“A few exhibitors have withdrawn but their spaces will be filled with new stands.”
Teek Hall, who was attending for the first time, met one of his Con heroes: Kevin Smith.
Over the weekend of July 21-24, Comic-Con International returned to the San Diego Convention Center for its first full four-day show since 2019. But it did so without at least one longtime attendee and vendor. : CJ Smith. “I’ve been competing since I was almost 12,” said Smith, who has only missed three Cons in the past 40 years. “This year I was absent” because “they forced us to wear masks, to show evidence of vax and to [covid] test. It’s totally un-American! If the script became a comic, we would call it What If: Comic-Con Went Communist? I’m not going to get vaxxed, period. And honestly, the test isn’t always accurate. Personally, I won’t go back until it’s like before November 2019, ie there are no bullshit rules. Smith even said there was talk of a “Backup Con” at a local community center.
Smith is correct that the Con asked for proof of covid vaccination, or failing that, proof of a negative covid test taken within the last 72 hours. (If the person didn’t have a test, they could get tested in the Palm 1 and 2 spaces of the Con itself.) Either would get attendees the orange wristband needed to enter the Con. Con. Well, that and the badge that marked them as one of the lucky few to land a ticket to the pop culture extravaganza.
Like others who were unwilling to adhere to the Con’s covid protocol, Smith waived his right to attend and sell merchandise at the event – likely losing the rights to his stand and tickets to the event. next year as well. Smith said four of his close friends did not attend the Con, and from conversations within his network he learned that “about 70 dealers and acquaintances also opted out.”
David Glanzer, Con’s communications and strategy director, said in a recent Forbes interview: “A few exhibitors have pulled out, but their spaces will be filled with new booths, and maybe a lounge area for people to sit down and rest.” He added that “there are entities that have decided they don’t want to do the show. [So] that they lose their space is something they don’t care about.”
And it’s not like there aren’t a lot of people eager to take their place. Some fans wait years for tickets through a lottery system; many of them are certainly happy to see people giving up their grandfathering for whatever reason. Teek Hall, a rapper and comic book collector from Phoenix, was one of the attendees granted access to San Diego Con for the first time this year; he hopes to bring more friends in the future. “I’ve always wanted to attend,” he told me on July 21. “I was an artist and drew smaller comics when I was younger; I also dabbled in screenwriting.” Hall got on the show as part of Geekscape, a group of writers and readers who love geek culture — movies, video games, comics, and more. — and talk about it on their social media pages and podcasts.
“They’re strict here on masking protocol,” Hall continued. “In Arizona, most people don’t wear a mask. With all those people, I understand and respect that. This convention is way bigger than ours in Phoenix.” (The Con bounced back nicely this year, matching its pre-covid attendance count of 130,000.) At that point, security stopped Hall and asked if he had a mask on, and he freaked out when he couldn’t find one in her bag. Con’s staff provided Hall with a new mask. “This is the best comic book convention I’ve ever been to,” he concluded. “I hope I can come back.” While attending, Hall met one of his heroes: producer and podcaster Kevin Smith.
The covid protocols have sparked a lot of discussion on social media, including the Unofficial San Diego Comic-Con Blog and Reddit.
After the Con, Weaselbrau1, another dealer in the show, posted on Reddit: “My wife and two other people and I run an exhibitor booth at SDCC – we’ve had this booth for over a decade. We were worried about covid at this Con but decided to go anyway. We were hyper vigilant about care – masks, hand washing, bathing in Purell, etc. Two of us just tested positive this morning. [The] the symptoms began between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Many commentators also admitted to testing positive for covid days after attending the Con. The thread was quickly closed.