Not that it will make the San Diego Comic-Con circus any quieter, but one of the biggest offsites, Nerd HQ, will not be held this year, or most likely, in the future, as revealed by founder/Shazam Zachary Levi.
The event started in 2011 and became a magnet for those seeking Hall H type action without the camping, with a line-up of panels featuring top stars. Individual tickets could be purchased for each panel – although you could get into the space for free. There were parties and benefits and it was all a to-do.
The first few years it was held a PetCo Park before moving to the Children’s Museum, but last year it wasn’t held at all, mostly due to Levi having a hard time funding it. Last year he was thinking of turning it into a non profit:
After being asked by fans whether he would consider launching a Nerd HQ event in Toronto, Levi launched into a story about Nerd HQ’s trouble finding backing. He explained that, historically, he had fronted all of the costs associated with Nerd HQ events, reimbursing himself when sponsorship money came in. After two major sponsors pulled out, and Levi lost a lot of his personal money, he decided to attempt crowdfunding to pay for Nerd HQ events, but that too was unsuccessful.
“We did an IndieGoGo campaign and I hoped that if we went out to the fans…surely all the people of the world who are getting all this stuff for free will put in $5, and they didn’t,” Levi admitted. “So I’m going to take Nerd HQ, I’m going to streamline it, I’m going to take all of the for-profit of it away. The whole company will be a wash for me, and I’m happy to do that because I’m going to turn it into a full nonprofit foundation and that means, if you guys actually want Nerd HQ to happen anymore, on the website, I’ll put a little donate deal and you guys can all put money into it.”
Interestingly, his Instagram post suggests he might take it to other cities, which raises the point that the folks who run Comic-Con aren’t always keen on the many off-sites that have sprung up outside the convention center. As Kerry Dixon points out:
Comic-Con International has also seemed to crack down on panels being held outside the convention center – both Nerdist’s short-interview-style panels and Nerd HQ disappeared last year.
Of course this doesn’t mean NO offsites – there will be activations aplenty this year, and the parking lot next to PetCo is being turned into some kind of carnival, aka “Experience at Comic-Con”.
Still, the idea of a competing schedule of celebrity chats doesn’t seem to fly any more.
I will say I only went to Nerd HQ once but it seemed like a fun addition to the circus. And it will be missed by some, as Jenny Lampe wrote for Dual Pixels
Some might wonder, why is this such a blow? Aren’t there plenty of other free things to do? It is Comic Con after all. In my opinion, no one else has been able to match the offerings that Nerd HQ brought year in and year out. Every year, Nerd HQ would release their schedule for Conversations for a Cause. While these were not free, the $22 went to Operation Smile, a charity that helps those suffering from cleft lip or cleft palate (www.operationsmile.org). Zachary Levi would invite his friends to come sit down and talk in front of an intimate crowd of about 200 people. The conversations were always fun, and the closeness of the audience and guests couldn’t be matched. As you can probably guess, these conversations were highly sought after, making tickets difficult to get. Mostly, you had to get lucky… as is the standard when it comes to Comic Con. But the conversations were only one part of the puzzle. If you couldn’t get tickets to one of the conversations, most times you could count on your favorite celebrities to visit the Smiles for Smiles photograph line. Once again, Nerd HQ asked for a donation to Operation Smile in order to get a photo op with your favorite TV or movie personality.
Does this mean that SDCC is – gasp – getting smaller? As mentioned above, not really, but as with many things in the con space, it’s possible that we have reached Peak Activity, and the show will remain the same size for a while.
Still dreamin’ about that offsite sanctioned indie comics fest, though.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.