On Friday, the presenter Reedpop postponed Florida Supercon, moving the fan event from May 8-10 to the Fourth of July weekend at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Reedpop cited its monitoring of the covid-19 virus outbreak in complying with Florida’s request that large gatherings be postponed or canceled.
“We know that this decision is going to greatly impact many of our individual creators, small businesses and service workers,” Reedpop said in a statement. “We will do everything that we can over the coming weeks to highlight your work so that as a community we can come together to support you.”
Multi-day fan events are known for taxing even the strongest immune systems. Many creators sit at convention-floor tables for long hours, sometimes eating and drinking in the same confined space where they sign autographs, draw custom art and pose for photos with fans. Symptoms of fatigue and illness from such gatherings are commonly referred to as “con crud.”
The threat of the novel coronavirus in that environment heightens the concerns of touring creators.
“I’ve just adopted a wait-and-see approach to everything,” said Eisner Award-winning author John Layman (“Chew” and “Chu”), who had planned to attend WonderCon.
“The news cycle is moving so fast, I don’t know if there will even be comic book conventions in a few weeks, or how long the virus-related hiatus will last,” Layman said. “I’m not doing any conventions in the near-future, and I’m just cautiously optimistic that things will be better in time for the summer convention season.”
Comic-Con International cited California Department of Public Health recommendations in its decision to postpone WonderCon.
Meanwhile, “We continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con,” the company told The Washington Post in a statement about the event, set for July 23-26, that in past years has drawn more than 125,000 people.
In the larger Washington D.C., region, Awesome Con D.C. in early May and Baltimore Comic Con in October said there has been no change in plans.
“Awesome Con is planned to run as scheduled,” said a representative of the event, marketing director Lauren Dabb. “Any changes to that plan will happen based on changes to the recommendations made available from the CDC, U.S. and D.C. public health guidelines.”
“Our exhibitors, fans, sponsors, creators and publishers have been patient and trusting in our decision to follow” those recommendations, said the organizer.
Awesome Con D.C. draws tens of thousands of people to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This year’s event, set for May 1-3, is scheduled to offer an array of panels and appearances, including such top-billed guests as actors Zachary Levi, Michael J. Fox, Christina Ricci and Sean Astin. (Post requests for comment sent to those actors were not returned.)
Awesome Con D.C. said it has “not had any cancellations” of top talent advertised to appear at the event.
Baltimore Comic Con, set for Oct. 23-25 at the Inner Harbor’s Baltimore Convention Center, told The Post: “We are six months out yet and are still planning on holding the convention.”
Artists and exhibitors have been adjusting to the shifting fan-convention season in the United States at least since the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state, when they began raising questions on social media about Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Reedpop eventually postponed the Seattle event, which had been scheduled for March 12-15. No new dates have been announced.
“Postponing a show is a difficult decision, but an easy one to explain in these times,” Reedpop President Lance Fensterman told The Post. Reedpop successfully staged the fan conventions PAX East in Boston and the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, both of which concluded March 1. It also presents MCM Comic Con in London and BookExpo in New York — both scheduled for late May. Each of their events will be evaluated "on a case-by-case basis, following public health guidelines.
“Ultimately the most complicated thing is that fans want to gather and be fans," said Fensterman, adding: The most difficult thing is not being able to give those fans what they crave and love.”
Some cartoonists are passing on smaller festivals and author tours, as well.
Gene Luen Yang, the comic-book writer (Superman) and artist, has canceled his two-week book tour to support his graphic novel “Dragon Hoops.” The book’s release next week had been timed to the “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament, which the NCAA canceled this week. The tour cancellation was “a really hard decision,” says Yang, a National Book Award finalist, as he watched the Emerald City Comic Con and SXSW to gauge how the pandemic was affecting pop events.
Yang also weighed his personal reasons: “I have a history of asthma and a chronic cough. I don’t want to get sick myself, of course, but I was worried my cough would scare people."
NPR journalist and cartoonist Malaka Gharib said she chose to cancel events in Boston and Los Angeles, as well as a scuttled zine fest this month in the District.
Gharib, author of the graphic memoir “I Was Their American Dream,” is instead channeling her creativity into artwork about the pandemic. A comic that serves as a children’s guide to the virus has been widely shared.
“It helped that we had three child psychologists break down the best way to communicate to children: Reassure; reassure; and reassure that they will be safe,” said Gharib of the comic, noting that it has been translated into a dozen languages and used in schools and libraries.
Gharib also created an NPR comic about how she is altering her habits to try to follow CDC and WHO guidelines about the virus.
Yang says the pandemic might affect the touring of cartoonists, but that it won’t dampen their creativity. “Comic-book people are going to keep making comics, and artists are going to keep making art,” he says. “It keeps some of us from getting overwhelmed by anxiety.”
[This story has been updated]