Not many conventions are going to be happening this year, well, not in the traditional way, at least. Instead, just about every convention has had to adapt and evolve into a virtual medium or cancel entirely. Of course, it is no surprise to see Comic-Con International lead the charge with Comic-Con@Home. This year, one of the world’s largest conventions is being held strictly online due to the global pandemic we’re experiencing; which brings to my thoughts on this very timely panel: Zombies, and Coronavirus: Planning for the Next Big Outbreak.
To examine what we’ve learned from COVID-19 so far and how that can impact the future, Comic-Con Today assistant editor Justin Hart moderated this panel of doctors, all of whom have expertise in public and pandemic planning, which included Dr. Gigi Gronvall, Ph.D. (Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center); Dr. Jarod Hanson, DVM, Ph.D. (Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health at the University of Maryland); Dr. Gregory Koblentz (Associate Professor and Director of the Master’s in Biodefense); and Dr. Shanna Ratnesar-Shumate (University of Nebraska Medical Center). In addition to these knowledgeable medical and scientific experts, author Max Brooks (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide) also offered some geek cred.
Hart traced the recent string of pandemics the world has endured over the last fifteen years before getting the panelists’ opinions on COVID-19. While this portion of the panel might seem dry to some viewers, I find it extremely important to listen to the medical and scientific experts right now; even if it is hard to think about how heavy and unpredictable this whole year has been thus far.
In the second half of the panel, Dr. Koblentz made a pretty smooth transition from science fact to science fiction, suggesting how data gained from the global crisis can be used to prepare ourselves for a zombie outbreak. While this could seem a bit cheeky, the doctors and Brooks took an earnest approach to this fantastical expansion on the current pandemic. More importantly, they all remained rooted in the current situation’s reality while discussing the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. In closing, and for some needed levity, the panel proposed what superhero team they would assemble to manage a zombie apocalypse: “Spider-Man, Dr. Evil (not a superhero, but we need someone who thinks like an evil genius), and Iron Man.”
Despite this panel’s somewhat somber nature, I highly recommend that everyone give it a watch. Furthermore, I applaud SDCC for devoting a panel to this matter as its the most important thing happening to all of us right now. Oh, and one more thing: since we’re all going to miss out cosplaying this year, please make up for that by wearing your mask!