Comic-Con Special Edition is pretty much what we thought it would be

 26 NOVEMBER 2021

Today the first SDCC of any kind in a long time kicked off. This little shadow Con has been subject to much dubious speculation and disdain - and now we know just what it has to offer. 

Which is.... a weird assortment of panels, with a few good ones sprinkled in amongst some truly amateur ones; a lot of clothing, sticker, and Funko vendors; artists who are mostly talented if obscure; and some very limited cosplay. The absence of studios, big publishers, beloved artists, TV pilots, rare toys, and overrated parties is far louder and more lingering than the presence of anything here.

Harsh, I know. And I would say it's worth coming if you set your expectations accordingly and line up the kind of friends you always have fun with no matter what. You also have to view this for what it is: a fundraiser. Whether you want to plump up the city's coffers or feed some vendors who've probably struggled these last 2 years, this will ideally be a weekend of purposeful generosity. But if you come here expecting the best, well, you'll be disappointed. 

Granted, this is only Friday. It's clear that Saturday's offerings will feel a little richer. And there's the museum, which I'm visiting tomorrow and will review in detail. But on the whole, if you stayed home, you didn't miss any kind of magic.

The lack of crowds is enjoyable. Last night we had drinks at the Pendry, then Friendsgiving at Meze - no lines. (Granted, we couldn't get into Huntress but everything else looked accessible.) Tonight we waited all of 10 minutes for an outside table in the Gaslamp. I think Funko was the only serious line I've seen so far. One of my panels was nearly full, but still walk-in, and another half full. There's no stress or exclusion at this Con.

If there's one group of people I worry about, it's the first-timers. I haven't actually met any, which I normally do in the course of Comic-Con stranger chat, but I'm sure they're here. I hope they don't think this is typical, and I hope they use their ability to be grandfathered into the next badge sale to experience the full splendor and bombast of a proper San Diego Comic-Con. 

Because for those of us who are veterans, it's impossible not to be haunted by the ghosts of everything and everyone who isn't here. Walking across an empty hangar-like Hall H to get our badges felt eerie.  Looking at blank booth space where a favorite comic seller typically holds court or a favorite artist always does signings was a bit gutting. Even walking back to the hotel at night and not passing a single attendee carrying pillows and blankets for their Hall H campout was jarring. There's been a persistent feeling of waiting for the real Comic-Con to start - but this is as much Comic-Con as we'll get until next July.

If you're local and you're wondering if you should come down - I'd say yes. It may not be your most exciting weekend, but you'll be supporting an ecosystem that supports us every summer. Walking around the Gaslamp and seeing how many favorite restaurants have gone out of business is a good reminder of how precarious economic survival is these days. Hopefully the turnout this weekend is enough to strengthen SDCC's prospects for a beautiful 2022.

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