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San Diego Comic-Con 2021: Dates, Presentations, And How To Watch At Home

For the second year in a row, the San Diego Comic-Con is cancelling its in-person July event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the increasing availability of vaccines has led to hope among movie theaters, airlines, sports teams, restaurants –– you know, just about everyone –– that the country will be on the path toward a resumption of public life by later this year, the uncertainty of the situation has led the convention's organizers, Comic-Con International, to err on the side of caution and pull an event that typically sees thousands of people gathered in largely indoor spaces. "While we lament the postponement of the in-person Comic-Con, our commitment to this community of fans and our celebration of comics and the related popular arts endures as an important part of who we are," the organizers wrote in a Twitter statement.

Like last year, Comic-Con International has announced that the 2021 celebration of all things geek culture will be replaced with a three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event that fans from around the world can participate in online. The statement contained some hope for a return to in-person events by, perhaps, the end of the year, but as far as this summer is concerned, here's when and how you can watch this July's Comic-Con events from the safety of your home.

When will 2021's Comic-Con@Home event be held?

The three-day Comic-Con@Home 2021 event is currently scheduled for July 23-25, 2021 and will be free for anyone in the world to stream or watch later. As of this writing, a schedule for the various panels has not been announced, but stay tuned for more information.

Officially, Comic-Con International is referring to what's happened to the convention as a postponement. Badge holders and exhibitors from the 2020 convention who did not seek a refund will have their access automatically rolled over to the 2022 event.  

Looking further ahead, Comic-Con is still tentatively moving forward with hosting a smaller, three-day, in-person event in San Diego in November of 2021: "As the timing and scope of our larger event factored greatly into our decision to postpone, we believe that launching a smaller in-person event at a later time may be a safe alternative," the statement reads. Dates, costs, and likely attendance caps are all still in the process of being worked out for this potential event, presuming that the pandemic is, by that time, under control. 

Who will be presenting at Comic-Con@Home 2021?

Unfortunately, last year's virtual event failed to spark the same sort of excitement the traditional convention does. Variety reported that the engagement on social media from the 2020 Comic-Con@Home event fell off precipitously compared to 2019's in-person event, with 95 percent fewer tweets mentioning the event. Part of the reason for this may be that last year's Comic-Con@Home event did not feature panels from industry heavy-hitters like Marvel Studios, LucasFilm and DC Films. Instead, the biggest-name panels were largely TV-based, including The Walking Dead and the Star Trek Universe panel.

As of yet, it's unclear whether any of last year's no-shows will be participating. Marvel, according to current schedules, will have recently released Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earlier that month and will have the likes of The Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and its Hawkeye series coming later in the year. DC will be weeks away from releasing The Suicide Squad, and will have The Batman (and The Lego Batman Movie 2) coming in early 2022, which they might want to promote. Lucasfilm's The Book of Boba Fett is scheduled for late 2021, and it has a plethora of other series and films in the works that it could want to drop some news for.

Will that be enough to get these studios involved this year? It's tough to say. If the events are going to be all-virtual anyway, there has, thus far, been a preference on the part of these larger conglomerates to host their own. For now, stay tuned.

How to watch Comic-Con@Home 2021

For those who attended last year's virtual event, the easiest ways to watch the panels were either by following the links from the schedule page on the main Comic-Con website, or by simply following along with the Comic-Con YouTube channel.

Last year's event was a mixture of true live-streamed events and pre-recorded panels or presentations that were then streamed as though they were live, so there would be no skipping ahead to the good parts. The trouble for many fans, as reported in Indie Wire, was that the format limited the sort of fan interaction — both with each other, and with the creators of their favorite properties — that makes Comic-Con so special: the Q&A's, the organic nature of the discussions, even the arguments that occur while waiting in line to get into a panel. 

On the other hand, one benefit to an all-virtual event is increased accessibility, not just for people for whom the vacation time and travel expenses might be prohibitive, but also for people who would typically have a challenging time negotiating the crowded convention space. Hopefully, with more time to plan for the virtual element this year, Comic-Con International will find a way to bring the best of both worlds together in July.