Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #81 by Drew Barth
Pros of Cons
Due to the steady spike in COVID cases across the country and the villainous ineptitude at the federal level, our lives are still rather sporadic. While many services and businesses are forced to open unnecessarily, conventions have been canceled or delayed for safety reasons. And this includes the biggest gathering of pop culture in North America: San Diego Comic-Con. The convention, however, was not completely canceled. Instead, SDCC pivoted to digital with its Comic-Con@Home. A digital convention brings a whole host of positives and negatives and although I haven’t been to SDCC myself in the past, it’s interesting to see just how they’ve been able to translate the feeling of a convention to a digital space.
Pros: The biggest plus to any convention that goes digital is that it’s now a convention in your house on your time. There isn’t the issue of spending thousands getting to and from San Diego, finding a place to stay, feeding yourself, and so on. There also isn’t the risk of being around thousands of people as they’re all crammed together to get into Hall H or threatening your life for a Funko Pop.
Cons: Conventions are the lifeblood for many artists and creators. They’ll begin ordering prints, stickers, pins, zines, comics, anything that can be sold on the show floor months in advance in anticipation of making that money back once con season begins. And although many creators are still selling their work online—many times at discounts to help recoup losses—their missing the Artist Alleys and foot-traffic that would account for most of their business. I’m looking at eight prints on my wall right now from artists I didn’t know about that I discovered walking through an Artist Alley and that isn’t happening this year at all.
Pros: Everyone has access to panels right now in a way that hasn’t been done before. A convention schedule was the kind of thing a con-goer would toil over to figure out what can and can’t be missed this day, but could be skipped that day, but maybe could be a filler for this day. That doesn’t happen now. All of the panels exist online in a YouTube video and are able to be more widely seen throughout the world. One of the panels I watched, Comics in the Classroom Ask Me Anything, would normally have been in a room of maybe two hundred people now has more than 1900 participants counted and over 14000 views online. Anyone can watch these panels now and they absolutely have done so. It’s knowledge for everyone without the constraints of the physical convention space.
Cons: I don’t know, you’re not the first person to see costume concept art for the unannounced Stilt-Man spin-off webseries exclusive to the Nokia N-Gage. IGN is going to have the story ten minutes after the panel anyway, so who cares?
Pros: Two things are synonymous with convention season: con crud and Bar Con. The former is the sickness that just comes from too many people, not enough showers, and not enough personal space. The latter is where the “deals” are made in hotel bars and where many powerful men in comics would prey on women. For the most part, these things don’t exist in a virtual convention. But still: wash your hands and don’t abuse women, that shit should have been obvious.
Cons: Are there any? Maybe being at home you don’t notice that you’ve shotgunned two sleeves of Oreos while watching multiple panels in a row.
With everything else going on, writing about comic conventions feels like critiquing the Hindenburg’s lunch menu. But it’s also finding some kernel of familiarity and comfort in a world we’re watching burn down. Sometimes we need these little moments that feel normal to just breathe and laugh with and enjoy before diving back down into everything else.
Get excited. Get virtual.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.