The vibe at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 may have felt different this year due to the writer’s and actor’s strike, but the pop-culture event was still considered a huge success. It was business as usual inside the San Diego convention center as fans walked the floor shopping for merch, waiting for panels and geeking out over comic books and video games. But this year, the Hall H lines were almost non-existent under those tents. No one waiting for several hours. No one camping out. No Hollywood stars to anticipate seeing.
Under SAG-AFTRA rules, members are not allowed to participate in promotional events and fan conventions like SDCC while on strike. As a result, many studios and networks canceled panels, while others pivoted to smaller events. The few actors that did show up to San Diego Comic-Con 2023 either were granted waivers by SAG-AFTRA like Tom Arnold promoting his upcoming show Underdeveloped or because they were doing non-strike work such as Jamie Lee Curtis who spoke about her upcoming graphic novel titled Mother Nature.
Studios and networks brought trailers and screenings, but only a few celebrities. Even before the SAG-AFTRA strike, some major studios were already planning a scaled-down SDCC. Marvel Studios usually has a consistent presence in Hall H each year where they announce new film and tv projects. But in June, Marvel Studios decided not to be present at Comic-Con entirely. Despite Marvel’s absence at the convention, the studio still dropped a trailer for The Marvels starring Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani.
Other studios decided to skip out on the international pop-culture event including HBO, Sony, Universal and Netflix. Some of the shows that were expected to be heavily promoted at SDCC this year included Amazon’s Wheel of Time, ABC’s Abbot Elementary, and Peacock’s Twisted Metal. A planned panel for That 70’s Show’s 25th anniversary was also canceled.
But the big takeaway at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 was the success of what these conventions were originally all about — comics, video games, and cosplay. Many stars may have skipped SDCC 2023, but there were still plenty of familiar characters walking the convention floor. Hordes of cosplayers and attendees filled the convention center. Barbie and Ken were among the popular choices this year along with the anime series Demon Slayer. There were dozens of Mandalorians, Spider-Men and Deadpools.
Hollywood stars may not have graced Hall H and other conference rooms this year, but that didn’t stop attendees, cosplayers and vendors from making San Diego Comic-Con 2023 a huge success in midst of the writer’s and actor’s strike.