Having griped about this largest-of-its-kind event in the past — the long lines, dizzying logistics, cramped crowds, and strange smells associated with all those costumes — it’s hard not to acutely feel its absence. The reasons to complain about Comic-Con are, suddenly, all the reasons to miss it.
Among all the pastimes and pleasures lost, few events more acutely demonstrate the hunger for community, and indeed, the ability to conjure those feelings of connection around entertainment — from collecting comic books or watching niche web shows to the broadest offerings from cultural titans like Marvel, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
Comic-Con celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, having ballooned from a smallish assembly that occupied a couple of hotel ballrooms in the early 1970s into the massive undertaking that spills out of the convention center into nearby hotels filled by its guests.
Still, the enthusiasm that permeated the convention offered a lingering connection to its origins, and a sense that many who attended spent all year anticipating the opportunity to assemble in person with those who shared their infatuations, however obscure and arcane some of them might be.
Like most of the virtual events orchestrated in the last several months, Comic-Con is trying to offer a taste of that as a stopgap measure. But it seems more imperfect than most, given how fundamental the immersive aspect of being surrounded by pop culture for several days has always been to the experience.
The emphasis on fantasy won’t prevent the panels from addressing our current reality, including sessions on whether pop culture can promote mental wellness during the pandemic, and a discussion of what we can learn about dealing with infectious diseases moderated by “World War Z” author Max Brooks.
As someone who has occasionally approached making that drive down Interstate 5 to San Diego with trepidation if not quite dread, getting back to all that the convention has to offer — even the lousier parts — sounds awfully good right now.
Until then, Comic-Con@Home will have to do. And hopefully in the near future — whenever there’s an actual convention again — remembering this time should quiet any grumbling when the impulse to grumble arises.