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San Diego Comic-Con & WonderCon: The Professional Problem [UPDATE]

[UPDATE March 26]

Comic-Con International appears to have corrected the situation. Their statement reads in part:

“ALL “Not Due” professionals, including those who last verified in 2019, will have one additional year added to their verification, beyond the one year that we initially granted in 2020 due to our first canceled slate of shows. This update will not be viewable in our database until after WonderCon 2022, but it does allow those affected to attend WonderCon if they wish – see the next point for details!”

This essentially means that those who would have been eligible in 2020 can now register for a Professional badge for WonderCon Anaheim 2022, and will also be eligible for San Diego Comic-Con 2022 when Professional registration for that event opens.

You can read the full update on their website.

[PREVIOUS] When San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was cancelled, everyone with a badge (which included Press, Professionals, and General Attendees, as well as exhibitors) were essentially given the option to either transfer their badges to San Diego Comic-Con 2021, or to get a refund.

However, when the unthinkable happened and the world was still not better a year later, and thus San Diego Comic-Con 2021 was also cancelled… something changed in this generous policy.

At the time, Comic-Con International announced that “individuals who have purchased badges that were rolled over to the 2021 show will have those badges automatically transferred to the 2022 event unless a refund is requested.”

What was not made clear, however, was that this was only really true for general attendees. The key phrase there is “purchased”, and as professionals typically receive complimentary badges, they were apparently not included in that two-year rollover.

Professionals in Comic-Con International’s system are those individuals who have applied for Professional status because they’re active “in the creation of comic books, graphic novels, digital/webcomics, comic strips and animation, as well as genre-related illustrators and science fiction/fantasy authors and book editors. This includes: writers, artists, pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers, and animators.”

Once approved, they’re given a three-year approval status. They can register to attend any of CCI’s events (typically just San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon), often along with a guest or two, for free. After the three years are up, they are “Due” (rather than “Not Due”) and must re-verify their status to prove that they are still active in the industry.

So when San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was cancelled, it appears that everyone’s status was extended for an additional year (and you can read about Professional extension in 2020 on this Wayback Machine capture). However, when San Diego Comic-Con 2021 was also cancelled, it appears that there was not another year extension for Professionals.

What does all of that mean? Several Professionals had their “Not Due” status expire over the two-year pandemic gap — but they were never given a chance to re-apply. Now that registration (not applications, but registration) is open for WonderCon, CCI has been telling several people that the next application period that opens will be for next year only, in 2023. Thus, if you expired over the “break”, you can’t attend a 2022 convention as a Professional.

For WonderCon, this isn’t such a big deal — badges typically only sell out right before the convention, so there’s always the option to just buy a badge if you want to attend.

However, for San Diego Comic-Con, the convention is sold out and has been since late 2019 thanks to the majority of badges rolling over. That means that, because they are not opening professional applications for 2022, folks who expired during the pandemic (again, with no option to re-verify during that time) are out of luck in attending a convention they were eligible for back in 2020. Now, yes, these are individuals who get a free badge — but they are also industry professionals who often have attended the convention for years, if not decades.

E-mails sent out from Professional Registration have stated that five years is simply too long of a time, and that they can’t be sure professionals are still active in the industry. But why not let only those in the one-year lapsed timeframe re-apply? 

Still, some have either lucked out, or gotten a wildly different answer out of CCI. Several reported completely different outcomes to the same question, and were told that “every case is unique in some regard”. But  should individuals have to e-mail and plead their case at all when it’s a widespread issue?

Others, like exhibitor Jin Yung Kim, reported that while they initially listed as “Due”, their status changed without them having to ask.

If this feels reminiscent of CCI’s Child Badge policy, it’s because it’s similar. There are also a group of children who would have gotten a free badge for San Diego Comic-Con 2020, received a one-year-only extension, and then aged out now. However, Junior badges (which they would now require) have long been sold out — leaving a year of children in a similar “touch luck!” situation. CCI has been helping those who e-mail (see our post for more details), but making people contact them to fix such a large issue feels like an odd solution to a situation that neither group could have prevented.

Perhaps they will make it right for everyone in both groups before San Diego Comic-Con. But if that’s the plan, we sure wish they would announce it.

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