• Interviews

David Glanzer on Comic-Con 2022: “I’m actually a little emotional about it”

“We’re social creatures. Our mission statement is to promote comics …. but there is something that is undeniably great about being able to do that with somebody in person. So it’s good to be back.”

This week, some 130,000 fans – or more – will be heading to San Diego to celebrate the first in-person Comic-Con since the start of the pandemic. After two virtual conventions, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer is in the midst of preparations to make the “geek fest” safe and ready, but he admits in our Zoom interview that he’s a bit out of practice. “The good thing is that we have good teams of people, and somebody will remember what someone else forgets,” he smiles, hardly able to contain his excitement to be back – in person.

Starting Wednesday, July 20, the doors will open to fans of popular culture, and it remains to be seen which costume trend will dominate this year, but classics such as Star Wars, Spider-Man or Batman can be expected. With Lord of the Rings, House of the Dragon, and Black Adam – and so much more – making an appearance at the event, don’t be surprised if you come across elves, dwarves, and hobbits, as well as Targaryens and Dwayne Johnson avatars.

What makes Comic-Con truly great is that over a period of four days, attendees not only can enjoy the familiar but also discover unknown or “up-and-coming independent comics publishers and creators” that could become the stars of Comic-Cons in the future.

How happy are you that Comic-Con is back in full swing and in person?

I am very, very happy. I’m actually a little emotional about it. We had to cancel the show for two years in a row, the first time in Comic-Con’s history. So, I’m beginning to get the excitement again, the joy, the anticipation, and yes, late nights and a lot of work.

What did you miss most when in-person events were not possible? And had you forgotten how much work it is?

A doctor once told me years ago that the mind has an amazing ability to remember good things, and the bad things are never remembered with the same ferocity. Because otherwise, we would all go crazy. I think we all knew how much work it was. But I think a lot of us forgot how exhausting it can be. Two years of sitting in front of a computer and being housed up at home, we just forgot some of the practical stuff. So we’re getting a late start on some things, but it’s coming together. I am glad that we had WonderCon earlier this year, and Comic-Con Special Edition (in November 2021), much smaller shows to help us kind of get our sea legs.

What did you learn from the virtual Comic-Cons that you actually can use now coming back?

That community really is one of the key points of Comic-Con. For two years, we didn’t have the ability to meet people, shake hands, give hugs, look at items that we were interested in buying and pick them up. But what was available was the interaction with our friends and new people virtually, the ability to all gather from home to watch the videos, to talk about them afterwards. We’re social creatures. Our mission statement is, of course, to promote comics and related popular art, film and whatnot. But there is something that is undeniably great about being able to do that with somebody in person. So it’s good to be back.

What are the measures that you have put in place to make attending Comic-Con safe?

One of the things that we have implemented is a mask mandate. Currently, San Diego has no requirements other than to be cautious, but we decided to adhere to some rules that had been in place: mask mandates, and to try to social distance wherever possible. We require everybody who comes to the facility to have been vaccinated or at least be able to prove their negative status. And for the first time this year, we utilize an app called Clear which is also being used at some airports and other concert venues. And they verify your status. That will allow you to be able to enter more quickly than if you don’t have the app. We are very aware that there are a lot of companies that didn’t survive the pandemic. And more horrifically, there are a lot of people who didn’t. So there is still a very sobering element to this pandemic. Yes, we’re celebrating getting together, but it took a worldwide toll. And we’re very conscious of that.

When we interviewed you for the first virtual Comic-Con two years ago, you were excited about the opportunity of gaining new fans that had never attended Comic-Con because they couldn’t travel to San Diego. Did it ever cross your mind to create a hybrid Comic-Con?

I think there are some aspects that will be accessible on the internet. However, there is an excitement and an immediacy about being able to be in that room and share those panels and programs. But we will put recorded panels and programs online sooner than we have in the past. Comic-Con at heart is a relatively small, homegrown organization. There is a desire to make it accessible around the world, but we want to make sure that the uniqueness of Comic-Con isn’t anyhow diminished by that. However, for the first time, we are making merchandise available to people internationally. Comic-Con gets the majority of its income from ticket sales, both attendee tickets and exhibitor tickets. But we haven’t been able to do that for two years. So merch is a helpful way to recoup. Also, some sponsorships. When you come to San Diego this summer, you’ll see building wraps and banners again.

There is a lot of hunger for comic material in Hollywood. In which way does this impact Comic-Con?

When Comic-Con started in 1970, these were areas of entertainment that we focused on: comic books, movies and science fiction. Back in the day, comic books were a form of entertainment that fans could carry around with them but weren’t looked at as viable and legitimate forms of art. Now, they’re even being exhibited in the Library of Congress. And we’re seeing comics not only being popular but also becoming some of the most popular films. Just look at the titles playing at the cinema. Some of the biggest box office wins are those beautiful comic books. So at Comic-Con, you will find the source material for all of those, but you will also find a lot of comics that aren’t made into movies yet but could very well be because there are young, up-and-coming independent comics publishers and creators.

And many comics have social commentary …

One of the fascinating things I learned from comics is that it’s a wonderful reflection of the times in which we live. And there are comics for everybody. There are Christian comics, there are political comics, there are gay comics, and a lot of them do offer wonderful social commentary. Like “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, an incredible graphic novel that depicts the Holocaust. The mice are the victims, and the perpetrators are cats.

Comic-Con has expanded further. Last November you had a soft opening of the Comic-Con Museum. On Wednesday, the museum will be in full swing – literally – with its “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing” exhibition. How excited are you about this new chapter?

Yes, the museum is open now and we have a wonderful retrospective on Spider-Man until December. There are some cool artifacts in there, one-of-a-kind type stuff. So anybody who is visiting San Diego for any reason, I encourage them to stop by and visit.


When was the last time you dressed up in costume? And as what?

I used to dress up in costume, as a Star Wars smuggler. I had a nice Han Solo-type vest of my own design with a little cape because I knew that in Star Wars, people could wear capes. I really enjoy that. I kind of miss that. There’s a part of me that would like to do it again. But I will let you in on a little secret. When I’m at Comic-Con, I’m always wearing a suit and tie. That’s a costume. I don’t normally wear that in my private life. I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt type of guy. So that’s my Comic-Con costume now.