My first official day of Webcomic Weekend began with a missed wakeup call (or three), but managed to find its stride and, to push the race metaphor, finish strong in the end. Some thoughts from Day One (and just in case you missed it, here’s my post on the pre-show happenings at Webcomics Weekend):
– I found myself explaining a few times this weekend that this show is one of only two or three comics-related conventions I’ve ever attended without complicated plans to cover every minute detail of the event, and without spending every moment rushing from one interview or panel to the next. In the grand scheme of things, comic conventions of any sort are still new to me, as I didn’t attend a single convention prior to the comics scene becoming the professional focus of my writing 3-4 years ago. So it’s a rare (and appreciated) experience to attend not exactly as a “fan” but as someone who can wander around, talk to people and “learn in the public eye” about the medium and the people who move it — and if I have time to pick up some new sketches and art along the way, all the better.
But on to the show itself…
– The Eastworks complex was already filling up 30 minutes before the start of the show, and while the crowd never became unmanageable throughout the day, it steadily increased to a level that seemed on par with one of the smaller conventions (like the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art‘s annual festival, for example).
There hasn’t been an official tally for the day yet, but as Gary Tyrrell points out over at Fleen, there was seating for 100 and standing room for another 100 in the main panel room, and the room was packed to bursting for at least three panels. At one point two well-attended panels ran simultaneously, and both the main panel room and the secondary room (which had room for well over 100 people) were both filled to capacity.
– Panel-wise, I checked out a few of the day’s scheduled events, including the “How to Make a Memorable T-Shirt” panel that featured Rich Stevens (Diesel Sweeties), Chris Hastings (Adventures of Dr. McNinja), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics) and Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content) — a quartet that accounts for a massive portion of the online traffic headed to webcomics these days. They’re also pretty damn funny, too. The panel was packed, and just as expected, it was one of those conversations that took on a life of its own after the initial spark.
– Immediately following the t-shirt panel, the Halfpixel webcomic collective recorded an episode of the Webcomics Weekly Podcast in the main panel room, attracting a similarly sized crowd as the previous panel. The conversation took a turn to the print side of the comics scene when Scott Kurtz (PvP) discussed his reasons for continuing to publish print collections of his series with Image Comics, explaining that Image founders Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri and other key members of the publisher’s founding creative team had supported his series when it was a gamble — to the point of buying an extensive presence for it in the all-important Diamond Previews ordering catalog for retailers — so it made sense for him to stick with the publisher. Kurtz added that, with so many comics veterans stepping aside and new blood beginning to take their place (Kurtz named Invincible creator Robert Kirkman as one such person), it was also important to keep a younger, modern-minded comics presence in the ranks of a prominent publisher like Image.
– While the rest of the day’s panels drew slightly smaller crowds (with the exception of the “Print vs. Web vs. Bear” panel, which was well attended), most creators I spoke with seemed thrilled by the day’s outcome. Those who attended with an eye toward selling books and other merchandise generally broke even or turned a decent profit (Templar, Arizona creator Spike sold out of the 100-plus books she brought with her midway through the day), and those creators who were more keen on the networking and social aspects of the event seemed thrilled by the results. On the other side, I didn’t hear a single complaint about the event by any of the fan attendees, either. There was none of the grumbling concerns about crowds, lines or creator accessibility I tend to overhear at other shows, and to be honest, I couldn’t find anyone who had a negative comment about the event — no matter how much I eavesdropped.
– On a personal note, I spent a good portion of the day talking comics with The System creator Rosscott, whose comic I can’t recommend enough. Not only is the series consistently entertaining, but its on-the-rise creator is certainly worth watching to see what he has planned in the realm of webcomics.
Jorge Cham, whose PhD Comics series about the trials and tribulations of graduate school was completely unknown to me before this weekend, is also worth checking out — and even moreso if you have a grad school background. I plan on emailing a link to his comic to every current and former grad school student I know.
I also had my first introduction to the work of Gun Show creator KC Green, whose art is that great sort of unpredictable, hopping from one style to the next with an endless supply of energy showing through in his work.
– Finally, a tour of the makeshift weekend art gallery at the Eastworks complex revealed a whole different side of Gastrophobia creator David McGuire, who was only on the peripheral of my radar prior to the show, but won me over with a wide-reaching selection of his work. One particular piece was a a re-interpretation of Peter Parker’s early years as Spider-Man that wouldn’t seem out of place in a formal, Marvel-approved tribute to the character.
– The evening ended with a dinner and drink-up at the Eastworks building, and I spent much of the night chatting with Boy on a Stick and Slither creator Steven Cloud, as well as Swedish artist Rasmus Gran, who crossed the ocean with Anders Loves Maria creator Rene Engstrom to attend the show.
Quote of the Day:
“He pounded his fist on the table and yelled, ‘NO ONE in this room draws as well as Rob Liefeld!’ … And he was right.”
– Adventures of Dr. McNinja creator Chris Hastings, describing his former art professor (and veteran Thor writer) Walt Simonson’s proclamation during a class years ago, after a student made a disparaging remark about the controversial Youngblood creator.
– Webcomics Weekend: We Has Arrived