Let's appreciate the controversy and ambiguity of "Comic-Con Special Edition"

 29 MARCH 2021

CCI stepped up today and shared additional information about their in-person November event. (Which by the way, should NOT be called SDCC and is instead named Comic-Con Special Edition. You know CCSE-emblazoned swag will be major collectors' items one day.) This message was somewhat in response to the three main reactions to their Saturday night announcement:

  • Why are they trying to hold an in-person Con when this pandemic is still out of control and we don't know if the vaccines really work and this one event could undo all our precarious progress?
  • Yes, I want to go but Thanksgiving was an idiotic choice between travel chaos and family obligations and they should have tried harder to pick a different weekend.
  • I'm going no matter what, holidays and pandemics be damned.

Guess which category I'm in.

The Plus ca Change of CCI

I've really enjoyed all the cynical coverage and teeth-gnashing of the last 2 days, because it's quintessential Comic-Con. CCI is blamed for their fumbling ineptitude and lack of clarity on an important subject; fans, vendors and reporters have weighed in with sulking, enthusiasm, and confusion; attendees have jumped into action to start plotting new badge sale strategies. It all feels so comfortingly familiar!

Or maybe not, for you. I've heard from people who are genuinely annoyed and they have a right to their opinion. But I do think we need to remember 2 points:

  1. This isn't taking the place of some other, bigger SDCC we would otherwise get. It's just a bonus event that happens or not. So you can't really feel robbed if it's impossible for you to go, or if it doesn't roll out the same pageantry and splendor of real SDCC.
  2. CCI needs money. They admit, no surprise, they've lost $$$$ because of this pandemic, and I fully support them creating new revenue streams any way they can. The same applies to the hotels, vendors, restaurants, artists, etc. who've lost income. David Glanzer referred to "reduced work schedules and reduction in pay for employees" which is very sad and I'm sure you want CCI to put on a beautiful show in 2022 - so this show would be a step in helping them recoup their losses.

So will Thanksgiving ruin Comic-Con Special Edition?

I don't think so. It may cast a shadow, but not a fatal one. Will travel be tough to book and ungodly expensive? Sure. But other than that, I think plenty of people - attendees, studios, exhibitors - will happily prioritize this event over turkey and football with the family. By November, many of us will have already caught up with distant relatives, and others have been cooped up with family members they're desperate to get away from. People are feverish to travel, see new faces, drink in bars, blow money on pretty toys that are right in front of them. 

Maybe I'm overestimating this because I don't celebrate Thanksgiving or care about Black Friday, but I do know many people are craving adventure right now. "Comic-Con Special Edition" is kind of perfect in that it will dish up both excitement and nostalgic gratification.

If it happens. Their statement today admits they don't know if "having this event in November is even feasible." So, as has happened so often in our Comic-Con histories, we will wait for more information, tantalized and jaded at the same time. I, for one, am enjoying the return to normality.

SDCC 2021 might be on Thanksgiving Weekend - which feels so weird

 27 MARCH 2021

Were you looking forward to an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner with your family this year? Making up for all the aborted 2020 holidays you didn't have?

Well, cancel all that, because SDCC might be on Thanksgiving weekend. It will run 3 days, Black Friday - Sunday, which means you might have to make some uncomfortable travel decisions. Fly in Thanksgiving night? Fly in Wednesday and spend Thanksgiving in a hotel room? Maybe this one is just for locals. And in fact, you and I might not get to go at all, as David Glanzer said, "I assume it will be limited attendance" and that CCI is taking their lead from health officials.

A few facts:

  • The November event isn't for certain yet.
  • If it happens, it will be in addition to the virtual SDCC held this summer. I would prefer to call these Part 1 and Part 2, but maybe CCI will cook up a jaunty name for the November event.
  • Your 2020 badge rolls over to 2022, but probably not this one - which means we might have a tighter, extra-bloody badge sale. 

Here's what we don't know - if this is worth going to. Of course, I assume most of us are starved for just a glimpse of this:

So yes, this will probably feel like a warm bath of nostalgia after the monotony and loneliness of the last year. I know I'll enjoy it no matter what. But I also know some attendees hang their SDCC hat on one specific experience, whether it's Hall H or Exhibit Hall artists or exclusives or events. I'm guessing many exhibitors will welcome the chance to sell (surely this will be the ultimate Black Friday/Small Business Saturday spending joyride) but I'm not so sure Hollywood will be able to pony up much for us. Then again, probably most of us would be thrilled with just a few good trailers and cast panels.

I guess we'll just have to see.

If you're wondering why CCI canned in-person SDCC for July so quickly, it's because of the intricate and colossal planning involved. As David Glanzer said, "Safety really is paramount" and they had to make the decision well in advance, saying, "It's a massive 150,000 person shift and if you want to put the brakes on, it takes a while to come to a complete stop." We understand that.

Stay tuned.

How do you feel about virtual SDCC panels?

24 JULY 2020

So now we've had a full day of virtual San Diego Comic-Con. While we'd all rather be there in the flesh, there are some obvious advantages to this format: For the first time ever in history, you can see every single SDCC panel. You don't have to wake up early, get in line, sacrifice your favorite show for your favorite comic book; you don't have to sit through a boring panel to see the panel you want; your feet aren't aching from walking too many miles the day before. You can eat your preferred snack, loudly discuss the content with a friend, and skip back to make sure you heard something correctly. You don't even have to get out of bed.

That said, some panels have definitely been better than others. Lessons learned include.....

If you're going to just offer up a Zoom call, like we have every day with friends and coworkers, be witty and fun.

You can tell the actors from the creators here, sorry. The performers tend to be more engaging and play to the audience; creators often just talk to each other in the typical mundane conversation we all have with our friends, which can be boring to the thousands of people watching. The Upload cast, below, didn't really share any groundbreaking announcements but they were fun to watch.

Footage is always good. A mix of footage and talking is even better.

Some panels really nailed this, like the Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza and Crunchyroll. I didn't stop watching for a second.

