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Comic-Con returns for scaled-back event

Comic-Con Special Edition runs through Sunday at San Diego Convention Center

Today, Comic-Con International returns to an in person with what it’s calling Comic-Con Special Edition.

Comic-Con Special Edition Opening Day

It’s been more than two years since I’ve heard an announcer say, "The Exhibit Hall is now open." So I am looking forward to finally hearing those words again as Comic-Con Special Edition kicks into gear today. But this year instead of lining up to get a Hall H wrist band attendees will need to queue up to prove their vaccination status before picking up badges.

But the good news is that Special Edition will likely be only half the size of Comic-Con's usual 135,000 attendees.

That means you may actually be able to walk more freely up and down the exhibit hall without being shoulder to shoulder with other attendees. You may also be able to get into panels without camping out overnight. That’s because Hall H won’t be hosting any Hollywood panels and instead will serve as the staging area for registration. But the lack of Hollywood product might mean that people will discover smaller panels like one on an open-world video game about the untold mythical tales of ancient Mexico called Mictlan.

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Meta Studios
Some of Jose Iturriaga's environment concept art for the upcoming video game Mictlan.

"We have a team of archaeologists that we're working with," that’s the kind of information you’ll get from the panel said Jose Iturriaga, the game’s environment concept artist .

"One of the things that we want to share with people and what we will be showing at the panel is how is the process?," Iturriaga said. Because a lot of people that play video games might not be aware of what the process is. When a video game gets created, you basically just get the final product. In this case, we're doing it differently. We're showing you the process, you're riding along with us. So you're seeing how we're developing things, where we're creating things."

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Patricio Ginelsa
Patricio Ginelsa's "Lumpia with a Vengeance" will have a screening at Comic-Con Special Edition as well as having a booth and autograph signings.

Similarly, on the exhibit floor you won’t find big companies like DC and Marvel but their absence leaves room for new players like Patricio Ginelsa who’ll be promoting his film “Lumpia with a Vengeance.”

"It is an opportunity for us independent creators to be seen and heard by the masses," Ginelsa said. "But I also think it's a return to really what I believe the core of what Comic-Con is. It's always been about the creators, the comic book artists and the writers. I think Comic-Con is literally the audience that we've always wanted to attract. And this is our big opportunity. I literally haven't wrapped my head around what's happening this week."

Like a screening of the film that he’s hosting tonight. But attendees will still find a robust Artist Alley and Small Press in the exhibit hall, as well as familiar faces like Scott Shaw! And Kevin Eastman. Comic-Con Special Edition will also feature a soft re-opening of the Comic-Con Museum, which on Wednesday was still buzzing with behind the scenes activity.

"Well, we're still putting in the final touches on the exhibits," said Rita Vandergaw, executive director at Comic-Con Museum. "We expect that they'll be done by tonight, but there still may be a few things that have to happen on Friday morning."

The museum will have six exhibits for the public to enjoy with plans to rotate content every three months.

"Upstairs, we have an exhibit called 'A Reason to Survive,' done by students in our student program." Vandergaw said. "It's all created by students, put together by students during the pandemic. And it's really wonderful. They even did a couple of comic books."

You can also find original art by cartoonist Charles Addams, 80 years of Archie comics, a retrospective on "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, and a room devoted to Comic-Con Musuem Character Hall of Fame inductee Pac-Man. There are also new spaces devoted to workshops and education.

"We opened the education center on the second floor, which is a big component of what we are doing at Comic-Con. Comic-Con is known for its educational panels and has hundreds at every convention. So we're continuing that education theme," Vandergaw stated.

A Comic-Con badge will not give you access to the museum. But anyone who wants to visit just needs to buy a ticket online or at the door.

If you’ve ever hoped to attend Comic-Con but didn’t want to deal with online waiting rooms to buy tickets then this is your opportunity to find out what it’s all about. And if you’ve been attending for years but grown tired of the crowds then you might welcome the reduced capacity. Either way Comic-Con Special Edition will be gathering the nerd tribe in person to celebrate the popular arts and that’s something to be thankful for.

Panels to check out:

Friday:
The Black Panel 25
Little Fish: Comics, Community, and Collaboration
This Manga is Awesome
Path to Equality through Latina Superheroes
Scott Shaw!
"Lumpia with a Vengeance" screening
The Science of Fast and the Furious
Ghostbusters: Law for the Afterlife

Saturday:
Cardboard Superheroes
Judging the Eisner Awards, Behind the Scenes
Native American Comics
Star Wars Samurai Universe (which I will be a panelist)
Kevin Eastman Studios
The Women's Color Code
Gene Roddenberry Retrospective at Comic-Con Museum
Zombies, Blips and the Apocalypse
Mictlan: An Ancient Mythical Tale (for which I will be moderating)
Shang Chi Cultural Impact
The Rise of the Ethnogothic
Spies, Secrets and Espionage

Sunday:
501st Legion: Star Wars Villainous Costuming
Big Dreams and Latino Projects
Spotlight on John Jennings (a favorite guest on Cinema Junkie)