Comic-Con Special Edition still has badges available for Thanksgiving weekend event

Two days before its kickoff, Comic-Con Special Edition already has a very different vibe from the regular convention which — in a non-pandemic life — takes place every summer at the San Diego Convention Center.

After offering a virtual “Comic-Con@Home” in July of 2020 and 2021, the annual pop-culture extravaganza in downtown San Diego has returned for a special, smaller edition on Thanksgiving weekend, which has its obvious pros and cons.

On its website, Comic-Con International explains that the event is “purposefully smaller in scope” due to current COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Spokesman David Glanzer, standing in Hall H where the largest panel room has been replaced by a staging area for attendee registration, called it a “scaled-down version” of the event.

“The big difference is the size of the show, both in terms of the number of days — it’s a 3-day show as opposed to a 4-and-a-half or 5-day show — and the scale of the show is smaller too in terms of the exhibit floor,” Glanzer said.

The difference is also apparent on the streets around the San Diego Convention Center, which usually explode with activity leading up to and during Comic-Con. Where the surrounding skyscrapers typically display giant advertisements for upcoming television shows and movies, there are just a few, smaller ads on Wednesday. Where the stores and restaurants of the Gaslamp Quarter are normally decorated with vibrant window paint and signs promoting special superhero-inspired food and drinks, there are holiday decorations and much of the business continued as usual.

Even the goody bags, which convention attendees are given when they get their official Comic-Con badges, included a bottle of hand sanitizer to help keep germs at bay.

Comic-Con fans and exhibitors picking up their badges Wednesday were well aware that the “Special Edition” would have its own flavor, but most were happy to be there all the same.

“It’s just nice to have it back,” said San Diegan Vivian Paredes, who is attending for the fifth time. “I think it will be interesting because normally it’s just packed to the rafters and so maybe this year, obviously it’s on a smaller scale, so that may be cool in and of itself, having it be more intimate.”

Paredes also noted how the cooler November weather was much more appealing than the hot days of July.

Pre-pandemic, the usual expectation for Comic-Con attendance was an estimated 135,000 people. This weekend, Glanzer said about 40,000 to 50,000 people were expected but also, the usually difficult to obtain attendance badges would be for sale on-site for anyone wanting to attend at the last minute.

Fullerton-based artist Alexis Cañedo, who just recently started a business called Infinity Rise 1, said the smaller version of Comic-Con feels like a much-needed big break for cracking into the business. Cañedo will be exhibiting original illustrations, stickers and other merchandise at booth LL-34 in Artists’ Alley.

“This is a big deal for me,” the National City native said. “It’s a big moment in my life. I’m only 22 so it’s a moment that’s unbelievable. I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity just because it’s Comic-Con. I thought it would take me years to get into it.”

For other attendees picking up their badges on Wednesday, the timing of Comic-Con Special Edition was perfect. One guest said he had tried and failed for 9 years to get a badge and was excited to finally be attending. Another said she usually travels during the summer, so the fall event was better for her schedule.

Parents Anna Zelenak and Alex Watson brought their three kids to get their badges and said the only downside they could see was that in the summer, they have more time to plan a family cosplay and this year, with the school year and holidays, they wouldn’t be dressing up. They were still giddy with excitement.

“We’re coming to Comic-Con every time it happens, as long as they’ll have us,” Zelenak said.

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