And then some made little effort at all and showed this when someone was speaking by phone:

Come on, seriously?

Trying to fit too much on screen, however, is a fail.

Some panels tried to offer up artwork, screenshots, panelist thumbnails and desktop shots all at once which was hard to look at.

The How-To Panels actually worked well in this medium.

I think this format might even be better than a traditional in-person panel. What do you think?

Final lesson: There's high demand for virtual panels.

Last I checked, Star Trek's first panel had a 42K view count and that will keep rising. Obviously as these panels filter into public consciousness, the demand will grow. So will SDCC offer virtual badges in the future? It's not as if merely recording a normal panel would be as satisfying, but possibly they could offer two tiers of panels - something that could offer promotion to at-home creators while saving them travel expenses. 

We'll see what the other panels bring.

Top panel picks of Comic-Con at Home

23 JULY 2020

So Comic-Con at Home is officially underway. So far it feels a bit underwhelming. Ordering a variant cover issue or Funko Pop online isn't quite the same as physically holding and admiring it in your hotel room; the Art Show on Tumblr has been kind of meh; I can't speak to gaming and other activities but I haven't heard anyone mention them, either.

Let me be clear, I really appreciate CCI pulling this together and I think they've done an outstanding job on short notice. But this experience has proven (for me, at least, and many others) how vital the visceral experience of SDCC is - even the lines, the frustration of a clogged Exhibit Hall aisle, the annoyance of getting stuck in a back row at your most anticipated panel. Being there really has no substitute.

However, I do think the panels are going to be a bright spot. I know a lot of attendees are all about offsites and partying, so maybe they won't be interested, but those attendees who live to see their favorite actors and creators in person can still get a (remote) taste of that over the next 4 days.

You can see all your options here but my top picks would be:


Thursday - 10 am
Star Trek Virtual Panel
Various cast members kick off a Comic-Con that is sort of boldly going where SDCC hasn't gone before.

Thursday - 11 am
Marvel's Storyboards
In addition to Joe Quesada, you're promised a mix of storytellers from film, media, comics.

Thursday - Noon
Cartoon Networks
Clips from a variety of shows will roll out, along with "special announcements."

Thursday - 1 pm
Marvel's 616
Different documentaries explore "the intersections of storytelling, pop culture and fandom within the Marvel Universe." Definitely worth watching.

Thursday - 2 pm
Upload on Amazon
Fun new show that isn't super geeky or futuristic, but worth watching.

Thursday - 2 pm
Virtual Tour of the Comic-Con Museum
I know you're curious...

Thursday - 4 pm
80th Anniversary of Bugs Bunny
Is Bugs Bunny really that old? A look back at his evolution.


Friday - 11 am
HBO Max and Cartoon Network: Adventure Time
I feel like Adventure Time is the perfect antidote to this grim year so I will definitely be catching this.

Friday - Noon - 3pm
Fear the Walking Dead
The Walking Dead
The World Beyond
The Walking Dead panels are the quintessential Comic-Con experience. 

Friday - Noon
Undiscovered Country 
Are you reading this yet? 

Friday - 1 pm
Ray Harryhausen Archive
Even if you've seen his old footage before, this is still a fun panel.

Friday - 5 pm
How often have you wanted to be in the Indigo Ballroom late on Friday afternoon to see Archer's voice cast - but were always pulled elsewhere?

Friday - 5 pm
Yes, that Mueller Report is now a graphic novel. "Pithy," according to the description - and probably a thousand times more interesting than the upcoming election debates.


Saturday - 10 am
Start Saturday off right with your favorite intergalactic commentary.

Saturday - 11 am
NASA usually brings good SDCC content and their panels typically have lines out the door. If you haven't caught one yet, now's your chance.

Saturday - 3 pm
Despite not seeing a Bill and Ted movie until 3 years ago, its iconography is burned into my brain and I'm guessing yours too - which makes this a nice nostalgia bath. 

Saturday - 4 pm
Will focus heavily on his brand new memoir, which looks compelling.

Saturday - 4 pm
HBO new series about a "thrilling journey" across 1950s Jim Crow America as the characters face "racist terrors and monsters ripped from an HP Lovecraft novel." Yes, please.

Saturday - 5 pm
Wynonna Earp
She's back on SYFY and bringing you sneak previews and bingo games in this panel.

Saturday - 5 pm
What We Do in the Shadows
Your favorite vampire show is back.

Saturday - 6 pm
Kevin Smith
More SDCC nostaglia. Pretend you're in Hall H and get a look at his new film.


Sunday - 11 pm
We're all starved for new shows and this one (starting on FOX this fall) is about a rogue AI and how technology is our new overload. Not exactly fresh territory, but the panel will tell us if it's worth a shot.

Sunday - 2 pm
Nathan Fillion
And good guest speakers to match.

Sunday - 3 pm
Ripley's Believe It or Not
"The most bizarre, iconic and truly terrifying artifacts in history." A fun hour of schlock with which to end SDCC.

Sunday - 4 pm
Ray Bradbury in Hollywood
This old-timey look at greats like Bradbury, Leonard Nimoy and Ray Harryhausen promises to teach even "avid fans" something new.

What are you watching?

Comic-Con at Home kicks off - are you in?

20 JULY 2020

Bespoke limited edition pin from Yesterdays, on sale Thursday, 23 July.

Today San Diego Comic-Con launched its inaugural Comic-Con @ Home - sort of. According to the programming, Wednesday seems to be the official start. But when you put out a glorious Souvenir Book chock full of fan art and exclusives and a mesmerizing EC Comics gallery, I'm going to say that Comic-Con magic has begun.

And it sounds like some traditional frustrations are also in play, like tech difficulties, overcrowded sales and an inability to get the action figure of one's dreams. Plus ca change and all that. I'm not super attracted to the offerings in play this year, but I sympathize with those of you who had your heart set on something. With SDCC 2020 open to literally anyone in the world, competition may be especially stiff this year.

