Comic-Con at Home 2020: I was typing this up as a Twitter thread and decided to just put it here instead. It was supposed to be 10 tweets now its an 11-minute read.
For context, I just co-hosted the biggest online tech conference in June — read about that here — and I’ve been to Comic-Con International in San Diego many times over the past 30 years!
The last time I was there was in 2016 and was planning to be there this year. They, like everyone else, cancelled the event and went online and this week launched their first virtual event. 2020 was to be their 50th Anniversary too!
DAY 1 + Preview Night
I sat through Day 1 of #ComicConAtHome and here are my knee jerk thoughts:
- All panels were pre-recorded which is fine, but they just uploaded to YouTube, with no commenting, no live chat, no engagement. Although great panels they purposely took away the “live” feel. I can understand why but still... Engagement: C
- I had multiple browser windows open since there were multiple things I wanted to see at the same time. There were a dozen videos every hour covering every topic. Content: A
- Seems only #TheNewMutants panel (yes it was a Hollywood one) came out with posters and emojis for fans to replicate that live event. New Mutants Optimism: A. Reality: D.
- All the booths and retailers are gone and replaced by a floor plan map? Most companies left to their own devices to sell using hashtags on social media. Buying Stuff: D.
- Some companies had their own sites to promote their panels like Amazon Prime. Sponsors: B.
- While nerds don’t care about timezones, Scener movie watch-a-longs didn’t take into consideration country locks during an “international” event. Watch-a-long: D.
- FOMO Level Online: C+. FOMO Level IRL: A+.
I loved most of the panels — you can’t be disappointed when they are still able to arrange all the casts of Star Trek, New Mutants, Brave New World, Nathan Fillion and Friends and more to Zoom in for a panel — I just thought there was so much tech that could have made it better.
They had time.
The partners had time.
I hope the next big pop culture show takes advantage of what they learned from this because I think it can still work.
Let’s see what happens tomorrow.
I just hit the end of Day 3, Saturday.
Exhausted from being in Zoom calls during the week and now watching them for leisure. Lols.
More commentary notes:
- SDCC used Sched to allow you to create a schedule because there was a ton of panels going on concurrently.
- Upper Deck used Twitch and Discord for their content — being game companies they were most likely already there but their panels were great and they allowed for chats to work since they had mods.
- The exclusives distribution list — the way to find and buy exclusive merchandise made available only during this weekend — is completely useless. You know what worked? Google.
- All the gossip happens on Twitter not on the show floor, but that also probably is where it happens during the live event.
- I watched a dozen panels today, almost no one had a professional camera set up, no one had a mic and almost no one had a ring light. At least the Hollywood panels added some fancy borders to the Zoom windows to make it look them look a little bit better.
- Some of the talks were recorded what seemed like ages ago because of the comments. Which is fine, but then you have TIME to edit and fix the audio, add images when speakers are talking about something etc. add NAME TAGS to panelists. If connections are lost, images are blurry, sound is muted — maybe re-shoot it?
- A handful were done very cleverly with limited tech knowledge but the majority had sound and video issues which as usual just made it a chore to watch — they are a chore to watch in real life but with an audience or at least a chat window to type what everything is thinking helps A LOT.
- Some artists smartly have their books/logos as virtual backgrounds most didn't take advantage of this because they didn’t know how to do it and no one offered to help.
- A lot of the announcement panels may have been new when they were shot weeks ago, but since then a lot of the companies decided to announce the news before their panel. So that was kind of a waste — also the ability to fast forward through a panel was helpful but counter-intuitive.
- Some companies decided to have their own cons which is cool — just like all the activations outside of the convention center which I loved. Giving it the FOMO and you need to chase down the feeds you want to see the most.
- While waiting for panels there was a missed opportunity to allow attendees to meet other attendees — even by keeping the chat feature open. Also happy to have seen ads. The issue when you use the free YouTube platform. YT should have a business-level platform if no desire, then you should create one.
- I feel like this was grudgingly put together by a team that didn’t consult with anyone, sure they are a non-profit and their main goal is to promote the comic book arts which I feel they did very well with most of the panels pointing to those topics on diversity in age, gender and nationality. It’s not all about Batman and Spider-Man, which I think is great, BUT end of the day I wonder if it hurt the brand long term?
- The masquerade was put on Tumblr. So was the art show.
- The sponsors had their own webpages that acted as a giant booth — like the Tamashii Nations one, very well done, with exclusives and showroom.
- Thank you to Keanu Reeves for being the only A-list movie star in attendance. Both of his panels were great — the 15th Anniversary Constantine panel and the Bill and Ted Face the Music cast panel.
- The 4 panels that I led, I was not in charge of technically — just asked to be the MC which is fine as I wanted the audio for my podcast The Hyper Room and edited it up to sound better than the video. Hear me speak to The Flash himself John Wesley Shipp here on my podcast and then watch the video here on Icon Heroes YouTube channel to compare.
- Reed Exhibitions just announced they will round up all their shows into one called Metaverse in October— I hope it’s better than this because I doubt I can sit through this again no matter how much of a fan I am.
- The LA Comic Con in December is going ahead as a hybrid event — the live option will have 17,000 attendees instead of 42,000 attendees and mandatory masks — how does that work? Will you enter a lottery to get in or will you be allotted a time to visit? And in California? Either way you can watch this online as well.
This is super interesting — the same SyFy panel on Todd McFarlane (which was great if you are a fan and is embedded above) has 390,000 views on the SyFy YouTube channel and 10,000 on the official SDCC YouTube channel (where I watched it via the Sched link) that means that SyFy doesn’t even need to be part of SDCC to get views and probably did this as a favor and to get into the spirit of the “@ Home” event. Remember SDCC has a max capacity of 130,000 people! That means SyFy got 4X the exposure for $0. I think a lot of people are going to re-think SDCC 2021 in terms of attendance and activation spend.
