I hate to say it, because really, during these insane and otherwise hectic times, disappointment is par for the course. But I am not the only one feeling it, so let’s get it out there in the open: San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was kind of a bust, and I think because of that, maybe they should consider shutting down New York Comic Con too.
If you haven’t heard, NYCC has canceled the in-person event in favor of moving to a virtual event this October, much like SDCC did before it. Their online events will include panels from American Gods and Star Trek, as well as allowing attendees “to participate in talent Q&As during panels, turn every panel into a watch party, and geek out with other fans using YouTube’s Community and Live Chat features.” But is that really enough?
Now, let’s not overlook the many hours put in by the employees not just of the media companies but the convention itself to make the panels run smoothly, and make sure everyone was informed on all developments. It takes a whole lot of work to get something as big as SDCC and NYCC off the ground, and the fact that they had to go fully online in a relatively short amount of time must have been incredibly tough. None of this discussion is here to bury or undermine the hard work of any of these people have put in and will have to continue to do. They are all doing their best, and I hope they are all still being paid well (seriously, if you’ve ever worked a con, you know they deserve it).
That being said, it’s hard not to see the lack of content as anything but a let-down at SDCC. Marvel didn’t really show up, DC didn’t have much to offer beyond a Constantine anniversary panel and a weird sit-down with Zach Snyder, and HBO had two big trailers. Even the reveal of the first scene of New Mutants only caused a minor stir. This is probably in part due to the fact that productions have all but shut down, and movies are being delayed left and right until U.S. theaters re-open. Big studios aren’t ready to make big announcements because they have no idea when their current films waiting to be distributed, and it’s not looking like they’ll be pushing to Video on Demand or streaming as soon as we’d like. These conventions live and die by their ability to bring in big names and big news, and SDCC definitely floundered in this aspect.
Now, that’s not to say that TV doesn’t have some potentially big announcements that they could bring up but given that it’ll mostly be for shows that already filmed their seasons (or the majority of them) before the pandemic, or animated shows that can be worked on from home, there still won’t be much there. See, I think having virtual anime conventions would be great for this exact reason — there’s plenty of time to animate and draw from home, and most voice actors have professional equipment at home, on top of recording studios being relatively easy to make social-distance friendly. Shows can be produced and edited from the safety of home and distributed easily. Not so with their live-action counterparts. SDCC didn’t have a lot of TV news either, but that could be because the months before it were plagued by…well, a plague.
The other thing is conventions like NYCC are all about fan-to-fan interactions, buying and winning merchandise, masquerades and parties. The ability to actually see and interact with others in a meaning and often personal way is the big draw. Now, some vendors and companies are doing giveaways during the weekend (like they did with SDCC) but it’s harder and often, you lose the experience of seeing the physical products. And, again, while cosplayers can post photos of their work and videos of their masquerade skits, it’s just not the same thing as being live on a stage or on the convention floor.
I get that in the pandemic, it is highly inadvisable to have in-person conventions. I certainly wouldn’t go to one even if they paid me. But I don’t think for conventions as big as NYCC or SDCC converting to virtual events are the answer right now. They haven’t yet figured out the best way to interact and include fans, and the lack of big names leaves serious holes in the programming. Maybe I’m wrong and NYCC will pull some amazing panelists and shock the world with some big news. Maybe this will encourage these conventions to have virtual aspects for fans who can’t attend in person, pushing the boundaries of what a con could be. But given how little time they have to prepare, and how scattered the entertainment industry is right now, I’m just not looking forward to it.