If you've been dismissive of a virtual SDCC, well, I understand. No, it's not going to be as good as the real thing. But it still offers a welcome diversion from the isolation, boredom, death, illness, unemployment and fear many of us are facing this year. And I think CCI has done a fantastic job of making the best of a bad situation. I can't imagine how hard their team worked in recent months to pull all this together.

So what does SDCC look like this year?

You won't be getting squiffy in a Gaslamp bar this week but you will be able to indulge in a few other joys like...

  • The Souvenir Book. I really want a print version to hold in my greedy little hands and I bet you do too. The PDF is gorgeous, with some beautiful art and interesting articles. I know many attendees ignore the Souvenir Book year after year; if this is you, but you've saved yours anyhow, maybe go back and take a look at past issues. They really are great to curl up with when SDCC is over and you have the time for a deeper dive into certain fandoms or creator histories.

  • The exclusives. Just like every other year, you'll need to be wily and a bit aggressive - but this year, it's more about understanding who's selling what and how to get it. CCI's Exhibitor Hall map (which can springboard you into certain sellers/companies) only offers part of the story. As always, divide and conquer with your team if possible.

  • The programming. Okay, you're not going to be in Hall H while Marvel dazzles you with glimpses of the future. But there are some compelling panels available and you don't have to line up for them! Kevin Smith, Bill and Ted, The Walking Dead, Star Trek, Archer, NASA, Nathan Fillion, etc. If you're scoffing at the idea of a satisfying virtual panel, remember that your typical past YouTube footage of an SDCC panel was just recorded from the audience. These will be produced with viewers in mind and I'm sure they'll be worth watching.

  • The community. We may not be stepping on each other's toes in the Exhibit Hall this year but we're commingling online and sharing praise, advice and complaints just like always. If you've been hiding out from the world like a pandemic zombie in recent months - or consumed with hospitals, layoffs and funerals - take a break to celebrate SDCC with your fellow nerds. No survivor's guilt this week.  

Now onto the real question: will this show be so successful that SDCC offers virtual badges in the future? I know many of us will yearn this week for even the worst SDCC experiences - the lines, the humidity, the shuttle bus rides, the barking of an Exhibit Hall security guard. But what about non-attendees who don't know any better? Will they offer up a lucrative new market for CCI? I would think so, but let's see how this week goes.

And let's give CCI some appreciation for their efforts. I'm sure they're taking quite the financial hit this year and having to pivot like this couldn't have been easy. Let's try to support them, exhibitors and creators in any way we can.

ETA: Several of you have asked how to buy a print Souvenir Book. CCI isn't printing a hard issue this year - unfortunately for those of us who've always dreamed of an issue dedicated to our favorite Rays. Sorry!

The SDCC Souvenir Book cover is everything we want but can't have

23 JUNE 2020

Today CCI did something cruel and beautiful: it reminded us of the Comic-Con we'll never have this year, but it also depicted what might happen to nerds after we die - Ray Bradbury riding up on a dinosaur to welcome us to the afterlife.

I'm talking about the 2020 Souvenir Book cover. This is always a sizzler of a reveal - sometimes with less than enthralling art, but still signaling an important pre-SDCC milestone. It says, Comic-Con is almost here. But this year it's bittersweet. I think we can all agree that nothing satisfies like "a long section devoted to Ray Bradbury" - but there's also a special section for Ray Harryhausen, which is almost more than my deprived quarantined heart can take.

CCI also promises it will feature "amazing ads, featuring exclusive products that would have debuted at Comic-Con, that you can order directly from the exhibitors!" In other words, we can go on a spending joyride while reading. The SDCC 2020 Souvenir Book is truly the issue of my dreams.

So it's a bit upsetting to read that this will be a free PDF but not necessarily available in print. We all want a print Souvenir Book, right? It will make late July a little less melancholy to have at least one physical piece of SDCC in our hands. Hopefully CCI will spot an income stream and make print copies available for purchase. (Yes, these are covered in the cost of our badge but our 2020 badges now cover 2021, including the 2021 Souvenir Book, so I'd expect to pay for this one.)

We'll see. They may not want to bother, which would be a shame, but understandable. Stay tuned as we get closer to Comic-Con@home.

And on another topic - remember that 1 July is the deadline to request a badge refund. If you don't want your 2020 badge to transfer to 2021, request a refund now. But remember that the next SDCC you'll probably be able to go to will be in 2022 - and at our current global pace, a new pandemic/doomsday cult/leviathan may have swallowed us up by then.

Stay safe, stay nerdy, and stay tuned. We can still make (parts of) this year a good one.

SDCC updates: Refunds, badge sales & online Cons

10 MAY 2020

Happy Mother's Day! We're at a point where most of us have emotionally accepted the deletion of San Diego Comic-Con from our summers. Now that it's May, and we're entering the traditional season of watching for announcements and lusting for exclusives, that absence is beginning to feel painful. Maybe that's why there is still so much fervid talk about Comic-Con - buying groups, badges, hotels, fond memories of SDCCs past. As Marx (probably) says in the afterlife, Comic-Con is the opiate of the masses.

So let's talk about a few developments.

I have been involved in 2 badge refunds so far (neither my own) and both were easy to request and quick to be paid out. As in, the quickest I've ever seen CCI act in regard to anything. However, you will need the Member ID of both the attendee and whoever bought their badge so prepare for that when you make your request.

Badge Sales for 2021
Some rumors and misinformation are circulating online, namely that Open Reg has been cancelled for 2021. Fact time: CCI has stated "There will be no Returning Registration for Comic-Con 2021." That's logical, since there will be no 2020 Con for anyone to return from. Anyone with a 2020 badge is already locked in for 2021 if they want to be.

But Open Registration? No official announcement has been made. CCI did say, "Depending on the number of refund requests received, there may be reduced inventory for sale in the fall of 2020." No kidding. But they did not officially cancel Open Reg yet. There's still 51 days to go for attendees to request refunds and many people could be driven to do so by financial despair - but probably, few refunds will be requested. SDCC attendees, even broke and unemployed ones, know to hang onto any existing badge for dear life. So maybe if there's not enough room for Open Reg, CCI will auction off packages (hotel and badge, as they've done before), hold contests or choose some other route. Regardless, let's wait for CCI to announce their plans when they're ready.

