Comic-Con 2021: Virtual showcase returns with panels, fan contests and more

Entertainment

SAN DIEGO – Comic-Con@Home 2021 officially kicked off with its first panel Wednesday and come Friday, the event will be in full swing online.

The decision to hold the event online again was announced by organizers in March, citing concerns about public health and safety during the pandemic. Like its first iteration a year ago, the free online celebration, which runs through Sunday, features panels, dozens of exhibitors, fan contests and many others features to win the hearts and minds of attendees in lieu of an in-person event.

And if you ask Aaron Trites, owner of Now or Never Comics, the spirit of Comic-Con is in the air whether it’s held in-person or not.

“It’s so baked into the city’s DNA, you can’t escape Comic-Con,” Trites said.

Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said the format gives people the chance to “experience the magic of Comic-Con, but at home,” potentially opening up its offerings to anyone around the world. Last year, for example, it gave many more people the chance to experience its wide array of panels.

“It was great that a lot of the exposure was given to a lot of panels that might not normally have had that,” Glanzer said.

From the Star Trek universe to Pokemon to the revived Showtime series “Dexter” and far beyond, this year’s showcase has a little bit of everything on tap. A complete list of scheduled programming is available here.

But, as with last year’s event, there are some downfalls in San Diego to holding the event entirely online since it typically generates millions of dollars for the local economy. Maren Dougherty with the San Diego Convention Center estimates the total regional impact to be more than $166 million, due in part to more than 130,000 annual attendees.

Without them, businesses such as hotels and restaurants lose out on millions in revenue.

Trites said the in-person event boosts his business at the shop by about three times. Still, he is expecting an uptick in business even for the online-only event.

“Even virtually, yes,” he said. “The busiest week of last year, even without Comic-Con, was still the week of Comic-Con.”

Glanzer acknowledges there’s likely some Zoom fatigue after nearly a year-and-a-half of the pandemic. And it won’t be long until an in-person version of the event is scheduled to take place in November.

“My hope is that people, as fatigued as they may be, are still kind of excited about this and will take part because there is a lot of fun stuff in store,” Glanzer said.

More information on Comic-Con@Home 2021 is online at comic-con.org/cci/2021/athome.

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