How San Diego Comic-Con Online ([email protected]) was successful despite the changes made due to the pandemic? In what areas should it have been better thought?

As we all know, this year's Covid-19 pandemic has greatly changed our daily life and has put itself in the midst of many events, including the Tokyo Olympics. We nerds have also suffered the consequences of quarantine and new security measures, seeing many of our historical fairs canceled. We have already talked about Modena Play before postponed in September and then canceled, but many other fairs also had to renew themselves, such as the Fabcon and of course the Lucca Comics & Games.

Predictably, many fairs in the United States have also been canceled or held solely online. Among these, the most striking was certainly the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), which is the fair of comics and, in general, of everything that is the biggest geek in the world. That San Diego Comic-Con could not be done in attendance due to its very high number of attendees was evident from the very beginning of the pandemic. Therefore the organizers had to take action, revolutionizing the event and moving it only online.

However, Was online mode good for the SDCC? Here is a little insight.

A frame of Charlize Theron's interesting panel at San Diego Comic-Con Online
A frame of the interesting panel by Charlize Theron at San Diego Comic-Con Online

San Diego Comic-Con Online: what does it consist of?

The first totally online version of the San Diego Comic-Con, renamed Comic[email protected], has been held since Wednesday 22 Sunday 26 July. The event was divided into different activities, as similar as possible to what would normally have been present in a physical SDCC. I stress that all these activities have been for free.

Online panels

The most significant activities have certainly been i online panel, in which directors / producers, producers, actors / cartoonists, writers / writers discuss their works and announce the major news for 2021. In this case, however, the panels were not real live conferences, but they were all previously recorded, to be aired first on the San Diego Comic-Con website, and then uploaded to YouTube.

Among the major panels of the event, we mention just the one on Star Trek, where the series was discussed Discovery, Picard e Lower Decks, and the one on New Mutants, Marvel's new superhero horror movie.

The cosplayers' Masquerade and the Con art show

Another San Diego Comic-Con Online activity is the Masquerade virtual dedicated to cosplayer, who are invited to send their photos or videos to create an online fashion show. This Masquerade was held on Comic-Con's Tumblr page and was open to the first fifty cosplayers who signed up.

Also on Tumblr, there was a With art show, that is, an online gallery dedicated to designers and designers who generally exhibit their works at the SDCC.

Watch parties and online shopping

To recreate the community vibe of San Diego Comic-Con, the online edition proposed gods watch parties. These are appointments for streaming films of importance for geek culture, such as Space bales or Monty Python movies, where viewers can comment on the movie live.

In addition to these activities, San Diego Comic-Con Online has also proposed a whole series of offers Shopping, ranging from fairground merchandising to exclusive Funko Pop products just for the event.

The online map of San Diego Comic-Con Online, very difficult to navigate. Seeing is believing!
The online map of San Diego Comic-Con Online, very difficult to navigate. Seeing is believing!

What worked for San Diego Comic-Con Online?

Although the online edition of San Diego Comic-Con was a experiment and there is still much to improve, some positive elements have been noted.

First, this completely free online edition allowed many more people to attend the SDCC panels, without the usual physical and / or economic limitations. For example, the panel of the TV series These dark matters it is currently at nearly 50.000 views while quello di Star Trek it's at 68.000. These are very high numbers, especially if we take into account the fact that the largest room in the physical SDCC can accommodate "only" 6.500 people.

In addition, for the first time, fans and enthusiasts have the opportunity to see all the panels present, without necessarily having to choose between one and the other.

What went wrong with San Diego Comic-Con Online?

Unfortunately, the online edition of the SDCC failed to satisfy everyone and there was a long series of failings. This Variety article he explains them very well, but we will try to summarize them here.

Little space and care dedicated to sellers

First of all, the New York Times points out that online shopping was not very smooth due to the little user-friendly layout of the event site. Therefore, many artists, vendors or shops who would normally have been present at San Diego Comic-Con to sell their material have found themselves obscured by the very layout of the site.

Impersonal panels, no questions from the public and technical problems

Second, online panels, however well made, have been too sterile for many impersonal, precisely because they are free of oversights, stumbling blocks and natural errors of both live and live panels. Other panels are like this edit to be very unnatural, precisely because any stammering or hesitation of the actors has been cut.

Furthermore, it would seem miss the relationship with the public a lot live panels or live shows, as the tapes didn't allow fans to ask questions. Indeed, the videos of the panels then uploaded to YouTube have been disabled. In this sense, YouTube would seem to have given problems to the panel videos uploaded from the SDCC profile, with the automatic bots that would have temporarily deleted some videos for copyright infringement.