If you lost out for 2020 and had high hopes for 2021, the news that you may need to wait for SDCC 2022 is probably a bitter pill to swallow. But in a season where we're all swallowing many bitter pills, it helps to remember there will be other Cons you can go to over the next 2 years.

Comic-Con at Home
You may have seen CCI's pithy little video announcing no lines, comfortable chairs, free parking - i.e., an online version of SDCC 2020. We don't know what it will involve yet. It's a fair guess that some of the content (celebrity interviews, panels) will be interesting and some not so much, and the final sum won't be much like the real thing.

But I hope everyone still checks it out to see if there's some way they can support a favorite vendor/artist or connect with their fandom. As attendees, we're saving money by staying home - but the other side of fence is taking a financial hit. You won't be spending $$$ on hotels or restaurants, so consider getting yourself an expensive exclusive, back issue, print or other treasure. You can indulge yourself a bit with new toys while helping creators stay in a position where they can make more great stuff. Obviously this is if you can afford to do so.

CCI is also serving up Comic-Con Museum at Home, promising videos and downloadable content for all ages. If you haven't done much with the Museum so far, take a look.

Hope you're all keeping your spirits up and staying connected with your nerd brethren. We're at a stage where our pandemic experiences are beginning to differ. Some of us are employed, some aren't, some are recovering from illness, some have a positive antibody test, and some are hiding out. Some are scared witless and some think this is all a conspiracy. (There's going to be a COVID-19 graphic novel anthology with all our different stories covered, right? Right?) Whatever you're thinking and however you're coping, I hope you're still finding ways to escape into the magic of your favorite nerd world. Be safe and one day we'll walk back into Comic-Con.

The Year Without a Comic-Con: SDCC is cancelled

17 APRIL 2020

We knew it was coming, but this morning's email still stung. San Diego Comic-Con is cancelled for the first time.

David Glanzer summed it up with a nice quote: "Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and while we are saddened to take this action, we know it is the right decision."

It's easy to be blithe about the decision, which many of us have expected for a month now, but it really will have financial and emotional repercussions across all SDCC communities - the attendees, the vendors, the studios, the surrounding hotels and restaurants, everyone. I'm sure there's a sense of premature termination for cosplayers planning their outfits, gamers looking forward to tournaments, collectors anticipating specific items, etc. It may sound silly, but there's going to be a grieving process involved while everyone lets go of what is a profound annual pilgrimage for many of us.

A few notes:
  • You'll have the chance to transfer your badge to 2021 or request a refund. We don't know yet how the refunds will be made, but I would imagine it'll be the buyer who's refunded, not the attendee. So get in touch now with whoever bought your badge and let them know if you're requesting a refund. They'll need to transfer that money back to you.
  • If you got a partial badge and are transferring, would you still be eligible to try to upgrade to a full badge in Open Reg 2021? I hope so.
  • Any Early Bird deposits will be refunded.
  • However, any other deposits on hotel rooms that you booked on your own aren't impacted by this - so you'll need to negotiate with the hotel directly.
  • Remember that other Cons are still scheduled - as of now - for late summer and autumn. Will they still happen? Probably not. But it's something to keep in mind if you're desperate to get some kind of Con in this year.

Finally, don't turn your back on the Comic-Con world until next year. There are plenty of digital efforts to promote and sell work, foster online parties and keep everyone connected. No, it's not the same - but it's something.

CA likely to cancel all big events through summer

14 APRIL 2020

Quick update: Governor Newsom has unveiled his possible lockdown lift plan and it has implications for SDCC. The plan won't be a flip-the-switch move but will instead be a localized, measured approach "guided by science and data."

We knew that, right? But this is where it gets real: "Large public gatherings like Memorial Day or Independence Day parades and sporting events will likely remain forbidden through the summer."

Painful! But expected. We'll wait for CCI to get official about it, but there's no harm in making alternate summer plans now - and thinking about how refunds will work in terms of buying groups. If all buyers are refunded through the same payment methods, everyone who bought someone else's badge will owe them a refund. That will be fun to sort out.

If you nabbed an Early Bird room, I'm sure CCI will work out those arrangements as well. For now, let's wait and see what kind of announcement they make.

Should SDCC 2020 still happen?

2 APRIL 2020

Today the San Diego Convention Center transformed into a homeless shelter. The Exhibit Hall, which we associate with exclusives, crowds and Funko Pops, is lined up with green cots for 1500 of San Diego's most desperate residents. It's a measure of how dire the COVID-19 pandemic has become and how far city leaders are willing to go to stanch contagion; trying to put a positive spin on it, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said "If we can't fill the convention center with tourists, we'll fill it with hope."

But the mayor isn't the only one with hope. CCI tweeted yesterday, "No one is as hopeful as we are that we will be able to celebrate #SDCC2020 together come July."

That's a lot of hope. Is it reasonable? Not in my opinion, but the Yes/No question of will the show go on isn't simple. The Unites States is in a state of suspension. You can see the diversity of opinions - we need to soldier through and save the economy vs. we need to hunker down and save humanity - just by listening to different governors.

As SDCC attendees, we're intensely practical; we understand all the angles of a successful Comic-Con. Like the hotel sale looming ahead of us: How many people have the money to slap down $600 on a deposit right now? Then there are the studios and vendors and guests that bring the magic to SDCC. How many of them will come? With so many releases delayed and so much production on hold, what would they show us in Hall H? And then there are the many events and activities surrounding the Con that takes months of orchestration. Will those organizers get a solid green light in time to make arrangements?

