San Diego Comic Con Stumbles Out of the Pandemic

“Has it really been three years?” That was my thought as I sat in my cramped, terrible plane to San Diego. Ignoring the terrible aviation service, I had my mind on the prize. While San Diego Comic Con technically came back last November, the turn out by vendors and patrons alike made it seem more like a test run before this summer’s return to glory. Was July 20-24 everything I hoped it was? No, but that’s OK.

The biggest takeaway for those outside the geeky bubble of the San Diego Convention Center and Gaslamp District was the return of Marvel Studios to Hall H. Not only did they unveil footage from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” Kevin Fiege, the Willy Wonka of the MCU, also unveiled their plans for phases five and six, revealing what the “Multiverse Saga” has in store for eager fans. Oh, and DC showed some new “Shazam” and “Black Adam,” but some are still wondering where Superman and Flash are.

Outside that big news, “Star Trek” had a lot to say, showing a look at “Picard’s” final season as well as info on a live-action/animated hybrid crossover that I’m sure Trekkies are already getting amped for. Outside the convention halls, Star Trek had an offsite experience called Ten Forward where Trekkies and others could partake in food and beverages in a “Star Trek” setting that had fans finally living in some of their favorite moments. Sci-fi wasn’t the only draw as “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” rolled out footage that not only got fans pumped, but garnered attention from people who had no interest (me being one of them). D&D also wowed people with it’s offsite bar where people could partake in a fantasy brew while interacting in what can only be described as a cave tavern harassed by dragons.

Out of all the fandoms though, there was quite a bit of disappointment. Fans of Adult Swim’s offsite activations were left wondering where they were only to find a box in a field with a peephole advertising the Adult Swim Festival…taking place on the other side of the country. “House of the Dragon,” a “Game of Thrones” prequel, failed to generate buzz for people in Hall H, while the activation was apparently only for die-hards who left disappointed or content after standing in line for an average of five hours. The “Bob’s Burgers” panel was cancelled last minute, leaving Bob’s fans scrambling to find another favorite moment from this year’s festivities.

A lot of people actually may be signing up for Apple TV after the company’s first foray into SDCC. The fresh-faced streaming service highlighted several shows like “For All Mankind,” “Mythic Quest,” and this writer’s favorite, “Severance.” While not personally attending, the footage from inside the “Severance” offsite was astounding. It truly looked like people were walking into the world of “Severance.” Not only was it the most discussed and favorite offsite of this year, but it maybe the standard going forward for fully immersive rewarding offsites. One of the companies that manages to bring the fun to offsites, FX, returned this year with a maze featuring haunted dolls, muttering lunatics’, a vampire dance party and a chance to win various hot sauces.

Despite the highs of SDCC, something felt off. As a non-profit, it would make sense that SDCC would have to cut some corners and scale some things back with it’s return. But you have to wonder about some of the choices and decisions. One talking point that was (and still is) discussed is COVID-19. Was there a mask policy? Yes. Was it bothersome? Not really. The majority abided by it and it wasn’t like most people haven’t already spent a good portion of the past three years wearing one. That being said, I will flat out say that the COVID-19 wristband policy was stupid. To obtain a COVID-19 wristband, you must either be vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test result that was collected within 72 hours. If either of those requirements were met, you were given a flimsy paper wristband that was supposed to survive five days of sun, showering (maybe not everyone) and whatever else comes there way. The idea behind this is to prevent sick people from coming in, but as we’ve all found out, you can still become sick and a carrier of COVID-19 if you’re vaccinated and can still become infected and become a carrier within 72 hours after said COVID-19 test. So with all due respect, what was the point of the wristband? Another line? A sense of false security? Regardless, it was a completely unnecessary hurdle that frustrated hundreds if not thousands on a daily basis who showed up without a wristband and then had to wait in a lengthy hour-or-more line. I prepared and knew all about this, but not everyone is me and I can relate to the grief of having unnecessary requirements stand in your way of fun you’ve been craving for years.

Was there plenty of things that had me shaking my head in frustration? Yes. Was there plenty of things I enjoyed immensely regardless? Yes. In no way was this year a sign that it’s time for me to quit going and in no way will I say my experience was negative overall. There’s always going to be things I miss and things I will cherish forever. I’ve learned, grown and adapted to the things that happen every year like others…the long lines, the shocking amount of BO from fellow congoers and so on. Here at MediaMikes, we’re fairly confident SDCC 2023 will be better and 2022 will still have been a great year, just not as great as other years.

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