William Shatner is out. Venture Brothers is out. While the ongoing Writers Guild strike had meant that most of the big studios were pulling out of this year’s SDCC, it was the SAG-AFTRA strike that ended any hopes of seeing nerdlebrities at the show. While panels featuring animation and video games – and a talk by Shatner – were scheduled to happen, they’re now cancelled.  As reported by THR, all of the premieres and panels that had been planned to go on without writers can’t do it without actors. 

With actors now confirmed to be out for the count, the convention’s lineup takes yet another hit with a slew of previously announced panels now canceled, including Legendary, which was secretly planning to bring Dune: Part Two. Also canceled: panels for TV shows such as Amazon’s Wheel of Time, Freevee’s Jury Duty and ABC’s Abbott Elementary.

This year also marks the first time since 2011 that at least one of the two biggest comic-to-film franchisees — Marvel and DC — won’t be holding court in the 6,500-capacity Hall H.

“This is obviously an unusual year,” says Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer. “But that hasn’t diminished the anticipation for Comic-Con.”

While the four and a half day con is still going to be jam packed with comics and book creators, toy exclusives and cosplay, it will be missing some familiar faces. Members of SAG-AFTRA, the union that covers actors, including voice actors, are not allowed to promote work by struck companies – members of  AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers –  and that includes panels and other promotional events at Comic-Con.

There has been some confusion about whether this means SAG members can still appear at conventions where they sign autographs, but Fan Expo, and other celebrity heavy events can rest easy: it appears that actors are still allowed to make personal appearances.

The confusion stems from a memo quoted in Variety that covered forbidden activities:

● Promotion of/publicity services for work under the TV/Theatrical Contracts, such as:
○ Tours
○ Personal appearances
○ Interviews
○ Conventions
○ Fan expos
○ Festivals
○ For your consideration events
○ Panels
○ Premieres/screenings
○ Award shows
○ Junkets
○ Podcast appearances
○ Social media
○ Studio showcases

which does look ominous.

However, the FAQ on the SAGAFTRASTRIKE.ORG website has more information:

Can I participate in conventions?


You cannot participate in conventions such as Comic-Con on behalf of, or to promote, companies we are striking against – this includes appearances, panels, fan meet and greets, etc. involving struck work. You may participate in a convention in ways that are wholly independent of characters from struck work or sponsorship by struck companies. If you have any questions relating to this distinction, please contact [email protected].

This seems to leave the door open for appearing as a guest at a show where actors are signing autographs, doing photo-ops and doing talks about their careers in general. Convention organizers have been trying to clear the air on this, as with a tweet from Fan Expo Chicago:


This might rule out events focused on specific shows like Star Trek and Vampire Diaries, like those put on by Creation Con.  However, on the Creation Con site, they write:

NOTICE TO FANS: In regards to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Creation Entertainment live events/conventions will continue as planned and do not fall under strike restrictions. If there are any changes to the above, we will announce as we move forward.

This is still a very fluid and uncertain situation, however, and just how it all plays out remains to be seen. Who knows, if this strike lingers (the WGA has been out for two months, and producers show no signs of striking a deal any time soon) even MORE performers may be thronging to conventions as a way to make some money.

A few SAG-AFTRA members may still show up at Comic-Con to promote work that isn’t for struck companies. Jamie Lee Curtis is still scheduled to appear to promote the Mother Nature graphic novel published by Titan. But note that the GN is based on a movie, so perhaps a little grey area there. Artist Karl Stevens is also scheduled to attend, though, so you won’t go away empty handed. Curtis announced her intention to attend on Instagram:

And just maybe,  as in the olden days, some actors may show up just because they like comic books.

It’s very rare for SAG to strike. There was a 14 hour strike in 1988, a seven week strike against commercials in 1978-79, and, famously, in 1960, both SAG-AFTRA and the WGA went on strike at the same time. The SAG strike lasted six weeks, while the WGA strike dragged on for almost six months. The issues at hand in 2023 are very serious – residuals, AI, and the basic economy of making a living as an actor or a screenwriter. The watershed nature of these issues is why AMPTP has held fast, even against an actor’s strike that will effectively shut down the entire movie/streaming industry at a time when it’s still finding its post COVID footing. 

While Comic-Con will still be the vibrant, exhausting spectacle we’ve come to know and love, the silent, empty cavern of Hall H will still be a signal of just how much is at stake in a struggle that has no end in sight.