Our pandemic rollercoaster is still inching up the highest slope - we have yet to fly down screaming into the phase where potentially hundred of thousands of people (or more) die a horrible death. We haven't yet watched NYC levels replicate in multiple cities and then roll out to rural areas where many Americans live hours from the nearest hospital. And even if COVID-19 magically shut off on 15 May, the wreckage would still take months to clean up: credit card debt, unemployment, PTSD, bereavement. Life changes that have been put off for months like family visits, elective surgeries, divorces or moving will demand attention over the summer.

I know this is ugly to read. But it will be reality for many of us. That said - it won't be reality for all of us. So is it possible that SDCC could go on? I think we're looking at 4 possibilities.

SDCC happens, but as a smaller, more local and more comics-based Con.
No doubt by late July there will be plenty of people who still want to go and feel secure in doing so - either because they've already had COVID-19 or because it's controlled. And even if studios pull out, we'll probably have many vendors eager to sell their stuff. Personally, I'd have no problem amputating the glitz and Hollywood from SDCC so this would be fine with me - but I know many of you would miss your photo ops and Hall H panels.

SDCC happens and it's business as usual.
Demand is high enough that even attendees and vendors who drop out might easily be replaced; and after being cooped up all spring, people are going to be ready to mingle. The need to eat, drink and make merry could burst into an amazingly fun Con, with people making an extra effort to befriend each other, get their nerd flirt on, and create a very social and hedonistic Con. Limited attendee finances might mean a less profitable Con for vendors, though; and god help us if COVID-19 invisibly floats down the Hall H line like an angel of death.

SDCC is cancelled.
This will be emotionally devastating for many attendees and financially destructive for San Diego and vendors. But it could also be the most cautious choice - and we will have future Cons in other summers. Well, that's assuming they let us transfer our badges to 2021. Regardless, SDCC itself will come roaring back to life unless the whole planet gets nuked by a space dragon. This pandemic isn't going to derail us permanently.

SDCC is postponed.
ECCC is doing it and so are other Cons; but SDCC is a juggernaut of an event with less agility. So I'm dubious if this would work or not. But if they were able to scoot it down the calendar a bit, that might make everyone feel safer and might coax more guests and studios to show. I would definitely give up NYCC to go to an autumn SDCC. 

I don't know CCI's inner workings, but I hope they've created a back-up plan that suspends the deadline for badge refunds and possibly holds a badge resale (remember those?) to compensate. And I hope they don't schedule the hotel sale until late April at the earliest when pandemic specialists can make a more accurate forecast. But CCI and I think very differently so they're probably planning something else.

I hope you're all staying safe, fed, healthy and entertained. Times are tough for all of us and soon to get much tougher for some. We don't know where we're headed over the coming months. But another Comic-Con is in our future - that much we know for sure.

Living your happiest, healthiest nerd life in isolation

16 MARCH 2020

Something monstrous is staring us in the face, and I don't mean COVID-19. Yes, getting sick is going to be awful, but an even greater number of us may end up sharing another experience: the silent deterioration of isolation.

As someone who really likes solitude, I can attest that the recluse life can be brutal even for introverts. I once lived in a remote swamp for 3 months with only a cell phone that I barely touched, and by the 3rd month, I craved media, strangers, civilization. I really thought I would last longer; and when I think of humanity at large living that way, it scares me. I think we're facing a profound mental health crisis that probably won't be noticed right away, due to more exigent fears over COVID-19 and finances. But I've already noticed an uptick in aggression among strangers, and anxiety, depression and self-sabotaging behaviors among friends. Have you?

There have been countless jokes online from introverts and nerds who say that nothing will change for them. But even people who consider their social life on the thin side probably have outlets they count on. It might be a weekly visit to a comic shop, weekend gaming tournaments, movie nights, or just talking to a favorite barista or coworker. If and when that all goes on hold - the absence will be palpable.

We may or may not wind up staying home in the coming months. I know many of you still believe this will blow over, but you only have to look overseas to understand why clinicians are predicting the worst. So if that comes to pass, here are a few ways we can all stay healthy and connected this spring and maybe summer:

  • Catch up on old TV shows and movies you missed. Younger nerds may have missed Battlestar Galactica, X-Files, Firefly; even not-so-young nerds may not have yet seen original Star Trek, classic horror movies or series like Outer Limits

  • Start (or complete) lengthy comic universes like X-Men or Love and Rockets or Strangers in Paradise.

  • Organize your collectibles, sort through old comics and DVDs, and figure out what you can toss, sell, swap or donate.

  • Launch home projects. YouTube is full of tutorials if you don't know how to operate an electric drill or put up drywall or stencil your fireplace surround or refinish your kitchen cupboards. And there's no better way to improve your kitchen skills.

  • Start creative projects. Now's the time for people to jump into the novel, comic book, game or art they've secretly wanted to create but were paralyzed by fear of failure.

  • Step into science. Get into astronomy, rocket building, electronics, quantum physics, botany. You can do a lot of these hobbies alone now and then join clubs later if you find you have a passion for them.

  • Take online courses. Some have a fee but there are a lot of free or reasonably priced options to enhance your marketability or just learn new skills for the fun of it. The market will recover at some point so if you want to get started investing later, do your homework now.

  • Set up virtual parties, reading groups and hobby clubs. I know it's easy to do this with your friends, but you're going to want to see fresh faces at some point so consider creating or joining a more public online event. 

  • Get in shape. Many of us stuck at home will hear the siren's song of eating ice cream on the sofa every night; take up yoga, pilates or strength training and burn off the chub. Look into online therapy apps too to stay mentally in shape. 

  • Go outside. Assuming we never reach the point of being literally confined to our homes, I think hiking, biking, climbing and swimming are going to be crucial to feeling vibrant and hopeful. Of course, there's a danger to doing activities alone in desolate areas and it can be challenging to find places away from filthy humanity. I hiked way off trail the other evening into what felt like pristine wilderness and still found a wrapped edible on the ground.

