ComicCon@Home: My First SDCC Experience Was Not What I Had Planned

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I’ve been a geek longer than I’ve known about comic conventions, but the moment I learned that spaces existed where people who liked the things I liked could hang out, I’ve wanted to be there. And ever since I learned about SDCC, I’ve been hoping to get there.

In 2020, I can officially say I’ve ‘been’ to SDCC, but it wasn’t like anything I’d imagined. Understandable, seeing as there’s a literal apocalypse happening around us.

Not that I have that much experience with conventions. I haven’t been to as many as I’d have liked—because there weren’t any around me for a while—but attending my local cons has been a part of my life for the past few years.

One of the first things I did when I moved to Toronto was to attend Fan Expo Canada, even though it coincided with my mom’s birthday, so she had to spend the day by herself. Not that she complained (thanks, mum!) But while local cons have become a regular entry in my annual calendar, I still haven’t found a way to travel to another country for a specific con, which is what I would have to do if I wanted to get to SDCC. Plus, until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t ever travelled to North America so, getting to SDCC would have been a massive commitment.

Geographically, I am much closer now, so I was gearing up to attend SDCC sooner rather than later, though not in 2020. Before the pandemic hit, I couldn’t figure out exactly how to sign up for a press badge, let alone all the other necessary arrangements.

Turns out, I didn’t have to — SDCC decided to go online because of the pandemic. I signed up for a press badge with WWAC and a week before the show went live, went through the calendar of events, and picked the panels I wanted to cover.

Nobody was really prepared for ComicCon@Home. This wasn’t business as usual for SDCC and a large-scale event like this hadn’t yet gone online. For me, who has only had experiences with smaller cons, I had no clue what I was signing up for.

Because here’s what I know of SDCC—it’s high-intensity. The venue is huge. The panels are massive. You spend so much time running from room to room that pain becomes a part of your being. Oh, and Hall H is hallowed turf where the bigwigs announce huge properties, and everybody lines up for hours to get in.

But SDCC is also the con where you sometimes get to interview people associated with major properties and participate in press roundtables—which is a huge draw for us press folks. At the cons I’ve been to, I’ve got to interview comic writers and artists, who tend to be more accessible. But I haven’t had much luck getting access to actors or film and TV writers. I hoped that if I were to go to SDCC, I would get the same opportunity.

Sadly, ComicCon@Home did not have many interview ops, for some reason—even though we could have easily conducted these via calls or emails. And that was a huge loss, in my opinion.

There’s something magical about seeing someone on a panel and have that urge to interview them as soon as possible. And of listing out all the possible artists and writers who you’ve read before and want to speak to, so you can stalk through the Artists’ Alley, eyes on the names above the numerous tables, hoping you can catch said creatives before they’re whisked away.

I really missed that Artists’ Alley experience during ComicCon@Home— it’s where I spend so much time discovering new creatives and it makes the con experience more fulfilling for me.

What I definitely did not feel I was missing about the SDCC experience were the number of kilometres we would have had to put in to get to each panel.

The online sessions — all uploaded to YouTube — made the experience so much less stressful. Not only could I sit on my comfy couch and watch everything, but if I couldn’t tune into a panel at the time it went live, I could check it out later. This is something I could get used to.

Another plus for the format was how diverse the panelists and topics got to be — I ended up checking out almost all the LGBTQIA+ panels, the panels about race, body positivity, and intersectionality. I didn’t watch the Marvel and DC panels—which were extremely limited because DC, at least, is going to have their own event in August.

For the most part, the comics-focused panels felt to me like sitting with a group of friends and listening to them chat — this is something I very much need right now during the pandemic, for some reason, so it felt great to ‘join’ these conversations.

The film and TV panels — though incredibly fun — were more structured, most likely due to the limited amount of time available to host the stars. They were enjoyable, though, and gave me insights into shows that I don’t watch. Having said that, the Nathan Fillion panel was so acutely edited that I couldn’t understand what was going on and got a headache. Also, why didn’t they edit Joss Whedon out of it?

As much as I enjoyed being able to tune in to all the panels, it was so obvious that they were all pre-recorded—the YouTube links were already available in advance but were kept private—and because of that, some of the discussions no longer held up.

Ashleigh Murray, who plays Josie McCoy in Riverdale and Katy Keene, was talking about the strengths of her character on the latter show and where it was headed — because the recording was made before Katy Keene had been cancelled. It came across as a bit bizarre and frustrating because Murray made some excellent points and now, she won’t be able to realise that character to her fullest extent.

I did, however, love one aspect of the pre-recorded sessions — the Eisner Awards. The whole thing was a mess this year but WWAC won in the Journalism category, and we definitely deserved it!

Several members of the WWAC team gathered virtually on Eisner night — I even dressed up — to watch the recording together. Had it been any other year, the so many of us would not have been able to attend, but the unique nature of 2020 meant most of us got to hang out and celebrate together — and cry in joy together.

It’s a moment I won’t be forgetting any time soon — yes, 2020 sucks in so many ways, but we’ve managed to shine a light in even the darkest of corners.

This wasn’t the SDCC experience I had imagined — and not everything about the format worked — but there’s still a lot of good that I took away from this experience. And, I get to say I’ve attended SDCC and covered some cool-as-hell panels—bring on the next virtual con!

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir