As the virtual curtain closes on the Comic-Con at Home event, there will likely be many retrospectives about how this foray into the virtual space worked. On one hand, it’s great that we got a chance to see these panels at all, given the state of COVID-19 in the United States. On the other hand, the lack of crowd and fan interaction at these panels is noticeable, especially with respect to the energy of the participants. Something about a crowd just makes these panels better, especially those that involve performers. Yet, despite this, the Comic-Con at Home experiment does prove that SDCC really should livestream their panels.
Along with Comic-Con at Home, there were two other fandom-related virtual conventions happening this weekend. (Both, interestingly, organized by mostly women.) First there was Justice Con, a virtual convention celebrating the upcoming release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (which may or may not be the official name, apparently). Second, with rights to the characters set to revert to Marvel in October, the Save Daredevil Con presented a weekend’s worth of programming with writers and actors from the series. Also, both of these cons made news, from Ray Fisher’s comments about Joss Whedon, to the clip of Superman in his black suit, to Peter Shinkoda revealing that Jeph Loeb said people don’t care about Asian stories.
The other interesting wrinkle is that the biggest names in comic book properties have their own events now. Marvel Studios has the D23 Fan Expo, and DC will be doing the DC FanDome in August. Also, it’s probably not long before Marvel Studios has their own conventions just like Star Wars Celebration. SDCC may be the biggest name in entertainment now, but not for long.
Comic-Con At Home Discourse Proved Going to SDCC Is Its Own Reward
Image by Vagueonthehow via Flickr
In recent years, the justification for SDCC not having a more accessible experience online is because they feel seeing the panels are what makes the con special. Yet, one need only scan the SDCC hashtags on social media to see that attending panels is perhaps the thing SDCC devotees miss the least. Rather, they miss seeing their convention friends, browsing the vendor floor, and meet-and-greets with their favorite stars. Many of the posts I read even joked about how not waiting in line for panels is the only positive of Comic-Con at Home compared to the real event. This, more than anything, proves that going to SDCC in person is its own reward.
Thus, SDCC has nothing to lose should they start to livestream their panels the way Star Wars Celebration does. The panels all eventually make their way online, anyway. Only instead of SDCC making that sweet YouTube revenue, it’s whomever decided to record and upload it. Also, the news breaks instantaneously on Twitter, though often inaccurately as it’s difficult to hear and tweet while in the midst of fan frenzy. Facing competition from studio-owned fan conventions, SDCC really does need to make itself more accessible to people who don’t have $1500 to $2500 to spend in order to go to what is ostensibly a marketing event.
Since Star Wars started livestreaming their Celebrations, attendance hasn’t waned. If anything, fear of missing out sets in and people plan to see “the next one” in person. Hall H has a little more than 6,000 seats, and mere days after its debut the Star Trek Universe panel has an audience ten times that size. Livestreaming their panels should make SDCC a global event rather than a localized thing people only hear about through media coverage.
Like Pokemon, Livestreaming and Uploading Panels Means You Can Catch ‘Em All
Image by Heather Paul via Flickr
The benefits to livestreaming their panels doesn’t stop there for SDCC. Fans famously wait hours and hours in lines for the big events, meaning that smaller interesting panels end up passed over. If SDCC livestreamed these panels, fans at SDCC could watch them on their phones or tablets while waiting in line. Whether it’s people at home trying to make a Comic-Con experience on a budget or attendees unable to be in two places at once, livestreaming the SDCC panels only broadens their reach.
The idea of gatekeeping, both in creative production and fandoms in general is an outmoded one. Yes, it’s fair for SDCC to want to ensure its guests get the most value for the $250-plus they drop on tickets. However, in refusing to livestream the panels, SDCC is missing out on an opportunity to build their event into something even larger than it is. And there would still be plenty of exclusives to the attendees. They would likely be the only ones to ask questions during Q&A’s. They could still get SDCC exclusive clips and footage, organizers can bail out of the livestream before those are shown. There is truly no downside for SDCC modernizing in this a way. It could also insulate itself from other conventions who can dominate the virtual space.
What do you think? Should SDCC start livestreaming their panels for everyone? What did you think of Comic-Con at Home? Do you disagree and think the panels should only be for those attending? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image by Richie S. via Flickr
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.