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Pop-Culture Phenomenon Goes Digital With Comic-Con@Home

Exhibitors talk about going online plus highlights of panels

Photo credit: Comic-Con International

Coronavirus forced Comic-Con to cancel its annual summer pop culture convention and move it online as Comic-Con@Home.

Comic-Con@Home begins on Wednesday and runs through July 26. Here's a preview.

COVID-19 forced Comic-Con International to cancel both its WonderCon and Comic-Con pop culture conventions this year. But the show must go on.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

"We've been working pretty hard, actually trying to translate the physical show to an online endeavor," said David Glanzer, Comic-Con International spokesperson.

Creating your at home experience

To help with that at home experience, Comic-Con's website offers print at home badges for both you and your pets, a variety of signage downloads from front of line to Hall H, and even audio clips of the regular announcements you would hear around the convention center.

"It’s the first time of our 50 years we had to cancel the physical show. It was very heartbreaking," Glanzer added.

Photo credit: Comic-Con International/Funko

This is one of the Funko exclusives being offered through the Comic-Con Museum during Comic-Con@Home.

The downside of online

Comic-Con is focusing on the positive with an ad that boasts no lines, free parking, and unlimited badges for all. But Funko vice president of apparel Michael Becker said there’s no way to sugarcoat this.

"Physically not being there and interacting with people is not going to be as good," Becker stated.

As a manufacturer of pop culture collectibles, Funko has built a community of avid fans while exhibiting at Comic-Con.

"That's really what drives Funko and Comic-Con is really the community. I think you take all the stuff out of the equation. I think most people just look forward to seeing their friends and family once a year in San Diego. I think that's bigger than the stuff," Becker added.

But this year fans will have to make do with an online experience. Comic-Con@Home offers upwards of 350 panels, a masquerade, and virtual versions of Artist Alley, Small Press, Fan Tables, and the exhibit hall.

Reported by Beth Accomando , Video by Roland Lizarondo

Exhibitors go online too

Since Comic-Con’s sister convention, WonderCon, was canceled earlier this year exhibitors like IDW Publishing already have experience moving everything online.

"We're doing largely what we did around WonderCon, which is trying to keep as much normalcy as possible on these very abnormal times," said Chris Ryall, IDW president and chief creative officer.

Ryall’s excited about having more guests available to partake in online panels and about the ability to share arts from upcoming comics and projects in a way that showcases it better. IDW will also still be able to offer exclusive comics through the website.

But Ryall misses having a booth where he can interact with attendees.

"Just getting to sort of see the joy in their eyes to when they're meeting Kevin Eastman [co-creator of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles']. Those are all the things that just are impossible to replicate," Ryall said. "Again, just the spontaneity of if somebody walks up and they have a kid with them and their kid likes this. So what else might that kid like? And you can recommend and put in their hand this thing and they can look through it and see that, you know, that might be a cool thing. And so it's just the ability to talk to people so directly and curate what they might be looking for."

The upside of the virtual experience

But for the better part of a decade it’s been difficult for people to get into Comic-Con so this virtual version of the pop culture convention will be far more accessible.

"There'll be a lot of people that for the first time get to at least get a little sense of what Comic-Con might be about by being included in some of the panels that people wait for a day out to get into Hall H and camp out just to get that spot. So now they just can click on and hopefully be able that to enjoy and participate in what a Hall H kind of might be like without having to fly here, stay in a hotel, camp out for two days," Becker said.

Even Comic-Con veterans like Ryall may be able to enjoy more panels.

"I'm actually going to try to take some time just to attend some things or watch some things that, like you say, I never ordinarily have time to do," Ryall stated.

Ryall may be president of a publishing company but at heart he’s a geeky fan just like everyone who attends and runs the convention, and that's always been the appeal of this show.

Photo credit: IDW

IDW Publishing will have multiple panels online as part of Comic-Con@Home this year.

"All of us are definitely entrenched in the world of geekdom," added Funko's Becker. "I don’t think that ever goes away. So being around like-minded people and sharing that and not having to feel weird or embarrassed is a good thing."

Comic-Con@Home lacks the in person component yet it may provide an opportunity to expand the geek community in new ways.

"It should be a fun event," Glanzer said. "It'll be different, but it'll still be Comic-Con."

Photo credit: Cardboard Superheroes

Brothers Bauer and Connor Lee, the creators of Cardboard Superheroes, one of the tutorial panels available at this year's Comic-Con@Home.

Panels

Fans are already trying to find creative ways to line up at home, engage in cosplay, and generally connect with fellow geeks online. With Comic-Con@Home there’s simply no excuse not to attend panels. Top of my list is Max Brooks’ Zombies and Coronavirus: Planning for the Next Big Outbreak but you can also find panels on LGBTQ comics, Afrofuturism, and UltraLawyer Kaiju Patrol.

There are also panels like Cardboard Superheroes by Connor and Bauer Lee that provide tutorials you can follow along with at home.

"We created an instruction video that teaches you how to create a specific model," explained 13-year-old Bauer Lee. "What's cool about this project is that all of the materials that people need to build some of these models are very common household materials. It's just things you could find around the house."

The teenage brothers were avid Comic-Con attendees who pitched doing a tutorial event at the Comic-Con Museum and now they are hosting panels at both the Comic-Con Museum at home program and Comic-Con@Home.

You can find my list of recommended panels by checking out the ones I have signed up for on the app MySCHED.

But here are a few highlights:

The Women Behind "Mythic Quest"

"What We Do In the Shadows"

Afrofuturism and Black Religion

Shudder: Horror is Queer

And here are the panels co-hosted by San Diego's libraries and Comic-Con.

Much of Comic-Con@Home will become available on Wednesday, July 22. Some of the studio panels may only become available at the time listed for the panel and may be pulled down by the end of the convention. Other panels, however, may remain up indefinitely. Attending Comic-Con@Home is completely free but there will be products available for sale through the online exhibit hall.

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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