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Comic-Con Special Edition kicks off Friday

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Courtesy of Gary Dexter
The San Diego Convention Center prepares for Comic-Con Special Edition. Nov. 22, 2021

After two virtual conventions Comic-Con is back at San Diego Convention Center with a scaled down in-person show.

Comic-Con International returns to an in person event this Friday with what it is calling Comic-Con Special Edition. It will be a smaller show but still at the San Diego Convention Center. As of Tuesday, the website still shows badges available for the three-day event.

Comic-Con Special Edition Preview

Returning to live events

For half a century, Comic-Con has been hosting a pop culture convention that draws fans from around the globe with recent attendance topping 135,000.

But COVID-19 put Comic-Con on hiatus for two years. In place of the in-person summer event, the nonprofit organization hosted two virtual home editions.

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Beth Accomando
Hall H will not host any Hollywood panels this year but instead will serve as the staging site for Comic-Con Special Edition registration. Nov. 23, 2021

But Thanksgiving weekend, Comic-Con returns to an in-person show that is expected to draw about 60,000 attendees, have fewer outside activations, and that will not use Hall H for big studio panels. In fact, Hollywood will not have a presence nor will most of the major comic book publishers such as DC and Marvel.

Comic-Con Special Edition kicks off Friday
Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.
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No one knows exactly what this Special Edition show will be like not, even the event organizers.

"We just don't know because it's all new and different," said David Glanzer, Comic-Con International spokesperson. "But it'll be a much smaller event, more focused on community, a lot of fan engagement, a nice exhibit floor. I have a feeling that those people who remember Comic-Con from years ago may see some similarities to that. So in all honesty, it's an opportunity to dip our toe into the water to make sure that we can still do this effectively but more importantly, safely."

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Beth Accomando
This year, attendees will need to wait in two separate lines for badges. One to prove vaccination status or negative COVID-19 test and receive a wristband, and then another in Hall H to actually get badge. Note there are far fewer staff at vaccination table than inside Hall H. Nov. 23, 2021.

Special Edition has strict COVID-19 safety guidelines that include proof of vaccination or recent negative test results and face coverings will be required for all attendees. Masks for cosplay and costumes are still optional. Attendees should note that this year you need to wait in two lines for your badge: first, to prove vaccination status or negative COVID test and get wristbanded, and then go to Hall H to pick up badge.

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Courtesy of Gary Dexter
The San Diego Convention Center hosts Comic-Con's return to an in person show. Comic-Con Special Edition runs Nov. 26 through 28. Nov. 22, 2021

Challenges for the non-profit

Not being to generate income for almost two years has been a challenge for the nonprofit.

"Comic-Con has been very fiscally conservative," Glanzer said. "So the reality is we've always had reserves. We look like a very rich company on paper because we always had reserves to be able to meet any catastrophe should it happen, to make sure we'd be able to meet our obligations, our payroll and all that kind of stuff. I think some people think we have a tremendous amount of money. I think our budget at the time was in the $25 million range is what we've been doing. But a lot of that money is also used to produce our shows. I don't think anybody ever anticipated that it would be a two-year long thing. Again, not having shows for two years really was a challenge for us."

There has been some sponsorship for the at home events to offset costs but the organization is happy to be back with an opportunity to replenish its coffers a bit.

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Courtesy of Chris Ryall
Comic-Con Museum is preparing for soft open on Nov. 26. to coincide with Comic-Con Special Edition. Nov. 22, 2021

Comic-Con Museum

In conjunction with the Special Edition, Comic-Con will be having a soft opening of its museum in Balboa Park.

"Comic-Con has a mission to promote comics related popular art. We've done that for 50 years," Glanzer stated. "One of the great things we've been able to do is to look into having a museum that will do pretty much what Comic-Con does throughout the year, which is to focus attention on areas of popular art that a lot of people may not even realize as art. We're opening up (the museum) later than we had really originally hoped, our grand opening will actually be in 2022, but we're having a soft opening the same weekend as Comic-Con Special Edition. There's been some construction, the roof has been repaired, the outside has been painted, the inside has been also renovated. They're putting in a merch store right now, getting ready for the very first activation, and we're going to be announcing what those exhibits very soon."

Tickets to the Comic-Con Museum can be purchased separately from attending Special Edition.

The program schedule and list of exhibitors is already up. There are a lot of familiar and recognizable artists attending the show such as Scott Shaw!, Kevin Eastman and William Stout. But there will be a distinct lack of Hollywood celebritie, which has left an opening for independent filmmakers like Patricio Ginelsa who will be screening his crowdfunded indie film "Lumpia with a Vengeance" on Friday.

I will be adding some panel recommendations later this week.