Pandemic wipes out annual San Diego fanfest but the show must go on

Every in-person event this year (ranging from Lollapalooza to the Chosen Few DJs Picnic) has been wiped out due to an villain far more vicious than The Joker, The Riddler, and The Penguin combined: the Covid-19 pandemic. And this includes the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which would’ve celebrated its 51st gathering this year.

But the show must go on.

Like a lot of events, the fun has shifted online, thanks in part to Zoom and other online meeting tools.

Generally a four-day event (with a preview night), Comic-Con this year has been expanded to five days starting this past Wednesday with the first day mainly devoted to education and children, teenagers, and young adults. 

Reflecting the times we live in now, many panels were created to address the challenges of creating material during a pandemic. Others include those you would normally find at Comic-Con: sessions on comics, graphic novels, art, toys, voice acting, drawing, how to get employed in the business, and other good stuff. 

As you would imagine, television show panels – basically the meat and potatoes of Comic-Con – are taking place but in fewer numbers as the coronavirus basically shut down production of shows worldwide. But a still healthy number of panels – 57 of them in total – are planned via Zoom/YouTube. 

Plus, you can watch an online film festival, but you must bring your own streaming service. 

The biggest titans in a traditional Comic-Con – Marvel and DC Comics – have scaled back considerably as the pandemic has wiped out all new movie releases and closed theaters worldwide, so no trailers for anything. But both are hosting a few panels, so all isn’t lost.

Largely unaffected by the pandemic, animation – for all ages, is greatly represented with HBO Max hooking up with both Cartoon Network and Adult Swim for events and all of Fox’s animated series planning events as their lineup (except Duncanville) will premiere on time this fall.  

And of course, all of the streamers are here too, with the just-launched Peacock joining HBO Max and Disney Plus. 

Here’s a brief summary of the events starting with Thursday (click on the dates to see the full schedules for more info on the shows and to watch them when they go live): 

Thursday: Paramount’s Star Trek has its three CBS All Access Shows (grouped into a panel as Star Trek Universe) while a Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel with original series host Joel Hodgson is taking place later in the evening. Also paneling is Fox’s new animated series Duncanville. Documentaries are on tap, too with Disney Plus’ Marvel 616 and SyFy’s Untold Tales Of Todd McFarlane featured. Apple TV has the offbeat Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.

Best part about Comic-Con@Home? No lines. Or people. (KVCR)

As for the non movie and TV show panels, Comic-Con is adapting to reality quick if panels on Building a Geek Brand: Surviving the Pandemic and Superhero Fandom Adapts To The Pandemic are any indication. Others include writing for video games, one for a new line of WWE toys, and Draw along with Dark Horse

Friday: The big panels are AMC’s Walking Dead Universe with three planned, while Charlize Theron and Joss Whedon talk to fans. HBO Max has numerous animation panels planned and Fox has Bob’s Burgers on tap. Hulu is bringing out new shows Crossing Swords and Peacock is rolling out The Capture

Non-TV panels features a serious discussion on how pop culture fandom communities can help stave off social isolation and despair during the pandemic. Others include a preview of what’s coming up in Marvel Comics; a panel on the Blade Runner comic; and one on a bunch of future Star Wars novels. 

Saturday: Fox is promoting the long-awaited sequel Comsos: Possible Worlds at Comic-Con with host Tyson deGrasse starting off at noon Chicago Time. The bulk of Fox’s animation is also scheduled to present Saturday with Lisa Simpson voice Yeardley Smith moderating a Simpsons panel. Meanwhile, Peacock rolls out new drama Brave New World while Netflix has The Order and I’m Not Okay With This

ABC has only two prime-time shows represented with Stumptown presenting Saturday while corporate Disney sibling FX brings What We Do In The Shadows, both scheduled for late in the day. Another ABC show (the outgoing Agents of SHIELD) is being celebrated by The Heat Science Center, whatever that is. 

Also scheduled for late in the day is SyFy’s Wyonna Earp with the Canadian-made drama getting a major prime time slot at 7 p.m. Chicago Time. 

Non-TV panels include discussions on diversity in comics, how to be a nerd for a living, and at least two writing panels, one on adapting comics to the screen and the other about writing the next generation of comics. 

Sunday: For the last day of the virtual Comic-Con, the must-see panel taking place is Fox’s new shot-in-Chicago drama Next, one of the few new shows debuting this fall. Also presenting is The CW’s 100, ABC’s inane Goldbergs (hard pass) and a panel titled A Conservation with Nathan Fillion (very hard pass.) 

Well, at least Young Sheldon doesn’t have a panel and for that, we can be grateful. 

Non-TV panels include panels on the state of the tabletop industry (that’s board games to those 40 and over); a geek improv comedy show and one panel titled Cardboard Superheroes: Creating Life-Sized Models of Your Favorite Superheroes. It comes in handy given we need many of them to fill the seats at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field this season. 

How and where to watch 

With your eyes at home. 

Seriously, to see these panels, click on the linked days above, but you may have to do some scrolling and searching to find what you want to see. The good news is, many panels are being archived on Comic-Con’s YouTube page, which you can access here and IGN’s YouTube Page, you can access here

The best part is all of this is free and open to all so you won’t have to stand in any lines.

It remains to be seen if the pandemic would effect events early next year, such as C2E2 and the Chicago Auto Show, both held at McCormick Place. But already, the annual Cubs Convention has been canceled for 2021 and Lollapolooza could be pushed back to 2022. Unless there’s a vaccine or a cure for Covid-19, we may see more of these online or virtual events. But it beats nothing at all. 


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