Social distancing at Com-Con Special Edition. Photo by Chris Stone

Comic-Con Special Edition wrapped up its short, but long-awaited, in-person return Sunday. So, here’s an abbreviated look at an abbreviated Con.

Space, the final frontier: With COVID-19 still hanging on, the plan was to limit crowds, and the plan worked. Many fans commented on how much easier it was to navigate around the usually packed exhibit hall floor of the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic-Con is held. Indeed, fans didn’t have to constantly bump into sweaty masses of bodies just to walk around.

“It does seem emptier, but also more intimate,” said “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actress Clare Kramer.

In years past, Comic-Con has attracted as many as 135,000 fans over its five days. But as of Saturday, Comic-Con officials did not have an estimate for this year’s attendance.

Game of chairs: The lack of crowding didn’t extend to the popular panel discussions. Although face coverings were required, there was no six feet of separation of seats for the panels as fans jockeyed for the best seats in the house.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: It’s only been the last two years that Comic-Con has been online-only, but for many, it felt longer. “It’s been what, like ten years?” said Tony B. Kim, CEO of Hero Within, a pop culture fashion company.

Cosplay: Comic-Con is a great barometer of what’s hot in pop culture and our annual unscientific observation revealed that the most popular cosplay costume was the red jumpsuit-wearing guard characters from the hit Netflix show “Squid Game.”

Freebies: Among the many things Comic-Con is known for are the freebies. Free comic books, free t-shirts and even free food. Because the exhibit floor was smaller than usual, there weren’t as many freebies this year.

But the prize for best freebie goes to the munchies at a food truck parked along the MLK Promenade in the Gaslamp.

The food truck was part of an interactive exhibit promoting the upcoming HBO Max show “Peacekeeper.” The menu included “peace dogs,” garlic pasta, empanadas, “peace potatoes,” Cheetos mac & cheese and mozzarella sticks.

It was a popular spot for fans.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.

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