  • Finally, create a timetable. Anyone who works from home will tell you how helpful boundaries and demarcations are - where you physically work in your house, the importance of getting dressed and not working in your pajamas, observing consistent start and finish times. As we spend days and nights at home, structured time will be a good way to restore discipline and vitality to life - maybe you get up by 9 am, get online till 10 am, then learn a skill/do work until noon, where you go for a walk, etc. Any kind of structure will help kill the aimlessness that can turn into depression.

Just a few ideas. The future isn't set in stone so we'll all have to roll with any oncoming changes and make the best of wherever we find ourselves. Do your best to stay connected and maybe be more proactive about reaching out than you normally would. We're going to need each other.

ECCC has been rescheduled for 21-23 August - will you go?

13 MARCH 2020

Happy Friday the 13th! Between fighting your way through supermarkets for bottled water and pondering life on a respirator, you may have noticed an email from ECCC. They have jubilantly announced that ECCC has been rescheduled for 21-23 August - and it's all going to be fine!

I'm going to be pragmatic about this announcement in a minute, but first let's talk facts:
  • If you had a badge for this year, you can transfer it to the August Con. Just let them know by 27 March. So you've got 2 weeks to see if signs point to a long-term hellscape by then.
  • If you don't transfer your badge, you'll get a refund. I know - you thought you were already getting one. You will and it will happen automatically. Just sit tight.
  • Because August ECCC is only 3 days, unlike March ECCC, which was to be 4 days, you'll get a refund of $15 to compensate should you transfer.

What Summer ECCC Might Look Like
Should this Con actually occur, I think it will be smaller and more local than usual. Which actually sounds kind of nice and will probably appeal to many people. I won't be there - this falls right between SDCC and NYCC and within days of my birthday, which I want to celebrate with a trip through my ancestral Scandinavian homelands. It's also within a whisker of Dragon Con, which I believe will prevent some people from attending as well. But none of that is necessarily bad, it just means the sense of local community will be that much stronger.

Here's the thing, though, and I'm sorry to be negative - but the U.S. is still skidding all over the Coronavirus road, and we don't know if this road is leading to "peaking by late May and we'll cautiously move into vaccines and herd immunity" or "our economy itself is on a respirator and we're shooting pigeons for food." Probably it will be the former. But I think Reed Pop should have waited just a few more weeks before announcing this. Right now the media blizzard is focusing on COVID-19's medical trajectory and that's definitely important - but the economic fallout is going to be intense.

And maybe (well, almost definitely) that's the reason for this quick rescheduling: to keep spirits high and offer a solid opportunity to pump cash and tourism dollars back into Seattle and the creator community. Nerds who've had to isolate at home (I will not make a joke here) will be relieved to  have a big fun social event to go to. Those who've lost elder loved ones will probably benefit as well. If we do wind up "social distancing" as a nation for a month or more, the psychological impact will be very real. People are already devastated over the loss of NCAA games, the delay of Mulan and No Time to Die, their cancelled Disney trips. Staying socially connected and mentally healthy is going to be a priority for all of us, infected or not.

So - fingers crossed that it all works out. I won't be there, but I hope those of you transferring your badges (or just waiting for the ticket sale) have a magnificent time. Stay healthy, stay optimistic and you'll be floating through a land of magical cosplay and excellent comics before you know it.

Will the Coronavirus cancel SDCC?

11 MARCH 2020

So you're not going to Coachella. You're not going to see the Final Four. Maybe you're not going to see anyone at all for the short-term future, if you're working from home and told to stay there. But still the big question lingers: will you be going to San Diego Comic-Con?

Everyone's asking that. What if SDCC is cancelled? What if our annual orgiastic fandom rites don't take place and life loses all meaning? People keep coming to me with that question like it's some kind of worst case scenario; for them, it obviously is.

But it shouldn't be. Look, San Diego Comic-Con may be cancelled or we may get ahead of the virus and assert enough control that CCI feels comfortable going ahead. But yes or no, I think everyone should be thinking bigger picture right now.

Like the reality that some of our parents and grandparents will probably die; mass layoffs could occur while pensions and 401k funds might shrink like a puddle in the sun; overburdened healthcare systems could shortchange all patients, not just those with COVID-19. And the economic freefall could impact Hollywood, collectibles, your neighborhood comic shop, all the little joys that flow through your nerdy life. We don't know the scale of the changes yet, but some are definitely coming down the pike.

The NBA just suspended their season. Tom Hanks and Rita Wison have the virus. This is just the beginning of the stunning announcements, bad news, sacrifices and losses we're going to endure, even in a best case scenario. I'm not trying to be the Paul Revere of Pestilence here, but it's obvious that many SDCC attendees are not grasping the full magnitude of this pandemic. Maybe it's because I've written about infectious disease and pandemics and all the horrific changes they bring (collapse of raw material prices, geopolitical unrest, food and drug shortages, hindered response to natural disasters) in my non-blogger life, but I've already expelled SDCC 2020 from my mind in terms of concerns. I encourage you to do the same. If Comic-Con happens, that's great but I just don't think it's anything to get upset about now. We've all got bigger emotional and financial concerns.

Here's what I think attendees should do:

  • Wait and see what CCI says first about WonderCon (which I wouldn't be surprised to see cancelled.) Even if you're not going to WonderCon, their statements may include hints about San Diego. I know CCI is not the world's most transparent communicator, but I'm hoping in this case, they'll be clear, prompt and responsive to attendee concerns.
  • Don't worry about the hotel lottery for SDCC. Last year it was in April. I imagine CCI is in no hurry to hold it while the virus situation is evolving so quickly.
  • If you've made a deposit on an Early Bird hotel room, and you're freaking out about losing it - just wait and see what happens with SDCC. CCI should make it right for you.
  • International attendees worried about continuing travel bans should create a Plan B. If you've already booked your airfare, maybe see if you can get a refund now rather than wait months when airlines' revenue situation may be much more dire. Your call. 
  • Talk to your friends and be candid about who has a chronic condition, respiratory weakness or other issue that could make a large gathering unwise for them. And be prepared for some of your friends to have financial setbacks between now and July.
  • Remember that there will be future Comic-Cons and if we miss this one, it's okay. Disappointing, but small potatoes compared to what will be happening in the world.
  • Save your money. If the world descends into an economic sewer, nerd toys, event tickets and Comic-Con festivities may get a little pricier.
  • And finally, practice good pandemic etiquette to help make the world as healthy and contagion-free as possible.