In this sense, the editorial staff of IO9 stresses that the online San Diego Comic-Con seems almost more a series of promotional videos what a real convention, and this is because fans and their experience have not been prioritized. And if it were necessary to record the interventions of the panels first, they should be more like conversations between the artists and some kind of audience.

Disney and Warner Bros .: the absent entertainment giants

Another big problem with San Diego Comic-Con was the absence of some of the major manufacturers that normally launch their new products at this show. We are obviously talking about giants like the Disney and Warner Bros., who did not participate in the SDCC this year.

In fact, Warner Bros., to promote its comic and film products, has organized its own online fair, the dc fandome, which will be held on August 22. Disney, however, to promote Star Wars, will be redone in 2022 with the Star Wars Celebration. And as much as San Diego Comic-Con 2020 had series panels and big names, the lack of global entertainment giants made itself felt. Above all, it was felt that DC Comics fans organized, on the same weekend as the SDCC, another online convention, the Justice Con, where director Zack Snyder presented a preview of your version of Justice League.

Finally, it should be noted that too some guests preferred to keep some advertisements for themselves, released only after San Diego Comic-Con. This was the case with Star Trek Discovery, which announced the launch date (October 15) of its third season not during the SDCC, but on Monday immediately afterwards.

A lower interest in San Diego Comic-Con?

Although, as we said before, the SDCC Online has reached far more people than usual, in reality it would seem that interest in its panels and announcements has dropped. As reported Thu, it seems that far fewer posts mentioning the event have been written on Twitter compared to last year. In fact, in 2019 the public had produced 1.7 million tweets on the SDCC, while in 2020 only 93.000 were written: a decrease of 95%.

Also, although the major panels have many views, with The New Mutants e Vikings which exceed 200.000, actually the average views per panel on YouTube they are around 15.000, much lower numbers.

Using Tumblr as a virtual gallery for artists was also not the best for San Diego Comic-Con
Using Tumblr as a virtual gallery for artists wasn't great for San Diego Comic-Con either

What can we learn in view of Lucca Comics & Games?

Since our local Lucca Comics & Games will also have an online part, it is fair to ask ourselves what lessons the organizers can learn from the (not total) success of the most famous geek fair in the world.

Personally, I think it could be useful if LC&G put a lot of emphasis on fan interaction with artists, as this was obviously the most problematic part of the SDCC. In this sense, one could take a cue from Justice Con, organized by fans and, above all, live. In Justice Con, in fact, it was possible to see Zack Snyder interacting a lot with the fans, thus giving an experience closer to that of a real convention.

In this sense, however, it would seem that the organizers of the LC&G have already focused on an online fair with live events and online activities that directly involve users. That after November it is San Diego Comic-Con that has to take notes with us Italians?

Some final thoughts on SDCC Online

Overall, the SDCC was a big experiment and, given the circumstances, it didn't exactly go badly. Above all, we must take into account the fact that the organizers of the fair had to put together this format and coordinate all the panels in just four months. Nonetheless, this online convention invites us to ask ourselves some questions about how San Diego Comic-Con will continue to exist in the future.

A test for the future?

For example, as the IO9 editorial team suggests (see link above), there is a possibility that the organizers of SDCC Online have deliberately released a defective product. In fact, if San Diego Comic-Con Online had been a huge success, there would have been a risk that, in the coming years, there would have been no need to have an SDCC in attendance. Obviously, such a prospect is not reassuring for the convention organizers, at least from an economic point of view.

Furthermore, Wendy Patrick, social media and economics expert at San Diego State University, says that this online version could serve San Diego Comic-Con organizers for understand which panels are actually more interesting for the public. It happens, in fact, at the classic SDCC, that some spectators take their seats in the room hours before the conference they are actually interested in, thus being counted among the panel audience that otherwise would have had much fewer spectators. Furthermore, since San Diego Comic-Con Online is open to many more viewers, there is the possibility that, as soon as the Covid-19 emergency ends, the SDCC audience will increase thanks to the arrival of new interested parties attracted by these online panels.

Going back to physical conventions, but more accessible?

In general, however, it seems clear that the public was satisfied with the online formats during the quarantine period. But over time you will want to return to more physical and well-established experiences.

However, the increased accessibility of these online panels opens up many possibilities for the future. Is it time to make San Diego Comic-Con more accessible to those who can't physically participate? Maybe by uploading panel recordings to YouTube a few days after the event, increasing their usability?