Comic book and Gaming conventions and expos throughout the United States were at a standstill due to Covid and the lockdown. But at the beginning of 2022, cons and expos yelled, "We are BACK!" Conventions across the country have opened their doors back up to fans, vendors, and celebrity guests, and they have been posting Covid preventive guidelines to keep the public safe and to ensure those doors stay open. Blerd con even went as far as to provide masks in replace of badges. No mask, no entrance; this was enforced at every entry point of the con.
When asked about extra precautions, Keith Gibbs, owner of Fayetteville Comic Con, stated, "We made sure each vendor had at least one large bottle of hand sanitizer on their table, we provide hand sanitizer on the wall in different areas of this center, and we are making sure the soap in the bathrooms are always full, and we encourage masks to be worn. It is pretty cool to see a lot of cosplayers incorporate the masks into their characters, and it just shows how creative they are and how they can adapt to something like that."
Cosplayers are coming to conventions after the pandemic with new cosplays and updated old cosplays to show off what they have been working on during the pandemic. And as Keith Gibbs mentioned, every convention saw cosplayers adding masks to their cosplay.
"The pandemic gave me a lot of downtime, and YouTube became my best friend." I learned to sew, use EVA foam to create armor, and make props using cardboard and duct tape." James chuckles a little before adding, "And I had plenty of cardboard because Amazon also became my best friend. I ordered quite a bit of accessories and props that I couldn't build."
Cosplayer, James Callaghan, who goes by the cosplay name MootyVision, expressed his excitement to be back cosplaying at cons. He said he was glad new Television shows and movies came out during the pandemic because it gave him new sources to create cosplay from. He is best known for his Batman cosplay, but with films like Disney's Encanto and HBO MAX's Peacemaker, James was able to add on to his cosplay creations. James took this year to debut his new cosplays, which are his Luisa cosplay from the movie Encanto and Peacemaker cosplay from the streaming show Peacemaker.
As reported by Spectrum News 13, Mega Con in Orlando, Florida, broke attendance records with over 140,000. Many are still cautious about leaving their houses to attend crowded conventions, and San Diego Comic-Con had what is considered their usual attendance of 130,000. David Glanzer, chief communications officer and strategy officer at Comic-Con Intl., told Variety Magazine that many people canceled and asked for refunds, but the turnout was still good.
Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham, creators of the comic book Tuskegee Heirs, stated they pivoted to online live shows to interact with fans, but "Nothing beats actually talking to them face to face at cons... it's a whole vibe." They began going "live" on Instagram as a way to stay connected with fans in the middle of the pandemic. Marcus would draw characters while having discussions with Greg. They would talk about current events and pop culture and bounce ideas off each other. Fans would join in on their conversations, which helped pass the time. But Marcus stated that technology sometimes couldn't be trusted, and it would become a little frustrating because comments were coming in delayed, "So we would have moved on to another topic, and people's comments would come in about a few minutes later about the previous topic. And honestly, I would forget what I had said, so I would sit there trying to remember. It was a bit frustrating. Whereas in person, there are no comment delays."
Comic book artist Glenn Urieta also talked about his experiences going from convention shows to Instagram Live and back to cons. But his take on it was just a little different from Marcus's and Greg's.
Karen Whitfield, from the Bronze Age Batgirl series, has taken this year to start doing cons, which has a feel to the tours she, Adam West, and Burt Ward used to do.
Fans and vendors alike were happy to be back interacting with each other in person. The sense of community and joy of being back can be felt throughout the con floors. Cosplayers are able to create group cosplays in the same space, and they are able to take group photos and have them displayed on the con's website. Fans are able to ask their favorite artists, celebrities, and writers for pictures, autographs, or industry questions face-to-face. And vendors are able to watch the delight on customers' faces as they find the collector's item they have been looking for; they are able to hold it and buy it right there and then without having to pay for shipping or wait for the item to be delivered. Many vendors and guests have expressed how much they have missed seeing fans in person, talking to them in real-time, and just being around like-minded people.
Gaming and Comic book cons are still taking Covid seriously and post requirements on their websites that con goers need to be aware of, such as proof of vaccinations, mask requirements, and giving fans the heads up that photo opt with some of the celebrities would have plexiglass in between them. Now that the con season is coming to a close and the con owners feel it has been a successful comeback, they have been announcing 2023's dates for each con. Many fans are happy to be back in the swing of con life. Traveling, getting into their favorite cons, showing off their latest cosplay creation, buying collectibles, and seeing their favorite celebrities up close is why congoers do not mind following the directions set forth by the con owners on their websites. After what felt like the longest two years without conventions, it has put a smile and joy on people's faces to have cons back.