Local Businesses Struggle Without Comic-Con's Fans

The pandemic forced the popular comic-book and pop-culture convention to cancel the event for the second year in a row

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“Well, I really wasn’t surprised.”

Beth Sotelo mentally prepared herself for the decision weeks ago, and on Monday, it arrived: Comic-Con International announced that the pandemic forced it to cancel its annual convention in San Diego for the second year in a row.

“That was a blow,” Sotelo said. “It’s a huge financial hit.”

Sotelo is the artist behind the comic character Grump. The San Diegan missed out on selling her Grump book last year when the pandemic shut down the 2020 Comic-Con.

“It really kind of took the wind out of my sails,” Sotelo said.

However, Sotelo supported the decision to cancel the 2021 convention as well.

“I kind of wasn’t surprised,” Sotelo said. “I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m glad that they let us all know and it’s not some kind of iffy thing.’ ”

“It’s been hard to process emotions,” Matthew Berger said.

Berger and his wife own the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in the Midway District. Last year was particularly rough for the business owners.

“We were open in this new location for about five weeks before we shut down the store,” Berger recalled of the state of California’s stay-at-home order.

Like Sotelo, Mysterious Galaxy banks on Comic-Con.

“There’s nothing like it,” Berger said with a smile. “Comic-Con is a huge portion of our yearly revenue, and that’s kind of where we make or break our year.”

Berger said the four-and-a-half-day convention, which attracts more than 130,000 people, is bigger than any Black Friday for the bookstore.

“This is like five Black Fridays," Berger said. "Each day is like a Black Friday for us. So, the prospect of two years in a row of that is going to make for a tough year.”

Berger, too, applauded Comic-Con International’s decision to wait until 2022 to come back.

“Hundred percent support Comic-Con’s choice to protect the community and to have a safe event,” Berger said.

In the meantime, Berger said his business has embraced online sales to stay afloat.

So did Sotelo.

“Making lemonade out of the situation: ‘All right. Let’s see what this streaming thing is,’” a smiling Sotelo said about her evolving attempts at drawing Grump cartoons live for her fans.

It’s how they will stay connected and afloat until Comic-Con returns.

“We really look forward to getting back to everything safely in 2022,” Berger said.

“It’s going to be, ‘Aw, yes! I’m a part of something again!” Sotelo concluded.

Comic-Con International said it will once again host virtual events this summer. It added they are also trying to plan smaller in-person events for November.

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