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What Is San Diego Comic-Con Playing At?

A bunch of Marvel fans gathering together in a way that would be socially irresponsible to do now.
A bunch of Marvel fans gathering together in a way that would be socially irresponsible to do now.
Photo: Rich Polk (Getty)

Because one of the most effective means of combating the spread of the novel coronavirus is to avoid any sort of large crowd in which one might be exposed to the virus, a number of high-profile gatherings like Emerald City Comic Con, E3, and Mobile World Congress have all been canceled. The logic behind why those organizers decided to cancel or delay their respective conventions is easy enough to understand: People don’t want to risk their lives over clustering into convention centers to have a bit of fun.


But the speed with which those conventions all made clear to the public that they were taking the pandemic seriously has also highlighted how other big names in the space have been rather mum about the entire situation. This afternoon, San Diego Comic-Con’s organizers posted a message to their official Twitter account expressing...their hopes that the covid-19 crisis calms down in time for SDCC to kick off as proceeded in July.

While the organization explained that it’s keeping abreast of new covid-19-related developments and implied that its plans may change, the overall thrust of the messages was that for now, people are meant to assume that San Diego Comic-Con is going to proceed as planned.


One does not simply cancel San Diego Comic-Con, an event that has generated over $19 million in previous years and consistently brings massive waves of business into the city annually. But in the face of a pandemic, one can and arguably should cancel San Diego Comic-Con—specifically because of the fact that it traditionally draws attendees from around the globe to be jammed together into enclosed spaces. Even if the U.S. somehow saw a drop in reported infections in the coming weeks, there’s no guarantee that there might not be outbreaks in the future that begin with people flocking to Southern California in July to wait in line to watch movie trailers.

Obviously, there’s a ton of cash at stake. But there’s an argument to be made that the long-term costs of a coronavirus-tinged SDCC would be far, far greater. To put things quite bluntly, the novel coronavirus is killing people. The virus is not so lethal that everyone who contracts it is guaranteed to die, but deaths related to the virus are not uncommon enough to dismiss or downplay the reality that the virus is a legitimate threat to the public’s well being.


SDCC would likely take a hit, but that’s a possibility that the convention’s organizers have supposedly considered in the past. Because SDCC tends to come out making more money than it costs to actually put the event on, organizers have stated in the past that profits for any one given year go into a fund for future conventions. One imagines that the people behind SDCC never anticipated that the convention might need to be full-on cancelled, but that’s the terrible things about unexpected events: You can’t see them coming.

Beyond doing its part to avoid contributing to the spread of coronavirus, SDCC also has the opportunity to add its voice to the chorus of others that are trying to convey to the public how series this outbreak really is. The sooner everyone’s on the same page about how dire this situation is and what we can all collectively do to protect ourselves from the virus, the sooner we can all get back to our regular lives.


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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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Chip Overclock®

There is probably some financial advantage if they wait to cancel until the governor officially extends the stay-at-home order to cover July. Then the Con can exercise the “force majeure” clauses in their contracts and claim forces beyond their control.