Coronavirus concerns are spreading this week as the pandemic sweeps across the globe. As such, comics — which is on the brink of the annual con season that jams fans, creators, publishers, and whoever else into small spaces together from now until about October — is facing concerns of its own.
We’re two days away from the start of Chicago’s C2E2, which will essentially kick-off the North American con season in earnest. Two weeks later, the industry will reconvene in Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, with nearly 3,000 related fatalities across the globe. In a typical year of comics conventions, illness concern is a factor for many attendees, who almost-affectionately refer to the colds that result from inadvertently sharing personal space with hundreds of strangers as “con crud.”
The coronavirus, however, is actually frightening comics folks, with a number of pros taking to social media this week to let fans know they would be limiting physical contact at their annual appearances. You can see some of these reactions embedded below, but the gist of it is that, due to coronavirus concerns, pros are cutting handshakes in favor of cool nods and brief fist bumps.
Here’s what some pros are telling fans via social media:
I very sincerely appreciate every single one of my fans and hold a special place for those that go out of their way to come see me at shows and signings, but it’s just not worth it for me or you! Just know that I mean no disrespect and god forbid, I’m not big timing anyone!
— Mitch Gerads (@MitchGerads) February 25, 2020
Yeah, I really think shaking hands with fans is important to sort of saying thank you for everything. However, with all the news, for your health and ours, we’re going to do a no touching, cool nods thing for the next bunch of signings. I appreciate you all understanding. https://t.co/yQRwIk9Sly
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) February 25, 2020
With a pregnant wife and 2 year old at home and wanting to be what I can not to bring anything home I’ll be following Mitch’s approach in regards to human contact at ECCC, but know that I cherish each and every fan that’s going to come see me. I’ll give each of you a saucy wink x https://t.co/KEucwFiHPo
— Christian Ward is coming to ECCC! (@cjwardart) February 25, 2020
Fans: let’s just make a pact that we’re not gonna shake hands at cons, anymore. Come up, say hi, chat, etc. let’s have fun. But the handshakes are killing us, and we miss the next con and blow the deadlines, and you don’t want that any more than we do. https://t.co/LqM6LqEQkI
— Brad Brad Walker (@IAmBradWalker) February 16, 2020
Yeeeeeaaah, same here. As someone who's prone to con crud as-is… https://t.co/zGAnflGAv7
— Jody Houser ✒️🗯️🎲 (@Jody_Houser) February 25, 2020
C2E2 update: 1)One more to go after this one. 2) due to the CDC's latest report, I'll be joining others in avoiding handshakes and such this weekend. Don't want to overreact, but also want to employ basic wisdom.
And finally 3) – let's all have a great show! pic.twitter.com/eHAsLvvMpr
— Lee Weeks (@Inkdropinc) February 26, 2020
Cons for now are proceeding as planned. You have to dig a little bit to find it (it’s in the “Hotels” section, not linked to the homepage), but both C2E2 and Emerald City have issued statements on their websites, noting that the company that organizes both of these events, Reed Exhibitions, “strongly urge our exhibitors and visitors to refer to the guidelines and protocols as suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local /national public health authorities regarding the virus.” For their part, the events are following related guidelines that will see them bolstering public health messaging to be displayed during the cons, as well as strengthening the availability of disinfectants and medical support.
“We have implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitization across the show,” said Kristina Rogers, Event Director C2E2 Reedpop, in a statement sent to The Beat. “Including adhering to the recommendations set forth in the U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus.”
The statement can be found in full at the bottom of this post. One imagines the statement is also applicable to ECCC, given the two events are organized by the same folks. (Not-so-fun fact: the first U.S. case of coronavirus was in Everett, WA, roughly twenty miles north of Seattle, where Emerald City Comic Con is set to take place. As of last Friday, though, that patient was “fully recovered,” according to the county health district.)
Elsewhere in the world, book events that also feature comics are moving dates due to coronavirus concerns, specifically the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair, which was slated to start March 30 in that Italian city but will now begin May 4, the delay owing specifically to coronavirus concerns. This all makes sense, given that Italy has had an outbreak of the virus so severe that the New York Times cited the incident as a cause for wider global health concerns. Scary stuff. At the same time, the Bologna event was (and presumably still is) planning to roll out a new major comics section, dubbed the Comics Corner.
Finally, it is worth noting that none of this is unique to comics events. Other industries are also grappling with coronavirus concerns, with massive events such as the industry-leading cybersecurity conference RSA in San Francisco seeing foundational tech giants like Facebook, Verizon, and IBM pull out. The uber-media conference SXSW in Austin, Texas, is proceeding as planned, although organizers have seen a handful of cancellations popping up.
Your own level of concern will likely vary, of course. I’m personally going to be even more fanatical about hand sanitizer than I usually am at shows, and I may travel with more medicine, too. I’m also probably making the handshake-to-fist bump transition all season, and I’m not going to sort through many back issue bins or eat any meals on con floors, both of which have long struck me as unsanitary behaviors many attendees don’t think twice about.
Anyway, here’s wishing us all a safe and happy con season. If I see you out there this year, I’m happy to stop for a chat and fist bump. And now the full statement from C2E2 organizers:
C2E2 wants to express our concern for everyone impacted by the COVID-19 virus. The well being of our global Reedpop community, from our attendees and exhibitors to our staff on site at every show – is of the utmost importance to Reedpop and we take pride in creating a positive environment to celebrate comics, cosplay and pop culture.
C2E2 2020 will take place as scheduled February 28 through March 1 at McCormick Place in Chicago. We have implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitization across the show, including adhering to the recommendations set forth in the U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus. We are working closely with McCormick Place and following local, state and federal public health guidelines, including those issued by the CDC. For more information on those measures and the virus, please visit the McCormick Place website.
We are looking forward to a great show and can’t wait to share our top exhibitors, autograph sessions, panels, screening rooms, exclusives, After Dark events and a massive Artist Alley with our fans.