SDCC Special Edition 2021: Celebration & Community Kickoff San Diego Comic-Con’s Return

Reported by Kai Charles

At 12:01 on November 26th a subdued cheer rose in the convention center as the first guests made their way through the exhibit hall. Though much had changed since the last time fans entered the San Diego Convention Center. Opening day and the two days that followed easily moved attendees from COVID-19 status verification to badge pick up. Requiring fans to show their wristbands daily as well as their badges limited the potential for badge swapping and reselling. There were also consistent reminders over the PA system about proper mask wearing.

This feeling of safety really enhanced the overall mood of the convention floor. Across the exhibit hall pandemic-appropriate friendly hugs where evident along with fans actually enjoying standing in line for high profile booths like, Funko, Toddland, UpperDeck, Figpin and Artists Alley favorites like Patrick Ballesteros. With the absence of a major Hollywood presence, comic companies, and major publishing houses, local businesses like Mysterious Galaxy bookshop and the San Diego Library had very crowded booths. Convention sponsor Comixology had several panels showcasing their recent originals line of books as well as spotlighting upcoming releases. The most fundamental change I noticed at SDCC Special Edition is one that has the potential to change the face of the convention in the future: increased diversity of guests, vendors and exhibitors.

Sina Grace, a prolific creator, not only designed the artwork for the Special Edition program but he also received a spotlight panel as well as a special session with members of the SDCC Comic-Con Graphic Novel book club, who recently read his book Ghosted in LA. Latinx author Henry Barajas, Ryan Benjamin, one of the foundational artists of Wildstorm, and writer/artist John Jennings topped one of the most diverse list of creators I’ve seen in the ten plus years I’ve attended SDCC. Artists Alley was equally populated with diverse artists attending their very first SDCC. Female creators also thrived in this event with attendance by Karen Evans, the co-writer of the comic strip Luann, and Sam Maggs, whose writing in video games, books and comics continues to grow. YA author Cindy Pon and lifelong cartoonist Mimi Pond both were spotlighted in various panels.

Special Edition Comic-Con was an important step in the path to normalcy in a city known for hosting one of the most popular conventions in the world. There was definitely a sense of loss for some who were missing the Hollywood presence but that couldn’t compare to the genuine celebration fans expressed being in their favorite place with their fellow fans.


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