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San Diego Comic-Con Moves Online Due To The Pandemic

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To a summer ritual now. Usually around this time of year, more than 125,000 people pack downtown San Diego, a massive gathering to celebrate their favorite comics and movies and TV shows and more. Well, that is not happening due to the pandemic, but the 2020 San Diego Comic-Con is kicking off today. Like so much this summer, it's online-only, which actually comes with some benefits. Fans can watch panel discussions on YouTube instead of waiting in endless lines - fans including NPR books editor Petra Mayer.

Hey, Petra.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: Hey. So can we start with a visual, please?

MAYER: (Laughter).

KELLY: Because costumes are a big deal at Comic-Con, and I know you are never one to let an opportunity slip by. So whatcha (ph) wearing?

MAYER: Yeah. I mean, what was I going to do with it, you know? I can't wear it to the con. So I'm...

KELLY: True.

MAYER: ...Wearing a green-and-gold medieval dress, a gold serpent-eating-its-tail ring and a hand-mounted light-up plastic fireball. And people out there who are my folks will know what I say when I say that I am an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah.

KELLY: I have no idea what that is, but I am in awe...

MAYER: (Laughter) That's OK.

KELLY: ...And now insanely jealous as well. OK. Now that you're in your fabulous costume we've established, what kind of events are you looking forward to? What can you actually watch now that it's all gone online?

MAYER: Yeah. So there's about 350 panels scheduled on YouTube. I think, given what's going on right now, the Max Brooks panel is going to be popular. He's going to talk about zombie outbreaks versus real disease outbreaks. There's a couple of big TV panels. There'll be a lot of people there from the "Star Trek" universe, including Patrick Stewart. Yay. "The Walking Dead" always has a big presence. HBO is going to be there with shows like "Lovecraft Country" and "His Dark Materials." Lin-Manuel Miranda will be there for that. Also yay.

There's going to be an online exhibition hall so you can, like, click on all the vendors and do your convention impulse buying from home. And as you said, actually, this is one of the benefits because, like, if you've actually been to San Diego Comic-Con, you know you can last about 10 minutes on the show floor crammed in like sardines before you want to start throwing punches. So...

KELLY: (Laughter).

MAYER: ...Being able to shop virtually is great. And of course, also, the Eisner Awards, which are kind of like the Oscars of comics, will be held online on Friday.

KELLY: You almost persuaded me with that sardine comment, but it still seems like this is an event where you just want to be there. You want to be in the crowd.

MAYER: Yeah. I mean, that's the thing about San Diego in particular that you don't really see at other conventions. They have these big interactive experiences, and they're called activations or immersive marketing, which sounds kind of weird. But what it actually means is that you get to dress up like a zombie or a Viking or reenact a sequence from a TV show. It's really fun, and none of it is happening this year, unfortunately.

KELLY: Speaking of things going on, sometimes news gets made at Comic-Con. The big studios show up. They announce, you know, movie, TV deals. Anything percolating this year?

MAYER: Yeah. No. Not much is going on. The - you know, so many movies have been delayed. The major studios have almost no presence here this year because, you know, things like "Black Widow" or "Wonder Woman," which you would normally expect to have a big presence - there's just nothing. There's a couple of Marvel-adjacent TV panels. DC, I don't think is present at all. They're actually doing their own event called DC FanDome next month. I mean, I think you can get, like, an official Batman con T-shirt, but that's it.

KELLY: What are you most excited for, Petra?

MAYER: "Bill & Ted Face The Music." Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter and even William Sadler, who played Death - they're going to be there. I'm so excited for that. And then there's going to be a retrospective panel with Charlize Theron talking about all of her awesome action hero roles, so that is going to be so cool.

KELLY: NPR's Petra Mayer giving us a little preview there of a very different San Diego Comic-Con this year.

Thanks, Petra.

MAYER: You're very welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIASMOS' "SWAYED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.