I don't mean to trivialize the importance of SDCC in your life. But Fortune 100 companies and top governments are still figuring out their response to COVID-19 right now. I don't think we can expect a definite answer on SDCC. Let's all stay safe, be patient and keep a healthy perspective. We're a resilient community and we'll find ways to stay connected no matter what.

ETA Thursday, 12 March: 
CCI has cancelled WonderCon (as most of us expected) and has shuttered the Museum events as well, noting they are following the CA DOH recommendation to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.

As for SDCC: "We continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020."

In other words - sit tight. And try to come up with an appealing alternate plan that will work in a post-plague world.

What the "postponed" ECCC means for us

6 MARCH 2020

So it's official: none of us are going to Emerald City Comic Con next week. It has been "postponed" and you can read the official statement here.

Rumors have run around our world like rats this week, so let's clarify what this means.

  • It's more accurate to say that ECCC has been cancelled - the one we were promised anyway. Another one will be held under the same name in the same calendar year, but it's impossible to replicate this one with all the same guests and exhibitors and events. I'm sure Reed Pop will try their hardest, but Comic Con season reaches a fever pitch in summer and I'm sure many of the people we were excited to see next week will be engaged elsewhere - or just have summer plans like the rest of us. 

  • But that doesn't mean the new ECCC2020 won't be great. I'm sure it will. That said, those of us with SDCC plans pencilled in - and maybe Dragon Con or Boston or Denver or just saving our $$ for NYCC in October - may be too tuckered out for another summer Con. This could shift the attendee demographics to a more local population.

  • Refunds will go out to all attendees. They don't need to do anything. This gets a bit muddled for the people who went through Lyte, but I'm sure that can be figured out easily; what can't are the people who bought badges off StubHub, Reddit, Craigslist, etc. I believe they're just out that amount of cash.

  • ECCC has promised to highlight creators' work over the coming days and weeks to help them financially, though it's not clear how they'll do so. At any rate, don't write off the digital Emerald City community for now - keep checking back and see how you can help support your faves.

  • Obviously there will need to be another ticket sale. While that's never fun, it's also not that horrendous for Emerald City. It's not like nabbing a Preview Night badge for SDCC and then being told it's void and you have to try again. And since we had Thursday, Friday and Sunday badges still available for ECCC, it seems open to anyone who wants to go.

  • I know there's a high level of frustration with Reed for not doing this sooner, but let's be reasonable: they have contractual and legal obligations with the facility, the city, exhibitors, staff, entertainers, guests and other parties that were probably a nightmare to navigate. Let's assume positive intent.

  • As for whether the cancellation was necessary - is there really any doubt? Look at the Egyptian Nile cruise ships or the Biogen conference in Boston. Gatherings are deadly. ECCC would have lit a match to a viral conflagration. This was the right call, it can't be disputed.

And finally, unpleasantly, it's entirely possible COVID-19 will spread through the land like a hex and ruin our summer nerd dreams. In a few months it could just be a bad memory or we could be facing societal changes that make a missed Comic Con seem comparatively minor. But for now, let's assume we'll have ourselves a lovely time in Seattle this summer.

ECCC and Coronavirus Updates

3 MARCH 2020

ECC is being postponed until this summer. The date is forthcoming. 
All attendees and exhibitors will get a refund.

Thank you, Reed Pop, for making the safest and most fan-friendly decision for everyone. We all want a fun, vibrant and robust Comic Con with all our favorite artists, guests and exhibitors. 

I'll share dates and ticket sale news when I have them. And that brings our scary little rollercoaster ride to an end!

As we grow closer to ECCC202, the Coronavirus news out of Seattle is growing worse. I don't have any insider knowledge. I'm just aggregating and reporting what I hear. So I'll post updates in this space as news breaks.

  • The current U.S. death toll is 14 in Washington, 1 in California.
  • In Washington, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 80. Two more eldercare facilities have presumptive positive patients, in addition to Life Care.
  • The declared state of emergency continues. Many companies are having employees work from home, people over 60 and with chronic conditions are told to stay home, and Seattle is setting up quarantine trailers.
  • Many people believe that the virus is more widely seeded in the U.S. than was originally estimated. Some are making comparisons to the 1918 pandemic.
  • ECCC will refund exhibitors and attendees. 
  • Cancellation still looms on the horizon as ECCC says they are "fully prepared" to adjust their plans and act upon changing guidance.
  • Multiple vendors, including Dark Horse, Oni Press, DC Comics, Tor/MacMillan and Penguin Random House, have pulled out of ECCC. Kate Leth, Terry Brooks, Jen Bartel, Dustin Nguyen, Steve Lieber, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Jim Butcher, Jim Zub, Max Brooks and other creators have cancelled. Warner Media (HBO, Warner Bros., Turner) isn't letting their employees go either. You can see the full list here.

Friday morning, 6 March

Nothing much new to report right now. I woke up to a Vault press release saying they weren't coming; at this point, ECCC really will be a ghost town. A petition is asking them to cancel, they're being bombarded by angry comments and threats, but at this point I think cancellation is a high-level discussion happening between Reed, city officials, Governor Inslee's team and the CDC. An announcement should be forthcoming soon.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people to avoid traveling to Seattle. At this point, I think people should not attend ECCC. There's really no legitimate reason to. You're a vendor and your income depends on it? You'll be selling to a fraction of the normal attendee base and you risk winding up quarantined and losing out on your day job/freelance income and people are trying to help you by holding virtual art shows to signal boost cancelling vendors - so is it worth it?

