Comic-Con is cancelled. But it lives virtually!

Jul 22, 2020, 5:47 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 18: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been edited using digital filters) Cospla...
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 18: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been edited using digital filters) Cosplayers attend the 2019 Comic-Con International on July 18, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Originally Published: 21 JUL 20 12:47 ET

(CNN) — There might be no event less conducive to social distancing than Comic-Con, the annual pop-culture gathering that packs 130,000 people into San Diego’s convention center. Granted, there are a lot of masks. But many are of the Captain America or Batman variety. And they cover the wrong part of the face.

Having griped about this largest-of-its-kind event in the past — the long lines, dizzying logistics, cramped crowds, and strange smells associated with all those costumes — it’s hard not to acutely feel its absence. The reasons to complain about Comic-Con are, suddenly, all the reasons to miss it.

The decision to cancel Comic-Con — which organizers called “heartbreaking” — came amid a wave of similar decisions during the early stages of the coronavirus, as the prospect of large gatherings became increasingly untenable. In its place, a virtual version is scheduled to take place over several days beginning July 22 — in practical terms, sacrificing millions of dollars that Comic-Con pumps into the San Diego economy.

Among all the pastimes and pleasures lost, few events more acutely demonstrate the hunger for community, and indeed, the ability to conjure those feelings of connection around entertainment — from collecting comic books or watching niche web shows to the broadest offerings from cultural titans like Marvel, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”

Comic-Con celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year, having ballooned from a smallish assembly that occupied a couple of hotel ballrooms in the early 1970s into the massive undertaking that spills out of the convention center into nearby hotels filled by its guests.

As the event rapidly grew, Hollywood increasingly took over, recognizing all those avid fans as the ultimate marketing opportunity and eager ambassadors for its products. Enthusiasts once teased for their passions soon found themselves surrounded by newer converts, hanging on every twist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or clamoring for the “Snyder cut” of “Justice League” (and winning that concession, finally, from CNN’s fellow WarnerMedia property HBO Max).

Still, the enthusiasm that permeated the convention offered a lingering connection to its origins, and a sense that many who attended spent all year anticipating the opportunity to assemble in person with those who shared their infatuations, however obscure and arcane some of them might be.

Like most of the virtual events orchestrated in the last several months, Comic-Con is trying to offer a taste of that as a stopgap measure. But it seems more imperfect than most, given how fundamental the immersive aspect of being surrounded by pop culture for several days has always been to the experience.

Although a number of popular franchises are participating, movie studios will largely sit out the exercise, as release dates for major films remain in flux. Highlights of the four-day schedule are available on the Comic-Con website.

The emphasis on fantasy won’t prevent the panels from addressing our current reality, including sessions on whether pop culture can promote mental wellness during the pandemic, and a discussion of what we can learn about dealing with infectious diseases moderated by “World War Z” author Max Brooks.

As someone who has occasionally approached making that drive down Interstate 5 to San Diego with trepidation if not quite dread, getting back to all that the convention has to offer — even the lousier parts — sounds awfully good right now.

Until then, Comic-Con@Home will have to do. And hopefully in the near future — whenever there’s an actual convention again — remembering this time should quiet any grumbling when the impulse to grumble arises.

™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories


An attendee walks through the Midway Ice Castles during opening night in Midway on Friday, Dec. 29,...
Devin Oldroyd

Construction begins on Midway ice castles one icicle at a time

Construction has begun on the Midway ice castles. Each castle is crafted one icicle at a time according to a press release.
3 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
3 days ago
At the Best Friends Animal Society’s Sanctuary in Kanab, dozens of dogs enjoyed a gourmet Thanks...
Waverly Golden

Thanksgiving Dinner at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab

At the Best Friends Animal Society’s Sanctuary in Kanab, dozens of dogs enjoyed a gourmet Thanksgiving dinner made by Chef Shon Foster and his team.
7 days ago
Zuri plays with a pumpkin during Feast With the Beast for Thanksgiving at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lak...
Waverly Golden

Animals at the Hogle Zoo make a smashing entrance for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Day, Utah's Hogle Zoo animals are making a smashing entrance involving pumpkins and other fun activities.
9 days ago
A new trove of information revealed about the shooting on the 'Rust' movie set shows Alec Baldwin q...
Josh Campbell, Cheri Mossburg and Chloe Melas

‘Rust’ case file details Alec Baldwin’s texts after deadly shooting

Baldwin's phone was turned over months after the fatal October 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal.
11 days ago
DOCUTAH Awards...
Devin Oldroyd

Ten films awarded special honors at DOCUTAH 2022

The DOCUTAH International Film Festival, hosted by Utah Tech University, awarded 10 films with special honors in its 2022 season.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Comic-Con is cancelled. But it lives virtually!