Comic conventions and film festivals are my life. When I’m not at one, I’m usually thinking about the last one or the next one on the horizon. They’re a hub of celebration where I feel at one with my fellow enthusiasts, who stoke my passion when other aspects of my life are grim or just frustratingly dull. I travel many miles and across state lines to acquire the gaps in my various collections, meet face-to-face with the creators who inspire and enrich my imagination, and participate in the never-ending conversations of who would be on my ideal X-Men roster.
I need to be with my people, but with the World Health Organization officially labeling the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, convention season has hit a wall. Three of the largest con events, Emerald City Comic Con, E3, and WonderCon, have already been canceled or postponed, and while we’re still waiting for word on the king of them all, July’s San Diego Comic-Con, the situation looks unlikely at the moment. Even Disneyland is shutting its doors until the end of March. When the Mouse House takes notice, you should too.
Does that mean you must trap yourself in your home, and all fun must cease? No. The celebration can continue, and at least one corporation is attempting to adapt to this temporary form of living.
Wizard World Entertainment, the company that produces dozens of conventions centered around comics, movies, games, and general pop culture, is launching a new “Wizard World Virtual Experience” by the end of the month. While the specific celebrities and creators attached to these online sessions have yet to be announced, Wizard World says they will be offering participants the opportunity to purchase one-minute personal video chats with guests, 15- or 30-second personalized video recordings, signed 8×10 photos, signed memorabilia, group chats, and exclusive limited edition art. In addition, select session dates will include live video panels available through their website (www.wizardworld.com) at no extra charge.
Replicating the con experience online is a fascinating proposition and one that could go a long way in easing my mind, and a whole lot of others, while the world around us adjusts to a pandemic lifestyle. I can’t even count how many comic book conventions I’ve attended over the years, and my opinions of autograph sessions and meet-and-greets have fluctuated. The chance to say “Thank You” to the person who steered your artistic taste is as thrillingly intimate as it is oddly distant. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. If you do, you do.
While we wait to hear what the prices will be for video chats, they most likely provide a longer exchange than what you get at the shows themselves. The one time I lined up for a Stan Lee photo op, I got (maybe) 15 seconds to say “hi,” snap a photo, and skedaddle. This is accepted practice, but will folks pay for a designated 15-second virtual “Howdy?” Would I? It depends on the demanded amount of coin.
While it’s easy to fall into a funk over so many cancellations of our favorite events, we must remember that social distancing at this time is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. These decisions are difficult and financially catastrophic for some of the smaller organizations, but they are necessary if we want to avoid jamming our community hospitals with patients. Supplies are not limitless. Lives can be saved if the same amount of people get sick over a longer stretch of time.
The decisions currently being made will not halt the virus. They are meant to radically decrease its spread and prevent you from carrying it to a person whose health may not be as vigorous as your own. Staying free from conventions is merely logical.
Companies like Wizard World must adapt if we want them to remain after this period of social distancing. If you are a regular convention goer like myself, I encourage you to participate in such events as well as support your favorite artists and local comic book shops, by visiting their sites and giving them what money you can spare. They are going to need it.
Currently, Wizard World still has several conventions on their dockets for the near future. Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to attend them. If not, they’ve got another method to keep us entertained.
- Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis
- Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia
June 19th to 21st
- Wizard World Comic ConChicago
Here is their official press release regarding the proposed virtual experience:
Wizard Entertainment To Launch ‘Wizard World Virtual Experiences’ To Bring Convention Experience Online
Video Chats, Recorded Videos, Signed Photos, Memorabilia From Individual Stars, Cast Groups, Superstar Creators Plus Free Live Panels, Launching Via Website, Social Platforms This Month
LOS ANGELES, March 12, 2020 – Wizard Entertainment Inc. (OTCBB:WIZDD) for more than 20 years has produced “Wizard World” events at which attendees have enjoyed meeting celebrities, participating in Q&A panels, collecting signatures and conversing with their favorite artists and writers in gatherings at convention centers across North America. Now Wizard Entertainment will bring that experience online with “Wizard World Virtual Experiences,” which make many of the elements that fans at Wizard World shows love most accessible to everyone regardless of location.
Wizard Entertainment will launch this exciting venture later this month, with the celebrities and groups involved in the inaugural programming to be announced soon. Fans will have the ability to purchase a personal one-minute video chat, :15- or :30-second personalized video recording, signed 8×10 photos and signed memorabilia, group chats and exclusive limited edition art. Select session dates will feature live video panels that are free for fans to view and hear, accessible through the Wizard World website (www.wizardworld.com) and other social media platforms.
“‘Wizard World Virtual Experiences’ will bring the Wizard World experience to fans across the globe, wherever they live,” said John D. Maatta, CEO, Wizard Entertainment, Inc. “We will capture the excitement of interacting one-on-one with celebrities and creators in a format that will be unique and compelling.”
The sessions will be on set dates, with live panels, video chats and signings taking place at designated times during the day.