It's been a whirlwind couple of days for fans, exhibitors, talent and the organizers of Comic-Con International. Fresh off the heels of their recent WonderCon@Home event, Comic-Con organizers announced that they would indeed be holding a smaller event in November. When it was revealed by a local San Diego TV affiliate that the event would be taking place over Thanksgiving weekend (Friday through Sunday), that certainly sparked a wide range of emotions. So is it a good idea or not? Were those dates picked specifically to attempt to draw a smaller crowd to this "Special Edition" event?
I'll admit, when I first saw the dates I was immediately taken aback. I found myself on the side of those who would argue that they haven't been able to see their families for nearly two years because of a pandemic. Now, they're being asked to not see them again in order to attend a convention? That seemed like a tough ask. You could even argue that it was very short sighted. I could quote several tweets from fans and creators alike, but you would be scrolling for a while.
I do want to address the other side of this as well. Some fans argue that this is the perfect time to hold the convention. Crowds would be, in theory, smaller than Comic-Con proper. It might also give fans a chance to attend the convention that would normally have almost no chance to do so. I even saw a few arguments that people need a vacation and actually need a break from their families. I'm certainly not here to pass judgement on anyone and what they dealt with during this period of lockdowns and limited contact with the outside world. I do, however, take issue with one argument that I saw surface from the "pro-con" crowd.
Contrary to popular belief, there are those who do not get to choose whether or not they go to Comic-Con. I'm talking about journalists, event staff, security personnel and even exhibitors/vendors to a certain extent. Even some talent might not have a choice, depending on certain contractual obligations. The point is, there are those who have to cover these events if they are assigned to. You also have to keep in mind that, load in and set up for the event would likely be on Thanksgiving day. Doing that on the Wednesday before still takes people away from their families, and also leads to higher expense of an extra night in a hotel that might otherwise not be needed.
Those on opposite sides of this argument could go back and forth all day. Honestly, both sides make a compelling case. I happen to fall on one side more than the other, but that also doesn't make me right. One thing that we know for sure, the organizers of Comic-Con have been hit very hard by these event cancellations due to the pandemic. To put it bluntly, they need money and they simply have to try something in order to continue Comic-Con as we know and love it. Unfortunately, these dates also create several hurdles.
I mentioned talent before, and that might be the biggest issue. Sure, this is not Comic-Con, and has always been dubbed as a smaller, "Special Edition" version of the monster event. The problem is, they still have to have a draw. Fans excited to attend the event still have to have something that gives them that "wow" factor. Despite the best efforts of Comic-Con organizers to tell con-goers otherwise, there will be a certain level of "wow factor" that fans will expect. Without naming names, I can't image a lot of Hollywood studios and major entertainment companies working on a holiday weekend. I also can't imagine many celebrities lining up to do so either. There is certainly nothing wrong with holding a smaller convention with smaller vendors. We all go to them in our local area every year. Problem is, that is not what people expect when they feel like they have a chance to attend "Comic-Con". You can slap the special label on it all you want, put it in big bold letters, but it won't matter once those doors open and it's not what some fans might expect.
So, what now? Well CBR put out the inevitable response from the folks at Comic-Con. As you might expect, it was a bit of a "damage control" type of situation. Normally I wouldn't do this, but I actually want to copy their response here:
"Comic-Con Special Edition was never intended to be the large gathering reflective of the summer event. As a shorter event, it was our attempt to start slowly and cautiously while at the same time addressing the desire from fans to have an in-person show. There are still many factors that are unknown to us at this time, including space accommodations, travel restrictions, capacity restrictions, and required safety protocols. While open to all and with the hope that we will be able to accommodate fans from all over, we understand that due to potential travel-based restrictions and challenges, Comic-Con Special Edition may be an event attended mostly by fans more easily able to travel to San Diego.
Currently we do not know whether having this event in November is even feasible as we are still in the midst of the pandemic and while we are optimistic about Q4, we have not been privy to any specific information on large gatherings. However, it was our desire to have something in place for our fans who have longed for an in-person event. We truly hope that you will join us for this entry back into the world of in-person celebrations of the community we so love."
So, maybe not then? Let's face it, nothing is certain until we get the "all clear" from this pandemic. So saying that things are still uncertain is not much of a stretch. They are right about one thing, we all want that in-person celebration with fellow fans. We want this back, and I think we would do almost anything to assure that happens. So does that mean an event that can only be attended by those in the California area? That certainly wouldn't be the end of the world. Again, I keep thinking about the recent outcry about retail workers having to work on Thanksgiving day so someone can get a deal on a new kitchen appliance or video game console. There has been a rallying cry against that, and some retailers have responded. So if you're upset about that, shouldn't you feel the same way about this? Yes, you need a break. Yes, we want these conventions back. Odds are, anyone who doesn't have a choice whether or not to work this event, they need a break too.
Speaking of conventions, you'll note on your calendar that ECCC and C2E2 are both in early December. They're not Comic-Con, I get it, but they also have a much better chance of getting top talent to attend on those dates. That doesn't mean that those events will be able to happen either, for the reason that I mentioned above. Everything is either in "wait and see" mode or "we're doing this no matter what" mode. How you feel about that is up to you.
Bottom line, I support the organizers of Comic-Con to do whatever they feel is best for their business. If they feel that holding an event on a holiday weekend will do that, I wish them the best of luck. I think, no matter how you feel about this issue, we all want Comic-Con to come out better on the other side and be back in full force in the summer of 2022. I don't even want to think about the alternative.
Obviously, this is still a developing situation. As of me writing this, November is still nearly eight months away. That seems like an eternity. So keep checking back for updates, because I'm sure they will be coming.