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Todd Schmidt apologized for his slurred speech outside San Diego Comic-Con as its first full day since 2019 got underway on Wednesday.

“I can’t talk with these buck teeth in,” said Schmidt, who wore a clear plastic mask that showed off his very good cosplay as the very bad Pennywise, the evil clown from Stephen King‘s “It.”

He waved to fans who asked to take his photo, politely waving a fake severed arm toward them. “Little Georgie,” he said by way of explaining that this was one of Pennywise’s first victims in the horror novel.

So it was by almost any measure a perfectly normal day at Comic-Con despite the fact that three years had passed since last the Con took place.

Attendance felt a little bit lighter than normal, at least at first, though that might have been a function of the long lines at the mandatory COVID checkpoints attendees had to pass through before entering the San Diego Convention Center.

And inside the convention, everyone wore masks, not just Spider-Man and the other cosplayers whose costumes would normally hide their faces.

But the feeling of being back at Comic-Con in person again? That was the very best part of this day, attendees said.

“It’s a joy,” said Lindsey Rummings, who smiled for fans who took pictures of her in her Batwoman costume outside the convention center.

“I love the joy of seeing everyone here,” said the San Diego doctor of physical therapy. “Everyone just trying to enjoy life.”

Inside Hall H, the Con’s biggest venue and traditional home of its biggest and splashiest panels, the first of Comic-Con 2022 got underway at noon. Fans got their first glimpses of the 2023 fantasy film “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” and heard from stars including Hugh Grant, Chris Evans, Michelle Rodriguez and Regé-Jean Page.

On the walkway outside the convention center, a group of friends cosplayed as Inosuke, a boar’s-head-wearing character from the popular “Demon Slayer” manga and anime series. Most were friends from college at Oklahoma State University.

“There’s a thing in cosplay that there are doubles,” said Victoria Chapman of Kansas City, Kansas, explaining that it’s usually frowned upon to do the same character as your friends. “We thought it would be funny if we all came as the same characters.”

Which they did, though with slight variations. Their group included a Barbecuing Dad Inosuke, a Pirate Inosuke, a Pumba Inosuke and a few more, though Cyber Inosuke had gotten lost in the crowd somewhere.

“I’ve missed it so much,” said Christian Smith, a member of the group who settled in Las Vegas after college in Oklahoma. “I’m vaccinated. And honestly, it’s kind of the same risk you take in any crowd.”

Most of the day, it felt like fewer cosplayers had come out on Thursday, especially those in the kinds of elaborate over-the-top costumery of previous years. Most wore the garb of popular characters – Spider-Man and the Joker, Aquaman and Sailor Moon.

Cassidy Kahler of Atlanta came as Captain Marvel on her first day back at Comic-Con. Back at her hotel, she had Catwoman and Glinda the Good Witch costumes for later this weekend.

“I think part of it is I’ve just always loved costumes,” Kahler said. “And getting to be characters and exploring their stories in different ways.”

She’d slipped off her mask to pose for photos in the lobby of the convention center and looked around nervously to make sure she hadn’t been spotted.

“It’s very exciting,” she said of the return of Comic-Con this week. “It’s the same type of energy. Such a welcoming place.”

Inside the exhibition halls, familiar sights peeked out from every aisle. The Nickelodeon booth attracted long lines of fans for hugs from Patrick of “SpongeBob SquarePants” and his solo series, “The Patrick Star Show,” and later, autographs from members of the voice cast of “Rugrats.”

Netflix, ABC, Paramount, and Studio Ghibli were among the other film and television companies with large booths on the floor. And though there wasn’t a specific “Star Wars” booth, the presence of that franchise was scattered far and wide across the floor.

Andrea Seale, a special ed teacher from Burbank, got plenty of attention for her homemade costume as a Porg, an adorable owl-like creature that debuted in “The Last Jedi.”

“If you saw ‘The Last Jedi,’ Chewbacca chewed on a couple of my kin,” Seal said from inside the costume. She then swore us to secrecy – but we didn’t sign an NDA! – and spilled the beans on how she was actually the proper Porg proportions.

Comic-Con 2022: Masked cosplayers return to San Diego as pop culture convention returns

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