the same ticket prices as they would for the summer event.

But what else it means, is that for an event that literally brings in people from around the world, they will be traveling at what traditionally is the most busiest time to travel in the United States. Even as the pandemic was at heading into a third, tragic wave, air travel – although greatly reduced from 2019 – still surged as people chose to let tradition override health concerns. With the pandemic expected to be largely fading out by the end of this summer, the expectation (and hope among the travel and hospitality industry) is for a wave of “revenge travel” as people try to put the last 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions behind them with a vengeance.

And, even though vaccines are currently rolling out and into arms faster than predicted in the US and Canada, the same cannot yet be said of many other parts of the world. The U.K. and Israel are having particular successes as has had most of Asia, but Europe is lagging behind. And there are the variations that have cropped up in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and two parts of the US which, while a normal part of viral mutation, it is unclear whether the current vaccines will continue to be effective against future genetic shifts in the virus. This means that, while it is largely expected that international travel can begin to be relatively common by the end of the summer, it is by no means a certainty.

Backlash already forming

However, the holiday timeframe also collides with that same desire to be with family that lead the January-to-early February to be the most lethal in terms of infections and deaths in the US. There is a pent-up desire to once again be with family over the holidays. While SDCC will not be taking place on Thanksgiving Day itself, it still means that anyone outside of a 200-mile range of San Diego will be traveling on Thanksgiving Day to get to the event. While for many that will be a choice, for others business reasons will require that they cut short any family plans. Given that it takes days to prepare the San Diego Convention Center and the surrounding Gaslamp District for the pop culture extravaganza, it means that a lot of vendors and artists, as well as the staging crews will be looking at shifting holiday plans as well.

Already, some entertainment personalities have expressed their misgivings over the dates. Twitter lit up with a collective “WTF” from writers, artists and fans alike including:

Linda Ge, writer for the CW’s new Kung Fu TV series, who could reasonably be expected to be on-hand to promote the show at one of the panels.

New York Times bestselling author and Eisner-winner Dan Slott, currently writing on the Fantastic Four, and formerly a writer on the Amazing Spider-Man and She-Hulk comics.

Chip Zdarsky, writer for Daredevil and Batman was particularly brutal. His fellow Daredevil writer and Star Wars novelist and comic book writer, Charles Soule was similarly unimpressed.

And, Tara Bennett, the author of the Outlander series as well as a number of pop-culture guides, was also not fond of this version of Black Friday.

The show must go on?

Again, David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer for Comic-Con International, wrote in the press release, “details are still being finalized”. CCI probably grabbed the first three-day weekend it could at the convention center, but the Turkey Day date may turn out to be a literal show-stopper. Hollywood is currently working all-out to make up for time lost due to the pandemic and they may not have the people available to put their best face forward at the beginning of the Holiday Season, let alone the desire to upend the schedules of their talent.

SciFi Radio will be staying on top of this story – from a safe distance – and bringing you more as events develop.

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Wyatt D. Odd
Wyatt D. Odd
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