Below is my personal experience — you can look at any hotel site and pick these SDCC dates to see how much I paid for this comic book — ok maybe not right now but take a look again later when they open for 2021:
I just got this X-Men comic book in the mail today — so cool to receive it this Comic-Con weekend.
My primary observation of doing “Comic-Con at Home” is that this 9.8 CGC copy of X-Men #141 from 1981 (Part 1 of the original Days of Future Past story that was the basis for the movie) is the same price as 1-night in a 3-star hotel room in San Diego this specific weekend.
I’m not done yet — I will watch a few more panels tomorrow and link up more screenshots of stuff I saw so you can see more of the event from one place — hopefully this is helpful to someone looking at producing an online conference in the next 12 months. Remember, Web Summit from Home is on in December so a way to see how we do it again if you missed Collision from Home.
DAY 4 (finale)
Ok last comments — its been gruelling.
I’ve basically given up on watching the panels.
Sunday at the live event I have also already left to be the traffic and usually checked out of the hotel in the morning.
Yes, for the super nerd you can stay there for 4 days and the Preview Night easily there is so much to do and see and as it extends out into the streets of San Diego and things are always changing and promotions come and go even if you are there in real life you are missing 60–70% of everything too.
I guess that's why I am so happy to work with Web Summit. They are often referred to as the Olympics of Tech which is 100% true but to me they are the Comic-Con of Tech. 😂
This Boom Studios panel was one of the better ones done up. Easy to see the names of the panelists, there are graphics of the comics they are talking about and the company logo is easily shown. The moderator balanced all 3 guests and the great way that they probably got you coming for one of them but learned about what all of them were doing and piqued your interest on all projects. Also editing is not a dirty word. You have the ability to cut dead air because there is no audience reaction so take advantage of it.
In comparison this is how a Hollywood studio edits together their panel, great graphics in theme with the movie in this case Bill and Ted Face the Music, get an A-level MC in Kevin Smith who we know is so entertaining who cares if the panel is boring because we know he will keep it rolling. I learn a lot from Mr Smith — I am pretty sure he met these people 20 minutes before they started recording yet it felt like they were all his friends and we were hanging out with them. Next year just pay him to MC all of these if its online again or at least get a bunch of professional ones (wink wink).
This is the SDCC Discord server — mostly used for gaming updates which was great and I am assuming everyone who is into gaming knows how to use this. I can imagine that tabletop games lose 80% of their value in this format though.
I don’t want to get into the madness of actually trying to buy something online at this event — but I was ready to get this gorgeous Michal Cho X-Men lithograph from Mondo — it was in my shopping cart and as I pressed buy it was pulled out and marked “sold out” so in the 3 seconds it took for me to move my mouse to the “buy” button it was gone. Sure there were less than 200 copies available but there must be a better way to do this surely? Does Mondo even need SDCC? They can sell these any day any time. Very frustrating for those that got up early to get it. Meh! This video talks about some of these online ordering issues but hey grown men complaining about not getting a chance to buy toys is whatever.
Thanks to The Comics Beat and Newsarama who covered most of the panels so you don’t have to sit through them.
According to Steve Weintraub of Collider everyone who did a panel organized it themselves and recorded and submitted it. So the Constantine 15th Anniversary panel was organized by Collider themselves. Again, this panel had over 40,000 views more than Hall H could have fit (only 6000 seats and not everyone cares who is speaking as they are probably waiting for a Marvel or Star Wars panel and there just to hold their seat) and with 100% less stabbings.
Ok, as you can see there are a ton of tech opportunities for something like this to make it more fun and more engaging. My DM’s are open on Twitter.
- I feel the e-commerce options could have been done better for timed, limited edition and timezone shopping.
- A mic/light/camera pack that companies can rent and send to the people in the panel to record these. Zoom has a $600 option for corporations but I built my own for Collision on less than $200 and if the publishers have superstars and they will be doing 4–6 shows from now till SDCC 2021 its a good investment.
- Lessons on how to make these panels more engaging like Phil Libin’s Mmhmm.
- Uber for MC’s — honestly, I didn’t know what I did was actually that important until you see what happens without one.
- Uber for sound and video editors — yes we have Fiverr but specifically for these types of events.
- AirBNB for Studios — there are a handful of empty studios/galleries/event spaces here — if you can set this up for me to go into a room in a co-workspace that has been sanitized for 1 hour with all the gear to shoot these professionally sign me up.
- User engagement platform that can sit on top of video platforms. If that is Discord then make it lightweight and easy. But I wanted to see a Houseparty for cosplayers that I could join.
- Clubhouse rooms — Not the audio-only startup, but a place for meeting fans who also love old X-Men comics would have been nice to have. Or Q&A rooms set up for Keanu Reeves and Nathan Fillion.
- Hat tip to Parallux for trying to get in there with a VR solution.
I think it was a good run to keep people entertained during a pandemic so THANK YOU, Comic-Con International non-profit volunteers! But it is also a huge opportunity for a startups to get into filling out one of the wide, gaping holes here as it applies to many, many of these types of events and now anyone can set up their own SDCC if they have the tech to make it good .
SDCC is a special kind of beast — half the fun of this specific event, like E3, is that it’s like walking into a live comic book. A festival celebrating what you have been reading and watching all year compressed into 4-days.
But with the proper tech in place, everyone can attend, all the artists and retailers can sell more, and all the companies can get more people to learn about their projects.
I hope to Asgard that SDCC builds on what it learned and returns with a hybrid event in 2021. I am excited about the possibilities.