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Product Exclusives at First Virtual Comic-Con

What would have been the 51st annual San Diego Comic-Con International was to take place later this week until the coronavirus pandemic caused its cancellation. As an alternative, the annual pop culture and comic book fan fest is presenting more than 350 panel discussions online for Comic-Con@Home 2020 as well as making exhibitors available from the virtual convention floor to offer exclusive products for sale, promotional links and more. Among San Fernando Valley area companies taking part in the panel discussions are Warner Bros. Entertainment; NBCUniversal; Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment; and Nacelle Co., a content creation and distribution company in Burbank. Also part of the virtual convention are interactive activities for fans such as the sidewalk art challenge and a cosplay challenge. Jason Labowitz, president of Entertainment Earth, a pop culture collectibles vendor in Simi Valley, said in an email to the Business Journal that Comic-Con was the entertainment industry’s Super Bowl. It was a huge disappointment that the convention was cancelled but he and the staff understand and support the decision. “It’s really the quintessential event and an opportune time for us to celebrate our industry,” Labowitz said in the email. “Not being there physically is definitely a loss for us and the industry as a whole, so the giant spectacle and celebration that is San Diego Comic-Con will be greatly missed this year.” Along with taking part as a virtual exhibitor at Comic-Con@Home, Entertainment Earth is launching exclusives intended for the con on its website. “The goal is to ensure that products originally developed for convention attendees are available at home, online,” Labowitz wrote in the email. “We want fans to have access even without the physical event taking place.” Among the exclusives the company is offering are a WWE Elite Mr. T action figure, a Funko Pop! vinyl figure of “Batman” villain Ra’s al Ghul, two 30th anniversary “Twin Peaks” enamel pin sets and a jack-in-the-box with the Joker popping out of it. As an alternative to Comic-Con, Sideshow Collectibles, in Thousand Oaks, will host Sideshow Con, a virtual event from July 20 to 26 that will center around a physical booth space for a unique twist on the company’s typical convention format. Andy Smith, public relations manager, said the idea to host Sideshow Con was born from the sadness over the cancellation of the annual San Diego event. The company wanted to find a way to showcase its new products of original and licensed figurines yet bring in the engagement, discussion and interaction of an in-person event. “We decided to build a physical real-world Sideshow booth space, and we’re filling it with new and never-before-seen (and fan favorite) products from Sideshow as well as our brand partners like Hot Toys, PCS Collectibles and DC Direct,” Smith said in statement. Sideshow Con will feature giveaways, contests, convention-exclusive products, special guests, artist interviews and all the things one would expect from Sideshow at San Diego Comic-Con. Chief Executive Greg Anzalone said the company has been going to San Diego since 1998 and he would miss it this year. “Hopefully we can bring a little bit of that Comic-Con magic to people at home, and perhaps introduce it to many more people who’ve perhaps never had the opportunity to experience that amazing event in person,” Anzalone said in a statement. Chuck Costas, vice president of business development at The Prop Store, said the Valencia memorabilia auction house will take part in Comic-Con’s virtual exhibit hall and will offer catalogues for two auctions – one for Marvel’s “The Defenders” tied to the Netflix series that ends on July 23 and the second for movie memorabilia that will take place at a later date. That second auction will feature vintage items from such film series as “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” “We came up with an exclusive print for the Marvel auction so the fans can look at it almost like a Comic-Con exclusive,” Costas said. He added that the cancellation of Comic-Con this year was bittersweet, but it will force businesses to interact with fans in a different way. With everybody being able to get a ticket to this year’s virtual event, it will be interesting to see how cons evolve, Costas added. “These more inclusive, online activities are something that I think will continue to evolve because of what is happening with COVID,” he said. “I think it will make the cons in the future better with more of an online component for people all over the world able to participate.” Jim Sullos, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the licensing company for the estate of the “Tarzan” creator, said in an email to the Business Journal that he was putting together a virtual panel for Comic-Con@Home. This follows doing an online panel that was posted at the Comic Con International website as a substitute for the cancelled Wonder Con, in Anaheim, where the Tarzana company was also going to have a booth. Wonder Con was scheduled for April. The firm was unfamiliar with scripting and screening its panel, but it liked the results, as did Comic-Con International, Sullos said. “Since that time, of course, Zoom meetings have become pretty commonplace, and having been through that process we are now pretty comfortable in putting a panel together,” Sullos wrote in the email. One thing that will be different for the online panel is the length. The allotted time for a panel is 50 minutes but Sullos said that was too long for the average attention span on the internet so they were going to cut it down substantially. “But we do have some exciting developments to relate,” Sullos said in the email.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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