New York Comic Con 2020 opens, goes virtual -- and free -- amid COVID pandemic

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- At this time each year, comic book fans gather en masse for New York Comic Con. Like most other large annual events, however, the coronavirus is forcing organizers to change plans and go virtual.

Think of Comic Con and crowds come to mind. More than 100,000 fans pack the Javits Center every year, but today, the big hall stands empty -- shut down by the pandemic along with so much else.

"The first thought we had was how do we make this worth it for the fans?" event director Kristina Rogers said. "How do we bring the same thrill, that same excitement, and try to emulate it as much as possible?"

The answer came via YouTube, where fans will be able to participate in panel discussions for free.

"There's a chat screen the entire time, right next to the video," Rogers said. "So as you are watching the panel, you can ask questions."

2019 Coverage: NY Comic Con unites superhero fans at Javits Center in Manhattan

Studios and networks have long depended on Comic Con to introduce new projects like Marvel's "M.O.D.O.K.," a new stop-motion animation series upcoming on Hulu and voiced by Patton Oswalt.

The actor and comedian said he'll miss being at the event in person.

"I like walking on Artists Alley and getting sketches and seeing smaller, independent publishers with their booths set up, and they're selling, you know, debuting new artists, new writers," he said. "That whole aspect of it I love."

He will be on a virtual panel about the show, and for those fans who love what's called cosplay, there's a digital competition that allows folks to dress up at home.

"It's encouraging to see so many people already getting into it," Rogers said. "It won't be accidentally being hit by wings on an aisle on the show floor, but I do think it will be pretty fun to watch."

New York Comic Con is more democratic this year because so much of it is free.

In previous years, it could be quite expensive to attend, especially if you are not able to resist buying the merchandise available.

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There are a few paid "experiences" this time, but most of the events -- which can be found at FindTheMetaverse.com -- will not cost you anything.

"New York Comic Con is for everyone," Rogers said. "We'll do a very, very, cool paid section, and then everything else is, 'Let's just treat the nerds.'"

New York Comic Con opened Thursday and runs through October 11.

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