Please a moment of silence for Comic-Con

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It is normal that the new Dune the trailer was released this week. Not because it’s summer and huge trailers are still affixed to the huge movies play in multiplexes, although that is part of it, but because Comic-Con International is this weekend, and in a world where Covid-19 never happened, this trailer would have packed more than 6,000 people in Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center. Easily. Fans are said to have been screaming for director Denis Villeneuve and stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya. Surely someone would have cosplayed in a homemade jumpsuit. Or like a sand worm. It would have been crazy.

This will never happen either. Comic-Con is dead.

OK, not literally. For the second year in a row, the Annual Nerdery Conference in San Diego is forgoing an in-person event and instead is hosting a series of online panels. From a public health point of view, this is more than wise. Comic-Con was a contagious petri dish even before the world found itself in the midst of a global pandemic. But from a fan perspective and a cultural impact perspective, the online event just won’t have the same mojo. It won’t flood Twitter or forecast opening weekend box office numbers for next year. There will be no IRL cosplay. There will be some nice conversations-a little of Trek, a Walking Dead panel, Zack Snyder on zombies, but not much else. The 130,000 people who normally make their way to San Diego will not be there; the lifeblood of the event will be gone. (Maybe it’s appropriate then that a lot of people talk about the living dead.)

Last year, in this same column, I asked “Can Comic-Con work from home?”The question was mostly rhetorical because of course it can’t. Comic-Con is an event, not a TV show. And, unlike the Olympics, which also started today and will not have a live audience, this is the kind of event where some of the best moments don’t happen on the main stage. Comic-Con is all about the conversations you have online for a panel, after-hours hangouts, sightings of C-list CW stars, the trip to the ground to search for collectibles. Sure, the Olympics have joys that happen off the playing field, but that’s not what people go there for. Few, if any, sports fans attend the Summer Games dressed as their favorite swimmer.

The result is, in a nutshell, sad. For the most part, Comic-Con is a bit of a frivolous event, and moving it online hardly hurts anyone. Not having it in person undoubtedly saves many lives. But there is an inherent grief in the loss of cultural landmarks. No one Needs Comic-Con, or some other Marvel movie, or fireworks, or even the Olympics for that matter. But these events unite humanity. Losing them at a time when so much has already been lost and, in the case of Comic-Con, at a time when the event was already lose steam-is just another reminder of what exactly to rebuild.

But maybe that hope is on the bright side, if there is one. No details are known, but Comic-Con has promised a live event for Thanksgiving weekend. Seems like a bad time to host a comic book convention, but maybe it can be a run – a way to test what could be done if the event resumes in person in 2022. Maybe that it might even come back in a better form. The pre-Covid Comic-Con had become onerous and expensive for fans. It was a lot of splash and not that much substance. Maybe a new background scam could put more emphasis on the comics, especially the Star Wars movies and (theoretically) Dune‘s sequel, but also not to be so overcrowded that fans can’t begin to understand everything. It could be different; it could be like before. Comic-Con is dead. Long live Comic-Con.

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