Labor Day weekend here in the States is considered the unofficial start of the Autumn season, so I thought I’d look back at a very unusual summer—one largely without comic conventions!
THE CRAZY SUMMER OF 2020
I doubt that ANYONE reading this column isn’t aware of the pandemic and how it affected all of us, including the comics industry, during the summer of 2020. For the first time in years, several big-time comic conventions didn’t happen, and that included San Diego Comic Con.
It caused creators to scramble to make sales for all the product they had printed up in anticipation of a usually very busy con season. Instead, COVID-19 would have none of that!
It’s just too depressing and likely completely unnecessary to run down the stats of the summer. Besides, you can find them on just about every news site around. So I thought instead I’d focus on what happened specifically to the industry and those of us who enjoy it, particularly as it relates to comics conventions.
Probably the biggest development of the summer was the ascension of “virtual cons,” those that took place online. These things were often considered unimaginable until the pandemic hit. However, when we couldn’t gather in large groups, the people behind comics conventions had to do something to stay in the minds of fans, and they often turned to online cons to try and fill the void.
One of the biggest took place instead of SDCC. San Diego Comic Con At Home was full of creators and things to do, and I for one enjoyed it. However, virtual cons just aren’t the same as meeting creators and vendors face to face, so I heard a lot of unhappy evaluations for SDCC and others as well.
On the plus side, when we turned on our computers, we often saw interviews using ZOOM that were edited professionally and had information and sales opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
On the negative side, many of us hadn’t been able to work to earn money to purchase and have related product sent to us. From what I heard via vendors I know, none of these events were money makers or even came close to replacing regular convention experiences. What’s a seller to do?
Today is actually the last day of Dragon Con’s 2020 virtual experience. Most of the dealers and pros have links to their online stores on the site while there have been panel discussions via ZOOM or another system like it. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the “Go Undercover with the Creators of Cover” panel. Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack are involved as well as others, and there is some good information being shared.
Last year was the first time I got to attend Dragon Con, and I fell in love with it! It’s tough to get the same experience from a virtual convention, but it’s that or nothing, after all! I greatly appreciate the con’s organizers making something happen to keep our interests alive, and that’s true of all the virtual cons.
It won’t be long before the second part of DC FanDome will be happening—Saturday, September 12, in fact. The odd thing that happened, though, was that only one part of the entire thing took place when it was originally scheduled. Granted, there was LOTS of news that gripped the attention of the Internet, but the fact that only the Hall of Heroes was going to happen didn’t get announced until so close to the event that I heard a lot of people tried to go to other places and were disappointed to find they would have to wait.
This is a big problem with virtual events—things happen so fast (and often so late) that our expectations are often dashed. Hey, welcome to the Internet, folks!
The sad thing about virtual events is that they haven’t even come close to getting the cons the money they need to keep going! SDCC at Home only garnered a fraction of the support they would usually get, so I’m not certain that we’ll see virtual cons return in any form in 2021. They take a lot of time and money to produce, after all!
As things began to open up slowly, some smaller conventions actually took place and some signings and the like happened in local comic book shops.
Of course, social distancing and mask-wearing were required, but the signing I went to worked fine, and it didn’t seem to bother the people there. Not everyone followed the rules, though, and it made for some uneasy interactions. However, those were the exception because most people were just happy to get out of the house and actually interact with others!
As I look forward, I keep seeing the big cons continuing to “go virtual,” and that includes New York Comic Con, my yearly favorite. I’ll be participating as much as I can virtually, but I will miss the hubbub and interaction that NYCC offers me. I would actually LIKE to bump into people there again! I miss asking creators questions and meeting other fans. Sigh. Next year, I hope!
MANY STORES ARE BACK
In fact, one thing that has softened the blow of losing cons has been the return of many local comics shops. Many people find LCS’s to be something of a “mini-con” experience because we can go there and talk with people who may share some of our interests, so we can actually discuss these things intelligently!
Also, it seems that most of the industry is back on track or close to it when it comes to getting product on the shelves. I’m still grieving over the loss of Hawkman and others from DC, and the monthly book totals I get are decreased, but I’m excited about some of the things I hear coming our way soon.
I continue to believe in the comics industry, and I am looking forward to 2021 bringing a better con season than we could have this year. Hey, barring a massive resurgence of COVID-19, it HAS to be!
What do you think? How have you dealt with the lack of conventions this summer? Have you been to virtual cons? If so, what has been your experience? Has your LCS gotten back in business? Do you have any suggestions for fans as we move forward? Whatever your opinions, please share your thoughts in the space below!