MONTREAL -- Montreal Comiccon is back... sort of.

The 2021 virtual edition kicks off Saturday at noon on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch, and will feature celebrity guests, an autograph sale and an auction.

The 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and organizers of one of Montreal's flagship events wanted to make sure comic, sci-fi, fantasy and toy fans had something to celebrate in 2021.

Comiccon program director Cliff Caporale said losing the convention in 2020 was a tough pill to swallow.

"It was very hard," said Caporale. "All of us are used to just bathing in the pop culture; we absorb, we read, we watch and all of these other things, and it usually comes out at the convention. We had nowhere for that energy to be expended. At least now with the virtual space, we get a little bit of it."

A big piece of any comiccon is fans connecting with other fans, and Caporale said the team was getting regular pleas to hold something in 2021 even if it wasn't the full-blown event.

"Hockey fans can go to sports bars and gatherings with a bunch of people with a hockey game on the screen at the Bell Centre, but for us, we don't have the same kinds of gatherings as other fandoms, so this was a spotlight, and you can see it in the response of the fans," said Caporale.

Through trial-and-error and real-time learning, the comiccon team developed the skills to put decent online events in while waiting for permission to organize in the traditional way.

"Montreal Comiccon is big in terms of attendance, but internally we're small and unfortunately because of the situation, we're a little bit smaller," said Caporale. "We figured out a lot on how it works. We started small, all of our events in terms of the virtual events."

There is a countdown clock on the Montreal Comiccon website for the 2022 edition at the Palais des Congres, which will take place July 8 to 10.

"We are coming back next year, and we may have some news in coming months about a smaller event in Montreal," said Caporale.