Massive show floor changes, no booths for Dark Horse, D&Q and others

The two week countdown to SDCC ’22 is ON, and more and more is being revealed about this shape of the first post-pandemic con. And there will be a LOT of changes on the show floor.

It’s not just WBD/DC Comics that won’t have a booth: Dark Horse, D&Q and Graphitti Designs are among those who will not be setting up in 2022, as reported by Publishers Weekly. (Spoiler: the reporter is me.) In addition, Skybound will not be setting up its own section of the Image booth, so the Image booth will be downsized to NYCC dimensions. But new booths will fill those spots, as water fills sandy footprints, and Immortal Studios, Interpop, Tapas Media/Wuxia World, Three Worlds/Three Moons, and Z2 will all be first time exhibitors.

And despite all the recent turmoil, I’m told Oni will be exhibiting.

But this year the layout of the exhibit floor at the San Diego Convention Center will feature significant changes. Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly formed parent company of DC, has pulled out of the massive booth that once anchored the end of one hall and housed DC’s SDCC booth presence. DC will have a full lineup of panels and talent, but no booth. Dark Horse Comics, which has had a large centrally located booth for years, will also be missing, along with the longtime floor presence of indie publisher Drawn & Quarterly and publisher/merchandise producer Graphitti Designs. Image Comics, also a major presence on the exhibit floor, will have a much smaller booth.

Making up for this, newer graphic novel publishers, such as Immortal Studios, Interpop, Tapas Media/Wuxia World, Three Worlds/Three Moons, and Z2, will have booths for the first time. Gaming company G4 is returning, and Toei Animation is attending. And, perhaps in a sign of the times, toy company Funko will have a huge presence—an interactive area called the Funkoverse. And Marvel is returning to Hall H—the massive space used to present the casts and preview footage from blockbuster films—despite rumors it would opt for a spot at Disney’s own D23 Expo event in September.

I spoke with reps at D&Q, Dark Horse, Image and more, all quoted in the article, but the reasons for pulling out are a spectrum of the changes we all feel after what is turning out to be the world changing event of our times: fatigue, worry about how many consumers are coming back, and just plain…it’s time.

Dark Horse cited “being sensitive to staff well-being,” but does plan to make announcements during the show. It’s not clear if they will have programming.

Image and Skybound cited not being sure how consumers will interact at conventions before setting up the big booths again. In the case of the Skybound Lounge – a luxurious pop-up that served surprisingly good Walking Dead wine and was a respite from con crazy – the restaurant where it was held is under renovation and, like many venues on the con circuit, has significantly upscaled during the pandemic.

D&Q was more of an it’s time thing – the publisher has been cutting back on going to comic-focused cons for a while, but does attend book industry events and book fairs, like AWP (Association of Writing Programs), ALA Annual and Winter Institute . And they will still partner with book fair and indie comics show to provide guests and programming.

I haven’t spoken directly to Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs, but a three year layoff is a good time to decide to move on.

I keep hearing that COVID concerns will prevent many people from going back to big crowded shows. And the news of massive crowds and Fire Marshal shut downs at this weekend’s Anime Expo are enough to give anyone an anxiety attack.

Throw in a big outbreak of Omicron 4 and 5 – both ultra communicable – across California and you definitely have a petri dish for illness. There were outbreaks of Covid following TCAF, NFT NYC and ALA, and just about every con these days.

So it’s wise to be worried. The fact is, though, lots and lots of people – mostly young folks – aren’t worried about getting Covid again or for the first time. Many people will be missing from Comic-Con, but lots of new folks will take their place. Or as Z2’s Josh Frankel put it, “More and more people are spending on events, there’s a pent-up demand, and I think people are going to be crazy about going back to Comic-Con.”

In other words, for those who are eager to go to Comic-Con, Covid is not a consideration. Given what happened at Anime Expo, I expect to see the typical SDCC-sized crowds in a few weeks. And it will be just as hard as ever to get into the Funko booth.

Con programming will be rolling out this week, so get ready! The spectacle returns indeed,

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