I know most of us are taking this day by day. My friends and I have been talking all morning about whether to still roadtrip to see Orville Peck in a few nights. No one wants to miss out on fun, especially something they've anticipated for months. But for ECCC, especially if you're travelling, making a decision now is probably the safest and fiscally sound choice. 

Thursday night, 5 March

Someone else has died in Washington. At this point, I believe ECCC will officially cancel tomorrow, on Friday. They need to end this now so people can hit their 72 hour cancellation window for hotels, recoup whatever deposits they can and make alternate plans to earn whatever income they're losing out on.

Today seems to have kicked off a certain frenzy in the business world, as if a corporate cabal got confirmation that this is all very real and then unleashed that knowledge across the country. Yet people I talked to at Trader Joe's and my salon were apathetic. "It's just the flu," my stylist said. Even when an actual ER nurse showed up for a haircut and confirmed that yes, his hospital is taking drastic measures to prepare, they were skeptical. It's a common attitude - the Coronavirus is the new Y2K -  which you could darkly translate into the likelihood that many people will not follow prevention guidelines. That's just one reason big events are not going to be safe.

If you're still going, please read the list of cancellations first.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday afternoon, 5 March

Today for me has been a blizzard of emails from my clients cancelling trips, asking for my emergency contact information, and informing me of cancelled conferences. Yes, even as ECCC plods on in what's looking increasingly like a deathmarch, other organizations are calling off events and conferences at great expense.

One sidebar: many ECCC attendees have not yet received their badges, like me, yet are asked to send them back by a certain deadline to get the refund. Reed - why were you cutting it so close in the first place? I believe this is one area where CCI is better organized. I don't say that too often.

On that note, 2 attendees have contacted me in anger because they sold off their badges at a huge loss and now they can't get a refund. So that's been happening. Look, at the end of the day, all of us are going to lose something here - whether it's a deposit, an exclusive or a cherished meetup. There's just no way around it. At this point, we have to look ahead to a collective future and do what we can do today to prevent losses tomorrow. And think of the people who bought black market badges! They are truly screwed if ECCC is called off.

I believe cancellation is inevitable, especially with exhibitors and attendees dropping like flies today. I'm sure Reed is likely taking care of the legal this and that before making an announcement. 

Thursday morning, 5 March

Today we've woken up to find ourselves still between Scylla and Charybdis. I think most of us were hoping for a definitive decision by now but instead we're facing information that doesn't entirely add up. ECCC is refunding exhibitors and attendees, which is decent of them, but also suggests a sluggish Con. In the meantime, Seattle has asked high-risk people to stay home; Amazon and Facebook employees are also asked to work from home. Is the city safe or not? At this point, I believe the Con will be cancelled and that Reed is waiting for an official mandate. But we've only gotten recommendations, not requirements, from officials. It's tedious.

But I get it. For every artist and exhibitor and attendee who's saying, "Sorry, not worth the risk," there's someone saying "My financial survival depends on this Con." So I can see why ECCC isn't just blithely shutting down. They're going to upset people (and maybe spark litigation) no matter how they proceed.

I've decided to opt out. I'm more afraid of quarantine than illness, but I also suspect that both the floor shopping and the general atmosphere going out at night won't really be so fun - that essentially I'll fly into a petri dish that's all risk, no reward. But if the show does happen, I hope those of you who go stay safe and enjoy yourselves. There could be an upside; maybe the smaller crowd will help people make friends easily and live out the experience of going to a small Con circa 1998.

Mike Pence will be touching down in Seattle today so perhaps a decree will emerge from his visit. I'll share what I hear, though I'll be offline for about 4 hours in afternoon/evening.

Wednesday morning, 4 March

Someone on Twitter posted a message from ECCC saying they "do not see any scenario where the event gets cancelled" unless they're shut down by the state or CDC. I think a lot can change over the next week. I appreciate ECCC may be concerned about financial losses but a lackluster Con with empty booths and a diminished crowd isn't good for anyone. And if it does accelerate the infection rate or lead to quarantine for attendees, they will take a massive reputational hit.

Interestingly, Reed HAS cancelled their London Book Fair, featuring 25,000 people. Note that London doesn't have the same death toll as WA. So why cancel? Essentially publishers and agents were pulling out en masse and forced their hand. Now many are annoyed the cancellation was left to the last minute. Reed's response:

“We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event." 

That would be the same reluctance to cancel ECCC, no doubt. A "senior publishing figure" quoted in the same article said, "I understand that if they cancelled last week they would have taken a financial hit, but that would have been the responsible thing to do. They’ve been citing government advice but it’s really irresponsible in the current climate to have a mass gathering of international publishers. It’s a very ugly cat and mouse game they’re playing. It’s purely financial and makes them look money-grabbing."

Right now it seems that Reed will only cancel ECCC if cancellations hit critical mass OR they're state-ordered to. Basically, we're living through the death of a thousand cuts here and it's leaving everyone in limbo as to whether we should cancel hotels, flights, etc. Really just a mess.

Tuesday night, 3 March

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said today, "We are not making a request formally right now for events to be cancelled - but people should be prepared for that possibility."

I believe Wednesday will bring more vendors pulling out as they do a cost analysis on losing the show income vs. sick/quarantined employees and low sales - not to mention the possibility that the outbreak could explode by next week and it's all been for naught anyhow.

I think cancellation is likely at this point & that Reed could be waiting for an official health department order or some other documentation to facilitate an insurance claim. Just a theory. I'm sure many variables are in play. But their silence and lack of reassurance today speaks volumes. Like most of us, they're likely waiting for the right information to make the right decision.

Tuesday morning, 3 March

Personally, I don't feel it's looking good.

A few things to keep in mind. I know it's tempting to bluster about how some virus won't keep you home. But remember this isn't just about you. It's not even just about getting sick. It's about maybe getting suck in quarantine, far from home. Or being able to cancel flights and hotels in time to get refunds. And possibly becoming a carrier who infects someone who does become seriously ill, even though you soldiered through your illness just fine. I'm not saying these things will happen - just that it's not as simple as confidence in your own immune system.