(San Diego) San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s biggest festival dedicated to pop culture, returns to its roots for this new edition marked by the absence of stars due to a historic strike in Hollywood, to the chagrin of comic book fans.

The giant gathering in California, which takes place from Thursday to Saturday, often grabs the headlines and delights thousands of cosplay fans – the practice of playing the role of a fictional character – who don’t hesitate to line up for several days to see stars such as Tom Cruise or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

This event, which has become the largest gathering of pop culture in North America, attracts some 130,000 visitors each year, some of whom are dressed up as superheroes or space monsters, among other things.

But this year the picture is clouded by a strike in Hollywood: last Friday, the actors joined the screenwriters in their social movement which causes the worst paralysis of the sector for more than 60 years.

The two professions are demanding an increase in their remuneration, at half mast in the era of streaming, and wish to obtain guarantees concerning the use of artificial intelligence (AI), to prohibit the latter from generating scripts or cloning their voices and images.

Result in San Diego: Actors don’t promote movies and shows.

Also, studios such as Amazon or Warner Bros have ended their appearances at Comic-Con.

Not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of Chris Gore, owner of the Film Threat website and director of Attack of the Doc!, convinced that “San Diego Comic-Con will return to its roots which celebrate the art of comics”.

“I’m probably more excited about this edition than any in the past,” he adds.

The first edition of this event, imagined by an unemployed 36-year-old comic book collector and his five teenage friends, brought together 100 people in the basement of a seedy hotel in 1970.

Golden State Comic-Con, as it was called, was first imagined as a way to connect fans with each other and allow them to meet their heroes, the comic creators.

Conferences, seminars and autograph sessions are also held during the festival.

These days, it’s all normally overshadowed by what’s happening in the auditorium in Hall H, where plenty of movie announcements are made in front of cheering fans.

‘I watch the Hall H program in particular, and it’s sparse,’ laments Down host James Witham

This year, the uncertainty over the lineup has given organizers brains knots.

Talks between Hollywood actors and studios went all the way last week, giving Comic-Con just days to adjust after the strike began.

“We would have liked a solution to have been found before,” admitted Comic-Con marketing director David Glanzer, interviewed by AFP.

The famous Hall H will this time host its first panel of Indian films, a giant launch for a new Spider-Man video game, and various animated films, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.

Despite this schedule, the disappointment is felt by fans who have spent thousands of dollars on travel, hotels and passes to Comic-Con – sold out months ago – in the hopes of getting a selfie or live with some of Hollywood’s biggest names.

“There’s going to be some disappointment with this absence from Hollywood,” concedes James Witham.

But “maybe this year will be the year someone who came for Hollywood will be like, ‘If I can’t see the Marvel (movie), there’s the Marvel comics, and maybe I’ll go see that side,'” he wants to believe.

“Will there be many?” Maybe not. »